Emma Knell and her parents came to Carthage from Illinois in 1882 when she was only 4 years old. Her father, Edward Knell became the first licensed embalmer in the state when license number 7 was granted him.
Emma grew up with dreams of becoming a concert pianist as she had the talent and the drive for a musical career. She confessed early in life that she was afraid of dead bodies and had no interest in the funeral business. Her father however, convinced her that men would feel more comfortable turning over the remains of their wives or mothers to a lady mortician rather than a man. Her father’s wishes prevailed and she attended the National School of Embalming. Upon graduation she became only the 3rd licensed female embalmer in the State and the only unmarried one.
Upon the death of her father in 1910 she and her two brothers, Fred and Frank continued the business, joined by their sister Lucy, with Emma becoming President of the business in 1943.
Her father had begun The Knell Fair just north of Carthage and Emma began helping him with it in 1909, finally taking over its management until 1926. By that time it was the 2nd largest fair in the state.
Emma was elected to the State Legislature from 1925 to 1931 and sponsored the bill to establish the Missouri Highway Patrol; she secured additional funds for the Tuberculosis hospital in Webb City and she was responsible for the legislation that required the U.S. flag be flown at every Missouri school, and the first woman to serve in the Legislature from the Republican party.
Her accolades and public service organization memberships are far too numerous to mention, but she was certainly one of the first business women in Carthage and formed statutes on a state level that are still in effect today.