Attended father’s private school. Graduate Brigham Young U., Provo, Utah.
She entered the University of Deseret at age 13 and became the editor of the student newspaper. One of these children was Leah Dunford, who later became the wife of John A. Widtsoe. In 1878, Young entered Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah, where she founded the music department.
She had 13 children with him, seven of which did not survive to adulthood. She would later recount her experiences here in a novel The Little Missionary. In 1889, she founded the Young Woman's Journal, a periodical targeted to adolescent Latter-day Saint females.
In 1897, the church's Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association adopted the Young Women's Journal as its official organ. Gates stepped down as editor of the Journal in 1900, but continued to contribute occasionally until it ceased publication in 1929. Around the turn of the century, Gates was ill for three years after suffering a psychological and physical breakdown.
However, she eventually returned to health. In 1909 a novel by Gates entitled John Stevens' Courtship was published. The magazine became the official publication of the church's Relief Society and Gates edited it until 1922.
Gates was active in promoting women's rights and women's suffrage. She was a founding organizer of the National Household Economics Organization, served as a delegate and speaker to five congresses of the International Council of Women and was a delegate and officer of the National Council of Women. Gates was also a primary organizer of the Utah chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, and the National Woman's Press Club.
She attended several Republican National Conventions. She was the head of the Research Department and Library of the Genealogical Society of Utah. She managed the genealogy departments in the Deseret News and Inter Mountain Republican and edited and wrote columns for both papers.
Gates died in Salt Lake City at the age of 77.
In 1915, Gates founded Relief Society Magazine a periodical targeted at members of the Relief Society. Gates was also a member of the Board of Regents of Brigham Young University and Utah State Agricultural College.
Married Jacob F. Gates, January 5, 1880. Children: Brigham Cecil, Harvey H., Franklin Young, Mistress Leah D. Widtsoe, Mistress Lucy Bowen.