As a young woman, she was plagued by a debilitating illness which culminated in a fevered state, subsequent to which she was bed ridden, feverous and near death. When she awoke she claimed that she was sent by God to preach his message. This propelled her to claim that she was a holy vessel of Jesus Christ and God and theHoly Spirit. She changed her name to "Universal Public Friend" and was reborn to her cause. That is why most people believed it when she claimed she had died. Like many born again Christians their past is dead and their beginning is when they become reborn.
Many people have made up stories that are works of fiction, some were written because they had an ax to grind or that their beliefs weren't the same. Many of the outlandish claims are all fiction. Most of the stories that have no factual basis, for example, are David Hudson's book History of Jemima Wilkinson, a Preacheress of the Eighteenth Century amongst others. When you look into the facts you find the truth mostly by talking to people that were there at the time or by the stories of others that were just children at the time.
She preached a regimen of strict abstinence, and be friends with everyone. Many people came to visit her and her followers and were taken in with open arms. Many people that came to visit were given all the comforts of home. The only way they were asked to leave is if they did anything against the Friends. She and her followers moved to The Finger Lakes region searching for an area for the religious freedom they desired. Where they settled is one of the most beautiful regions of New York. This area is also the oldest area with a grist mill in continuous operation since 1790's.
After her death her body was left unburied for a couple of days to await her rising from the dead.
Jemima Wilkinson House is still standing in the Jerusalem, New York, on a List of Registered Historic Places in Yates County, New York