Emma Snyder raised five children alone after the untimely death of her husband. A farm girl, Emma ran the Snyder farm (originally her family's farm) single-handedly. By the time her kids were practically grown though, the farm had fallen on hard times and was in danger of being foreclosed. At this time, only Emma’s youngest children, Holden and Meg were living at home. To help his mother, Holden began working as a stable boy for the wealthy Lucinda Walsh and ended up meeting her teenage daughter Lily, who ended up in a rivalry with Meg over Dusty Donovan. While trying to help her children sort out their romantic lives, Emma was still mourning the loss of her oldest daughter, Iva, who ran away at the age of thirteen. Emma could never understand why Iva ran away and why, now fifteen years later, she’d never heard from her. Later, who should show up at Emma’s doorstep but Iva? However, Emma was still hurt that Iva had never contacted the family and wasn’t quick to receive her back into the family. She was, however, very accepting of Lily Walsh and warmly welcomed her to stay at the farm, despite Lucinda’s disapproval. A year later, Emma and everyone else, learned the secret that caused Iva to run away years earlier. Apparently, while visiting her aunt and uncle in Kansas, a thirteen year old Iva was raped by her cousin, Josh. Upon learning she was pregnant, Iva ran off to Chicago to a home for unwed mothers where she gave birth to a daughter. That daughter was none other than Holden’s girlfriend, Lily! While everyone was concerned that Holden was in love with his niece, Emma revealed some secrets of her own. First, the Snyders adopted Iva since her biological family, Carpenters, was too poor to take care of her. In addition, Josh was not Henry Snyder’s biological son, which meant that Holden and Lily were not really related at all.
Soon after, Emma’s oldest child, Seth, returned home. An aspiring writer, Seth decided to forgo his dream in order to help his mother run the farm. Meanwhile, the remaining Snyder children, Caleb and Ellie, arrived from Chicago and became embroiled in their own intrigue. Throughout it all, Emma remained a stabilizing influence and gave her children unconditional support and love. While her children’s love lives were complicated, Emma’s was fairly simple. Having not dated since her husband died decades earlier, Emma finally accepted the attention of Dr. John Dixon. At the same time, the wealthy Cal Stricklyn (Josh’s biological father) attempted to woo her as well. Although she ended up choosing Cal, Emma felt that marrying again, even after all these years, would be betraying her husband. Years later, after some encouragement from Seth, Emma began a career as a romance novelist and began a relationship with her publisher, Ned Simon. Though that relationship showed promise, it ended when Ned, who was suddenly under stress, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Immediately after, Emma was shocked to learn that Ned had murdered the man who had hurt his unstable daughter.
Throughout the years, Emma has welcomed numerous people to stay with her at the farm. Though Angel Lange had divorced Holden, Emma sympathetically opened her home to her, just as she did for Lily years earlier. She also accepted Caleb’s wild wife, Julie Wendell, and instead of judging her, fully accepted her and tried to teach her to cook and let Julie's son stay at the farm as well. Emma also opened her home to teenage runaway Rosanna Cabot who became like a member of the family. She also let Carly Tenney stay at the farm, first at the request of Rosanna and, years later, at the request of Carly’s estranged husband, Emma’s nephew Jack. Emma even allowed Meg to marry Josh at the farm after he'd shown that he had reformed. The only person Emma has ever thrown out was Julia Larrabee who betrayed Emma’s goodwill by coming on to a married-but-separated Holden. Emma continued to be a source of advice and comfort for her whole family, including grandson Luke. When Emma learned that Luke was gay, she was more upset by the fact that Holden didn’t trust her enough to tell her sooner as she was apparently the last in the family to know. Later, Emma permitted Luke’s boyfriend, Noah, to move into the farm but made it clear that the boys would be in separate rooms. Although her reasoning was that the boys were underage, Emma worried that her restriction might be misconstrued as intolerance, Holden assured his mother that she made the right decision. Emma also voiced disapproval when Meg became involved with the shady Paul Ryan. Since 2007, Emma has done a lot of traveling and, subsequently, decided to sell the family farm in 2008, keeping the house and a few acres of land.
Emma was the staunchest supporter of Holden and Lily and saw them through many tribulations over the years. Though at times, the pair seemed poised for divorce, Emma was certain that the pair belonged together and urged them to repair their marriage. That all changed when Lily married Damian Grimaldi mere weeks after Holden was presumed dead. Even after Holden’s return, Lily was undecided about whether she wanted to remain with Damian or go back to Holden. Holden made the decision for her and had their marriage annulled on the grounds that he had been legally declared dead. Finally fed up with Lily, Emma decided that Holden didn’t belong with him after all, and encouraged a relationship between him and his old flame, Molly Conlan.
In 2010, Emma’s main concern was Meg who became unhinged after her divorce from Paul and a disastrous affair with Damian Grimaldi. With Paul’s encouragement, Meg checked herself into a psychiatric facility. A few months later, Emma checked Meg out of the hospital and took Meg's daughter, Eliza, to the farm without consulting Paul. When Paul confronted her, Emma berated him for his treatment of her daughter and granddaughter. Certain that Meg was alright, Emma initiated a custody battle to ensure that Meg would get joint custody of Eliza, and not just supervised visits. Though Holden believed that Meg might not be stable enough to care for Eliza, Emma refused to believe that anything was wrong. When Meg began acting oddly, evidence sprang up that suggested that she was being drugged. Though the evidence pointed to Paul's wife, Emily, Paul had a hunch that Meg was medicating herself in an attempt to get rid of Emily. Sadly, Paul was correct, and Emma watched as an unhinged Meg threaten Emily with a gun. After Emma talked her down, Meg was placed into custody and sent to a psychiatric hospital near Iva. Emma followed to assist her daughter in her recovery.