A year and a half ago, Brittany Chapman and I discussed the need for a space where young female scholars of Mormonism could gain the academic skills necessary to engage in discussion about Mormon women’s history. Although we both felt comfortable with our ability to conduct research in primary sources, write interesting narratives about those who had lived in the past, and to connect our histories to larger historiographies, we felt woefully unprepared to engage with feminist and gender theory. The Mormon Women’s History Tea and Discussion Group was born out of a desire to create a space where young female scholars could gain the tools necessary to participate in academic discourse. As a result, we initially planned to pair an academic article on some issue of feminist theory or women’s history with a piece written on Mormonism and have a discussion about the intersections between the two. (more…)
One of the things that still disappoints every time that I look for scholarship on Mormon women or attend the Mormon History Association is how little work has been done on women’s issues beyond Nauvoo-era polygamy and how few women actively work and publish in Mormon History. Although Mormon Enigma was published 30 years ago, it remains the best work on Mormon women’s history. Its standing power is at once a testament to its power as a book and to the fact that little work has been done about women’s lives within the Mormon Church since the 1980s.
In recent years, a few organizations have been founded to help address that lack. (more…)
I first encountered Twilight when my then fourteen-year-old sister became obsessed with it. Every Facebook status she posted was about the new film that was coming out or how excited she was to read the next book series. One of my friends, who has a PhD in Women’s Studies and History and will beginning her first tenure track job in the fall, told me that she personally enjoyed the books but warned me that they had some troubling gender politics. As people have pointed out in review after review of Twilight, Bella is a weak character whose identity is bound up entirely in her relationship with Edward. She is constantly bleeding, twisted from accidents that prove that she isn’t able to take care of herself and would simply die if Edward didn’t protect her. I tried to read the books but couldn’t get past Book Two where Bella dismisses a boy who loves her and would have provided her with stability and continues to pine after Edward. Book Four is even worse: When Bella and Edward consummate their marriage, Edward is unable to contain his strength and leaves Bella covered in bruises. My sister’s response: He shouldn’t have felt bad because it wasn’t his fault.
About a week ago, I decided to look for books written by Mormon Polynesian authors. (more…)
I recently returned from my vacation to Tahiti. While I was there, I discovered a set of playing cards where each of the cards was a different person from Tahitian history from the reign of Queen Pomare. Iotete, a Tahitian chief who signed a document requesting that the French annex the islands, appears on a blue card wearing a feathered headdress and a red European-style coat. The card also shows him as being heavily tattooed and wearing a grim expression. Another card depicts Constance Gordon-Cumming, a Scottish travel writer who traveled to Tahiti in the 1870s and wrote extensively about her travels. She appears as a young woman, dressed in a stylish red hat and yellow ribbons. Although the Mormon missionaries Addison Pratt, Benjamin F. Grouard, and James Brown had their own corner (complete with facsimiles of their journals) in the Musee de Tahiti, they didn’t make the cut for the playing cards. (more…)
This week, I am traveling throughout New Zealand and Tahiti, partially as a vacation and partially as an initial foray into two of the countries that I write about in my dissertation. As someone who works on Mormon missionaries in the South Pacific and Great Britain, I spend a lot of time reading the journals, diaries, and letters of Protestant missionaries who have encountered Mormons in their mission stations and among their congregations. Sometimes their comments are unsurprising – the usual vituperative rants about golden plates and polygamy that you would expect to find in the writings of any non-Mormon who had encountered Mormon missionaries for the first time. At other times, the letters and diaries that I read can be surprising in their lack of interest and nonchalance about the appearance of sudden appearance of Mormonism. (more…)
Boycotting General Conference 40 Years Ago: The Lamanite Generation, the American Indian Movement, and Temple Square
A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the University of Michigan on what benefits there might be to considering Utah as a settler colonial space. As part of a section on the political implications of adopting such a posture, I included some photos of the Lamanite Generation, a group of BYU students who toured the United States as part of an all-native choir. Afterwards, one of my friends who studies twentieth-century American Indian history came up to me. She was horrified: “That’s when the American Indian Movement was happening. Hadn’t they heard of it?”
I didn’t know the answer. The American Indian Movement (AIM) was a radical movement founded in the late 1960s that protested the poverty and violence that was endemic among native communities in the twentieth century. They staged massive protests that insisted that Americans recognize that its treaties with native tribes were not being honored and that many of the most iconic buildings and monuments in the United States were on land that, by treaty, belonged to American Indians. (more…)
I am about six months pregnant right now, which means that my backaches and I am inundated with a list of things that I am supposed to eat or not eat and do or not do. According to Mayo Clinic, I should avoid certain types of fish including swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish but not shrimp, crab, canned tuna, salmon, Pollock, catfish, cod, or tilapia. The fish in the latter group, however, should only be eaten in moderation. I shouldn’t take a very hot bath or get into the hot tub. It’s okay to eat hard cheeses like cheddar, feta, and provolone but not soft cheeses like brie, goat’s cheese, and gorgonzola. Lunchmeat is out, as is sushi. Tylenol, Metamucil, and Neosporin are okay if you get sick but Benadryl isn’t okay until after the first trimester and most other drugs are out until the baby is weaned.
Being pregnant has made me even more cognizant of the materials and histories that are produced about pregnancy. Recently, there have been several documentaries made advocating for certain visions of women and reproductive health. One of the earliest and perhaps most controversial is Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born (more…)
When I was ten years old, my great grandfather died. He was ninety-six years old and had been one of the main objects of my affection since I was a toddler. When we visited his house, he fed us cups of apricot nectar and regaled us with stories of his childhood in Mexico. He told us about sucking the juice out of fresh cactus fruit, sneaking into the kitchen of his house and watching the maids cook, and attending medical school in Mexico City. The stories from his adolescence were much darker. When grandpa was sixteen, he had joined a regiment of federales and had fought in the Mexican Revolution. A cannon ball came close enough to his head to shave off his hair, leaving him mostly bald for the rest of his life. He also watched as Pancho Villa rode into one of the border towns of the United States and Mexico and shot a man he expected of sympathies with the Mexican government while the man’s wife bawled and cried for his life. As a result of the stories that my grandfather told, I thought of him as being completely Mexican. It was only after his death that I was realized how complicated that identity had been for him. (more…)
Veda Hale, “‘Swell Suffering’: A Biography of Maurine Whipple” http://www.amazon.com/Swell-Suffering-Biography-Maurine-Whipple/dp/1589581245
Note: There is swearing in the first two paragraphs of this review. I tried to edit it out, but doing so changed the meaning of the sentences it was in. If swearing bothers you, skip the first two paragraphs. Readers should also check out Blair Hodge’s review of “Swelling Suffering” at Faith Promoting Rumor: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/2011/05/im-pitching-the-whipple-biography-with-all-my-might/
In 1899, a young Mormon woman named Hannah Kaaepa traveled to Washington, D.C., as a delegate to National Council of Women’s Congress. She had been invited by May Wright Sewall to speak about the rights of Hawaiian women and the recent overthrow of the Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani. While in Washington, she was feted by Hawaiian Queen who threw her a dinner party and invited the women who had accompanied the young Kaaepa to Washington. As a result, Emmeline B. Wells, Susa Young Gates, and Lucy B. Young (more…)
About a week ago, I landed in Honolulu on a research trip for my dissertation. Although I have been studying Mormon history in the Pacific for about three years, it was my first trip to Hawai’i and the Pacific. Initially, this post was going to be about the Polynesian Cultural Center but after my week in Hawai’i, I have decided to write a much more general reflection about being an American and an American who studies Mormon history in the Pacific traveling in the islands. (more…)
In a few days, my advisor will be having her biannual end-of-the-semester party. There will be the usual accouterments of an academic party: cheese, crackers, wine, a sausage wheel, but there will also be two babies. Last year, two of my advisor’s students had children. She’s expecting another one of her students to have a baby this year, and at least one of her previous students also had children in graduate school. Although her students seem to be particularly fecund, she’s not the only the advisor with pregnant graduate students in my department. (more…)
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry about graduate school and the feelings of inadequacy that I was having. I promised a blog series on surviving graduate school. After much thought I’ve decided to do it chronologically, which means ironically that this series starts with the section that I had the least amount of trouble with: coursework. Coursework was bliss for me – I love being around people and don’t have issues working on a deadline, so the sociality and structure were fantastic. It’s the dissertation process, which is more solitary and less guided, that I struggle with. Please add any suggestions or advice you have in the comments below. (more…)
Mormon Teen Lit: Jacqueline Antonovich on Temple Marriage, Feminism, and Non-Traditional Marriage in Tamra Norton’s “Molly Mormon?”
Jacqueline is a PhD student at the University of Michigan, where she studies gender, medicine, and politics during the Progressive Era. She also earned an MA from the University of Wyoming and a BA from Mesa State College where she graduated summa cum laude. I am happy to have her contribute to this series. Since she arrived at Michigan, she has demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the American West and a commitment to feminist politics. She is also a ton of fun. Both of these characteristics are on show at her group blog Nursing Clio.
Note: You will find Molly Mormon published by both Tamra Torero and Tamra Norton. They are one and the same. Tamra Torero is the married name of the author.
Like many young, gawky preteens growing up in the 1980s, I had a very intimate relationship with teen literature. Because I didn’t exactly have an open line of communication with my parents, I often sought out these books to help answer my most pressing teenage-angsty questions. Of course, my favorite author was Judy Blume. I still look back fondly at my trips to the local library, searching longingly for any dog-eared copy of a Blume book I might have missed. Some of her novels – Are you there God, It’s me Margaret, Then Again Maybe I Won’t, and It’s Not the End of the World – I must have read at least three times each (I never did get my hands on the coveted, yet controversial, Forever). (more…)
At a meeting with my advisor today, she told me that I was one of the easiest graduate students that she had ever had. I did my work on schedule. I don’t tend have to breakdowns. And, I have a fairly good record at winning fellowships. What she doesn’t know is that I am a mess inside. Every time I send out a fellowship application, I am certain that I am going to fail. Before every meeting I have with her or another committee member, I spend hours putting together an outfit and trying on different combinations of clothes. (more…)
When I started my research project on adolescent Mormon women from the late 1860s to the 1920s, I was met with questions from a few people asking me something along the lines of “Do those sources exist?” Despite the growth of scholarship on the lived experiences of adolescents and children in the last few decades, there is, unfortunately, still some uncertainty about finding these “elusive” sources created by children and adolescents. Thankfully for my research, I embraced this doubt as a challenge that has proven to be successful. There are a number of diaries written by young women in the archives, and there have already been quite a few scholarly articles centered on these diaries. (more…)
“Either a misogynist or proto-feminist”: Women and Polygamy in John Turner’s “Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet”
[Another installment in the roundtable on John Turner's Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet.]
I should mention at the outset of this review that I am not a dispassionate, objective observer when it comes to the subject of Brigham Young and polygamy. In other words, I have a dog in the fight. As a child, my grandmother regaled me of stories of my Uncle Ed’s great grandmother who had divorced Brigham Young and then went on a lecture tour revealing his hypocrisy and tyrannical abuse of his wives. When I was older, I realized that the woman that my grandmother had taken such pride was none other than Ann Eliza Young, the famous nineteenth wife of Brigham Young. The fact that my great uncle’s last name was Webb confirmed the ancestral tie. My adulthood, however, also tempered my feelings about Brigham Young, which had ranged from bemusement at his ideas about Adam-God to disgust at the number of his wives. Although I still joked about what I would like to say to the Mormon prophet if we ever met in the afterlife, I also began realized that he was a man who had loved his children deeply and had experienced a great deal of pain and suffering during his time as a missionary and as a man in Nauvoo. I still remember reading about the aid that he rendered to his daughter Susa after she found herself unable to support herself after divorcing her alcoholic first husband. (more…)
Kara French is a PhD Candiate in the Joint Program in Women’s Studies and History at the University of Michigan where she studies the politics of sexual restraint in the early republic. In addition to being an expert on early Shaker religious experiences, the politics of Catholic convents in nineteenth-century America, and the vegetarianism of Sylvester Graham, she is an avid reader whose interests include the comic romance novels of Lauren Willig as well as classics like those of Jane Austen and George Eliot.
As a grad student who occasionally likes to take a vacation from high theory and nineteenth century manuscripts by reading young adult (YA) fiction, when my colleague Amanda solicited reviewers for YA literature by LDS authors, I jumped at the opportunity. This was part of a larger conversation we were having about how the books we had read as young men and women shaped our thinking about gender and sexuality during those all-important formative years. We thought it would be interesting to see if the YA lit written by LDS authors reflected any particularly Mormon thinking about gender. I should also note that I am a historian of 19th century American religion and women’s studies, not specifically Mormon Studies. So, I really appreciate the chance to come play in your sandbox here at Juvenile Instructor.
I chose Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy, (more…)
This is just a quick reminder that proposals for the Mormon History Association Conference are due on Monday, October 1st, 2012. I hope to see everyone there! The CFP is below.
The 48th annual conference of the Mormon History Association will be held in Layton, Davis County, Utah, on June 6-9, 2013. Our theme emphasizes the particular history of Davis County and other early Wasatch Front Mormon settlements, but also invites broad investigation of what “Wests” of all types, times, and places have meant to various branches of the Restoration movement. Further, the idea of multiple Mormon frontiers challenges us to consider Mormonism’s encounters with other groups, cultures, and institutions.
Davis County is home to some of the oldest Mormon settlements in Utah, (more…)
Susa Young Gates, Juanita Brooks, and Plural Marriage: Situating the Legacy of Polygamy in the 1920s and 1930s
Natalie Rose is a doctoral candidate in America history at Michigan State University. She also holds a M.A. degree in women’s history from Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently researching and writing her dissertation on how adolescent Mormon women reacted to larger changes in the religion and culture from the 1870s to 1920s. ” Her dissertation adds a lot to discussions of women in Mormon history and the transition from polygamy to monogamy. We are excited to have her guest at JI.
In an interview from the World War One era with Emma Lucy Gates, daughter of Susa Young Gates and an acclaimed opera singer born in 1882, she commented that polygamy could help women in the “war-drained” European nations. She claimed: “Many girls in the old world have told me that they would much prefer being a plural mate of a man who could give them a pleasant home, where they could live a useful life, to being an old maid.” When asked about eugenics and Mormonism, Emma Lucy Gates stated that the current “Mormon standard of purity” rendered the practice of Eugenics unnecessary amongst Mormon men and women. Emma Lucy Gates’ commentary was not uncommon but actually part of a developing discourse that aimed to situate the legacy of polygamy within the early twentieth century.
Last summer while I was conducting research at the Utah State Archives in Salt Lake City, (more…)