Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: Rethinking the Position of Women in Early Mormonism

– Even if you have never actually heard of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and I think most of you in this room have, you’ve surely heard her most famous quote. The opening line to an otherwise obscure 40 year old article about
Puritan funeral services, which said, well behaved
women seldom make history. However inadvertently that quote has made its way around the world on bumper stickers, greeting cards, and not a few signs that have been carried in marches recently. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
is the 300th anniversary university professor in
the history department at Harvard University. She is, in short, one
of the most celebrated and decorated American
historians of our time. Her second and most famous
book, A Midwife’s Tale, The Life of Martha Ballard,
Based on Her Diary, won virtually every conceivable honor bestowed on historical writing. Including the Pulitzer
Prize, Bancroft Prize, Dunning Prize, and several others. It was made into a television program that some of you may have seen on PBS. Ulrich’s several other books including Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern
New England, 1650-1750. The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth. And yes, Well-behaved
Women Seldom Make History, are all regular fixtures in undergraduate and graduate classrooms. Doctor Ulrich has made her impact not only through her scholarship but also through her extensive
leadership and mentorship. She served as President of the American Historical Association, the main organization for
the Guild of Historians in the United States. And the Mormon History Association, where I’ve been privileged
to work alongside her and see her wisdom in action. In addition to her professional work as a scholar of early American
history and women’s history, Ulrich has written extensively on her native faith of Mormonism. Her book co-written with Emma Lou Thayne, All God’s Critters Got a
Place in the Choir, is a gem, and her essay Lusterware is
one of my personal favorites in the genre of Mormon essays. Along with a group of other women living in Boston in the 1970s, she became a pioneer of
modern Mormon feminism. The various strands of Ulrich’s life have come together and found
fruition in her new book, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, which is conveniently
for sale in the foyer. I don’t know if any are still on sale, we might have sold out, I’m not sure. And so her lecture tonight will draw on that recent research and we’re so pleased to welcome
Professor Ulrich here to campus. So please join me in welcoming her. (applause) – Thank you, Patrick. Thank you to Claremont Graduate University and to all of you, I’m
delighted to be here. I think I’ve been here a
couple of times in the past, I always enjoy it. Wonderful audience. And I’m particularly
happy to be here tonight to talk about my new project. But I wanted to call attention to the cover and to the subtitle. The subtitle, Plural
Marriage and Women’s Rights In Early Mormonism 1835 to 1870. And I’m going to talk this evening to one aspect of that. I’m not going to be talking
a great deal tonight about plural marriage and how it came about, perhaps you can ask questions about that, if we have a question and answer period, if I don’t tell you
enough about that topic. I’m instead going to focus on another theme, and I’m working with, as I think many of you know, some of you were in a
workshop this afternoon, I’ve been working with diaries, a wide arrange of diaries to try to understand early Mormonism, pretty much from the ground up. Rather than focusing on
the founding prophets, try to understand how
people understood themselves in their own letters and
diaries in that period, 1835 to 1870. Wilford Woodruff was
just an ordinary Mormon when he began his diary, later became a president of the church. And the cover of the book, makes use of this beautiful calligraphy in Wilford Woodruff’s diary as a kind of frame for a fascinating painting. This painting is at the
Springfield Art Museum in Utah. I don’t believe this
painting has ever been used as an illustration in the book. I was ecstatic when I found it, and very excited when my publisher agreed that it would go on the cover. And it sort of interests me, that the border that the designer put around the painting, coming from the diary of a priesthood leader in the church, framing a domestic scene, a very important domestic scene. The painter C.C. A. Christensen
is probably familiar to those of you who know a
little bit about Mormonism. He painted great panoramas of the crossing of the plains, handcart pioneers, scenes of the American West. But this is a small genre painting that he painted, is still in the original frame, as a gift for his good friend celebrating the birth of a baby. And it’s called Weighing the Baby. And if you look closely in
the center of the picture, you will see the women there with the weights and putting the baby in a kerchief and determining the
birth weight of the baby. It’s a charming picture. It is a house full of females, and let me tell you, there
are not many pictures from this period that
show this kind of a scene. A house full of females. It could have been a painting illustrating women 200 years before that. It could have been an illustration of scenes changing costume, of course, from a different century from
my book A Midwife’s Tale, which was about an 18th
century Maine midwife. It illustrates a number of
aspects of female culture. Women are taking care of other women, they’re facilitating birth, they’re at the same time
watching their own children. Imagine this after the birth scene, the little toddlers walking around, and one reaching up and trying to touch what may be his sibling, and I think that is a
little boy in a dress, which was common in that period. And the other toddler greeting his father who comes through the door holding a whip. Well, the whip I think symbolizes, I rushed to get here to find out that I had a new child. So he’s whipping the
horses to get to the scene. But he’s an outsider, he’s looking in on a world of women. You see other aspects of female
culture in this painting. Childcare, birth, yes, but also domestic economy. The mirror, the neat clothing
hanging above the bed, the homemade quilt, very
similar to some quilts made out of homespun
wool in this same period. The domestic scene, the interior scene, the community of women. One of my favorite
details in this painting is the little old gray
haired lady, about my age, sitting in the back and if
you look very very closely, she has a pipe in her hand. And I am told that my
great great grandmother, who was an early pioneer to Utah, who had come from West Virginia, had a long time habit of smoking a pipe. So, I love that painting
for another reason. We know a little bit about the family being illustrated here. The man in the door has two wives, which made him typical of plural marriages in 19th century Utah. The vast majority of
those polygamist families had two wives. There were, usually someone
was a very important man in his small community or in the larger territory to have more than two wives. Very few had more than four. The famous ones, of course Brigham Young, we know about his 27 or 19, they’re constantly changing the numbers, of the number of wives that he had. So this is a community of women that is so like communities of women worldwide where women are responsible for healthcare of children, for care of children,
for birthing children, fundamental reproductive
labor, presided over by women who have a female economy
of production and exchange. Who have a kind of bonding together through common biological
and social circumstances. This is a community of women like hundreds of communities over time, and like in some places
in the world today. It’s an unusual female community in the 19th century in that it has polygamy. And I want to really emphasize that point. The ways in which the Latter Day Saints were fundamentally like and radically unlike many of their neighbors. So what I want to think tonight and have you help me think through is the puzzle that I introduce in the introduction to A House Full of Females. The puzzle of plural marriage and a remarkable transformation in 1870 when the Territory of Utah gave women the right to vote. And when Utah women stood up in massive indignation meetings, held in 58 towns in the territory, massing three or four thousand women in the old tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City and
defended plural marriage in terms not only of their rights as Americans but their rights as women to
choose their own husbands. The nation was astounded. And the question was asked at the time, continues to be asked, how could it be that
women could simultaneously support a national campaign for political and economic rights, which they did, while defending marital practices that to most people seemed
relentlessly patriarchal? At one level the answer is obvious, they were being threatened. Their community, their loved ones, their whole economic and religious basis. By draconian legislation which had passed the US House of Representatives, and threatened to pass the Senate, which would have disfranchised and imprisoned Mormon man and denied women the ability to testify on behalf of their husbands. By standing up as women, these plural wives defended their homes and their religious identity. They were not forced to do so or even asked to do so by male leaders. It was their idea and
that’s well documented and they planned the meeting in a meeting hall that they had built and funded for themselves. So, it’s a case of competing identities. Something that we see today
in many circumstances. Some people look, for
example, at Muslim women. Such as one woman who served
as student body president at Harvard who continued to cover her head according to Muslim tradition. She was simultaneously
asserting her identity as an educated woman and
a leader in her community, and her identity as a
faithful Muslim woman. And no more paradoxical
that she would do that than that Latter Day Saint women would stand up for religious practice that seemed to deny them equality and at the same time assert their identity and their belief in their religious system. So in part, that’s what this book is about but I go further than that. That from the very beginning of the church because of the conflict
that Latter Day Saints often had with neighbors that resulted in violence and expulsion
from their homes, from the very beginning, female as well as male leaders knew how to circulate petitions, sign affidavits, lobby public officials, and employ the power of the press. They had been touched by reformist ideas, by radical ideas of the 1830s and 40s, including the astounding idea that a woman should
choose when and with whom she would bear children. By embracing Mormonism, these women had shown a willingness already
to push against the grain but they were tough, they were relentless, and they were willing to be different. As Latter Day Saints, they were victims of ignorant and sometimes wilful
misrepresentation by outsiders. But they were surely exaggerating when they claimed to
have experienced nothing but liberty in Utah. As their own writings attest, they had endured both the condescension and the open opposition
of their own leaders. Is this a surprise? In the 19th century female abolitionists stood beside male abolitionists to fight against slavery, and yet found themselves diminished and unable to attend certain meetings or speak on certain platforms
because they were women. So Latter Day Saint
women experienced sexism. Wow! Surprise! At both the national level
and at the local level within their own community. And it’s this latter part of the story that I wanna talk about tonight. Rather than the part about the embrace of plural marriage and the embrace of women’s rights. What was it like within
this religious community? Where were the dimensions
of power and authority? And how did those function? And I’m going to do that and I hope I can do that in an economical way, I’ve already talked
quite a while to explain you the framework of the book. But I’m going to try to take a quick trip through 10 illustrations from the book. So this will be the pictorial description of one strand of A House Full of Females. And what I want us to think about are the various dimensions
that are at issue. So the first one that I put up
here, I’m calling sisterhood. It’s all the stuff I was talking about in terms of the painting. Women identified as women working together in the domain of neighborhood and family. But there are other areas where
Latter Day Saint women operated in a religious framework. One was in what some would call the priesthood of all believers, that spiritual gifts are accepted or available and accepted
to those who believe. And Latter Day Saint women
operated in that realm from Kirtland to as far
as my research extends. Another is charity. Women not just doing for their neighbors and their selves and their own family but reaching out to those less fortunate and engaging in charitable work. Not much problem with those things, with Latter Day Saint
women or with others. But they’re there and they’re
profound from the beginning. Where it begins to get a
little more interesting is whether Latter Day Saint women could actually hold office. To be engaged in some kind of management or leadership position in the church. And we’ll briefly talk about that. And then finally, the domain of ritual, which in many religious institutions is dominated by man. Administration of sacraments, administration of religious rituals. The final one, which I’ve put in gray, it’s not really gonna be
very much about like story, although it’s important
to the larger book, is citizenship. Just plain old citizenship
in the community. Okay, let’s see what these ten objects look like. Ah. Gotta tell you, give you my quote and my title and then we’ll look at the ten objects. The title for the talk
comes from a discourse that Brigham Young, the successor to Joseph Smith, the founding prophet, gave on March 9th, 1845
to the Seventies Quorums in the church at Nauvoo, Illinois. And he gave a similar talk
to the high priest quorum. These are quorums of men
who hold the priesthood. When I want sisters or
the wives of the members of the church to get up Relief Society, I will summon them to my aid but until that time let them stay at home and if you see females huddling
together, veto the concern. And if they say Joseph started it, tell them it is a damned lie for I know he never encouraged it. Women huddling together. What on earth is he talking about? Well he’s talking about the formation in 1842, on March 17th, 1842, of the Nauvoo Female Relief Society which was the first formal organization of women in the Latter Day Saint church. This was an organization
which gave women office. And as one of the participants, the men who were there to formally applaud the organization
of the Relief Society said, the church was not properly organized until the women were organized. Here they were with a formal
position in the church. And Eliza R. Snow kept the minutes of the first Relief Society
and carefully recorded sermons that Joseph Smith
gave to the sisters. Brigham Young, I might add, never attended any of these Relief Society minutes, so I don’t know what Joseph
told him on the side, but here’s what Joseph said
according to Eliza’s minutes. He said, the Relief Society President and her councilors should
preside over the society just as the presidency
preside over the church. And that if they needed
additional officers, they should be appointed and set apart as deacons, teachers,
et cetera, are among us. At the third meeting he promised to make of this society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day, as in Paul’s day. And then he went on in another meeting and affirmed the importance
of spiritual gifts, which had been there since Kirtland, as long, and probably came with
sisters who had come from the Methodists and
some other groups as well. That is speaking in tongues, prophesying, healing the sick, the gifts of the spirit as enumerated in the New Testament. Then Joseph Smith said to the Society, that they should get instruction through the order which God has established through the medium of
those appointed to lead. That is their own leaders, the presidency that had been chosen. And I now turn the key to you in the name of God, and this society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time. In Latter Day Saint thinking, a key is the right to exercise authority in an area. I turn the key to you to organize society, to appoint officers, and to do the work that you choose to do. Powerfully important message. And within a few months,
there were 1,300 members of the Relief Society. Joseph Smith’s wife Emma Smith was President of the Relief Society, which brought the authority of women and the authority of men
into the same household and brought a lot of trouble later. Okay. First object, the minutes
of the female Relief Society which were preserved lovingly through all kinds of trauma
and concern to the present day and can be read in facsimile
and in transcription in the Joseph Smith Papers online. Okay, second object. Nauvoo Temple. This is an embroidery
which was done in England and by women who had never
seen the Nauvoo Temple which was under construction
for a very long time and completed after Joseph
Smith’s death in 1846. And you know this was completed
after Joseph Smith’s death because it lists the members of the quorum of the 12 apostles who
were leading the church after the death of the founding prophet. Now this was, I think, we think, a kind of fundraising project that had been established shortly before Joseph Smith’s death, and it was called the penny fund, in which the sisters of the Relief Society were to contribute a penny a week to purchase glass for the
windows in the Nauvoo Temple. And what’s fascinating
about this penny fund, which was advertised throughout the world including to the mission field in England, is that it was announced
in a general conference. Not by the Relief Society
but by Hyrum Smith, the prophet’s brother. And he had recently taken a plural wife, he was now married to two
sisters Mary and Mercy Fielding who became responsible for
administering the penny fund. And he said this, which is a very strange statement. No member of the Female
Relief Society got it up. I am the man that did it. They aught not to infringe upon it. I am not a member of the
Female Relief Society, I am one of the committee for
building the lord’s house. What happened here? Well what happened was
an emerging conflict in Nauvoo over plural marriage. Joseph Smith had taken a couple of dozen women as plural wives, we don’t know what kind of
relationships these were, they may have been spiritual
sealings at this point, but they were considered to be sealed to the prophet Joseph Smith. And they ranged. Women older than Joseph Smith, women much younger than Joseph Smith, all of whom were known for religiosity. One of those women was Eliza R. Snow who was the secretary who kept the minutes for the Relief Society. And they were beginning, it was secret, the practice plural
marriage was totally secret, Hyrum had resisted it and
then had been persuaded and then become an enthusiastic supporter. But increasingly, Emma Smith, the President of the Relief
Society was concerned. And she in March of 1844, promulgated a statement urging a moral reformation
in the community and exhorting the church to correct the morals and strengthen
the virtues of the community. And she held meetings
of the Relief Society two sessions a day to
read a statement composed by one of her friends, and she said, if there ever was any
authority on the earth to conduct this campaign, she had it. She urged the sisters
to heed brother Joseph when he preached against bias. And she reread to them
a letter he had written a number of years ago
when someone had charged immorality among the brethren. She asked for reformation
in both men and women and invited them to affirm their support by raising their hands. At this point only a
few of the 1,300 members of the Relief Society knew
anything about plural marriage, though some had surely heard rumors. And those who were
ignorant about the practice were no doubt reassured
by Emma’s campaign. Those who were themselves plural wives, including Eliza and other members of the Relief Society leadership, probably considered their
sealing sanctioned by God and therefore perfectly moral. But Hyrum was not happy and when Joseph Smith was murdered, couple of months later in Carthage Jail, Brigham Young was irate, and he believed that Emma had whipped up opposition
to her own husband and therefore was somehow
responsible for his death and that’s why he didn’t want the women meeting again, he dissolved the Female Relief Society. But he went ahead and continued to work with the temple. And in the temple there was a special group called the Quorum of the Anointed who had been meeting for months, even before the temple was complete to master religious rituals which would be, they would officiate in the temple. And the highest ritual in that temple was the sealing of man and
women together in marriage including plural marriage. But women officiated in
some of these ceremonies, blessing and anointing other women, and they considered
themselves to be functioning under the authority of
the holy priesthood. Now here’s a fascinating document. This is a little, kind of
like a little greeting card, a little token made by Eliza R. Snow to congratulate President Brigham Young and his lady Presidentess Mary Ann Young, upon the altar of the lord within his holy house their covenants were sealed and there they plighted mutual vows. They had been sealed together for all eternity in the temple. Now a few days later Eliza would be sealed for
time to Brigham Young, her plural husband
Joseph Smith having died, and other women would be
sealed to Brigham as well. It’s a fascinating little document, I don’t have time to
describe it in great detail, but it involves two
interlocking hearts, an arrow, and an arrow and key. The keys here of sealing people together in the temple. So the women are engaged in these rituals, but they’re not allowed
to meet separately. And interestingly, Eliza uses parallel terms. President Brigham Young and his lady Presidentess Mary Ann Young as the first wife. So we now through ritual have a new kind of authority, a kind of household authority, having lost the authority
of office in the meetings, separate meetings of the
Female Relief Society. Okay. So we’re gonna race through this somewhat. They leave Nauvoo. They’re on the Overland Trail. They’re dealing with all
kinds of trouble and sorrow. And on the Overland Trail
as they’re crossing Nauvoo to go to Iowa, there are a lot of deaths, and Phoebe Woodruff gives birth to a little baby that dies and then very shortly
around the same time, a child who had been born in England and had been painted in
this portrait on her lap, also dies. And she is distraught, and she is even more distraught when her husband is sealed by Brigham Young to a friend who had come
with him from England and to two young girls, and it looks like trouble. What I describe here, and
is described very powerfully in the diaries that
emerged from this period. Diaries both of men and women. Because a lot happens
when you’re coming out of the arduous task of building a temple, engaging in rituals that you believe are going to bring salvation, engaging in rituals that you believe defy those who challenge Joseph’s authority to practice plural marriage. And you believe you
were doing this because the second coming of Jesus is imminent, we’re preparing a holy society where people are going to live together in love and peace and communal
order in the hereafter, and instead you find
yourself in the mud of Iowa and in horrible refugee
camp on the Missouri River and trying to find a new home and people are miserable and in despair. And so what does the diaries
tells us the women do? They gather together. They huddle together. In cabins, in tents, in covered wagons, and they bless one another. They heal one another. They share prophecies,
speaking in tongues, and they start with the small groups and then one by one
they build into larger, they spread it. One will go in another group
and begin to teach this. No offices. No Relief Society. Spiritual gifts. They begin to heal one another and they begin to join together to reaffirm their identity as daughters of God. They move on in the first dank winter in the Salt Lake Valley. Apparently even in this cabin, which really doesn’t look very promising, it apparently had no windows. This is Rebecca Riter’s cabin, Levi and Rebecca Riter built
this cabin in the old fort. And people begin to wonder
what are these meetings that the women are holding. And someone joked,
they’re organized parties. Having a good time, no problem here. The sisters together. But it becomes, they’re concerned by what authority do we meet together? There’s no more Relief Society. They’ve always had spiritual gifts but if we begin to organize, are we doing something different? And they resolved that in
a very interesting way, through the household authority of women who’ve been endowed in the temple and have this shared authority
within the household. So they persuade Rebecca Riter that when they’re in
your cabin, you preside. And they used that term. Who is going to preside at this meeting? And when they go to another cabin, the woman there presides and if she can’t, feels she cannot preside,
she delegates someone else. And they do this through the
winter and spring of 1848 as the men are often gone out exploring, building ditches, doing other things. So, they’re now in Utah. And what can women do without question, they take care of childbirth, right? And they take care of healing. This is part of the community of women, the female economy of women. And the brethren recognize that. Willard Richards is a
thomsonian doctor of kinds, he recognizes that. And so they organize a council of health, which includes the midwives. And pretty soon Patty Sessions is a councilor in the Council of Health, and there’s a midwife’s council and men’s, and it’s starting to look an awful lot like they’re organizing meetings, but these are Council of Health meetings, even though witnesses who were
there in the minutes tell us they sometimes speak in tongues, as well as share recipes. And they definitely heal each other. They heal each other in these meetings. So something happens. There’s trouble with Wakara the leader, there’s violence, people are concerned, in conference there’s, we gotta do something. You know, they tramped down the threat from Walker and the rebellion of the youths but they’ve decided we’ve gotta go out now and convert the Paiutes
who are more friendly. We’re going to start sending missionaries. And so in a conference, one of the brethren gives a sermon saying, you know things are getting
a little better now. We’re into the early 1850s, you’re able to, you know,
you have better houses and we’re growing a little food and now you really can help the Indians. Here’s this theme of charity coming in. What if we were to do something
to clothe the Indians? Well. That inspired Matilda Dudley, who was nobody. She had no particular calling, she wasn’t married to an important man, she wasn’t even married yet. And so she began to call
her neighbors together to prepare clothing that they could send to help clothe the Paiute
Indians in central Utah. And she decided they needed
minutes for this meeting, and so they appointed a secretary, and they developed guidelines. And they called themselves, what else? The Indian Relief Society. That’s in January. In June, Brigham Young in a Sunday
morning sermon says, I have a great idea. Why don’t the sisters
get up Relief Societies to help clothe the Indians? And so, he says to the bishops, let’s have a Relief Society in each ward. Now is this co-opting Matilda Dudley? Well Matilda says, okay sisters, now we’re all gonna meet in our own wards, and each ward is going
to have a Relief Society and she gets an office in her ward and Patty becomes president
in her ward, and other women, and pretty soon, lo and behold, we’ve got Relief Society back. Although the covenant in one of the wards, they had to kind of sign something, no one will speak ill of
any of the authorities. So Relief Society comes
back for a little while, and they begin to send
clothing, so much clothing, that the missionaries
can’t distribute it all, there’s just tremendous enthusiasm. So Brigham Young said, well maybe sisters, you
could begin to make carpet for the new tabernacle. And so they go to work
in charitable works. And suddenly now we have a
kind of benevolent society called a Relief Society. And the Council of Health continues, and the dancing school continues, and the Polysophical Society continues, and people are engaged in all kinds of informal organizations, men and women in the society. Well I’m gonna run out of time, but the fascinating thing that happens is in, after these Relief Societies get going, the men in the church historical office have been working and
publishing in the Deseret News the early history of the church, and they decide that it’s important that they include, guess what? The formation of the Nauvoo Relief Society in the history, and so they ask Eliza Snow if she will bring her minutes to the church headquarters, to the church historical
department headquarters, and if they could borrow
them for a couple of days to make copies of some of
the sermons of Joseph Smith. And they do so, and according to the minutes of the church historical department, Heber Campbell and Brigham Young looked over these
sermons and they decided, they’re pretty good but
they could be better. And so they correct the minutes, and publish them in the Deseret News. In Eliza’s version,
Joseph said he was going to make this society a kingdom of priests, in Enoch’s days and Paul’s day. And George A. Smith and
his clerks changed that to, the lord was going to make of the church of Jesus Christ a kingdom of priests, a holy people, a chosen generation. In Eliza’s version,
Joseph spoke of delivering the keys to this society
and to the church. In the revised version
he spoke of delivering the keys of the priesthood to the church and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them in connection with their husbands. Whereas the speech Eliza recorded, and join the sisters to place confidence in the leaders they had chosen
to lead their organization. The revised version told
them to place confidence in their husbands whom God has
appointed for them to honor. And in those faithful
men whom God has placed at the head of the church
to lead his people. In the original version Joseph said, I now turn the key to
you in the name of God and this society shall
rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall
flow down for this time. And in the revised version Joseph said, I now turn the key in your behalf in the name of the lord and
this society shll rejoice and good things will happen
for the poor and needy as you assist them. So we’re now a charitable society to do good and to help the poor under the authority of bishops without the keys and the authority of women comes through obedience to and listening to their husbands and to the brethren in the church. Now I don’t have time to go further with this, except to say fascinating
things happened in this period of these nascent little Relief Societies. And one of the things that happened was that another threat from
the federal government, in this case, what we
know of as the Utah War, which stimulated the
fascinating rash of patriotism by the women in support for the church. They’re struggling within the church, but they don’t wanna be tamped
down from outside the church, this is their church, their community, they love the teachings of the church, they’re working on both fronts. And the amazing 14th Ward album quilt, which is filled with emblems
of the American eagle and with vows that we are going to assert our right of citizenships and we’re going to stand up for the church and we’re not going to let this happen, in God is our trust. So, we have vibrant Relief Societies. We have equivocal authority for office and for separate women’s organizations. We have such authority as people have, is contention upon harmonious
relationships in families and their support for their
husbands, we have patriarchy, having reasserted itself
in a very interesting way. And then, the Utah War comes, and the Relief Societies go away. And women turned toward
home production again, towards manufacturing,
toward having lots of babies, they’re back again in that female economy that we started with. And they’re doing all the things they were doing from the beginning, speaking in tongues, blessing one another, healing the sick, taking care of babies, taking care of their neighbors,
taking care of the poor. But there’s no sign that I can find of organized Relief Society in the early 1860s after this war. 1867, a new threat from outside. The new threat is the
coming of the railroad, the coming of gentile merchants, the loss of economic
power in the territory by the Latter Day Saints. A serious threat, which
Brigham Young takes seriously, he wants to organize united orders, he wants to get people to
boycott gentile merchants. The sisters rally around him and he decides maybe we need Relief Society. This time, however, they are prepared. Two fabulous things happen, and, you know, it’s hard
to read between the lines. Obviously they have managed to soften Brigham, they’ve also managed to take authority without seeming to, without overt resistance. So two interesting things happen. Sarah Kimball, who helped found the
original Relief Society is now President of the 15th Ward. She decides what the sisters need is independent organized economic activity and they need their own building. She raises the money from
the sisters, buys the land. They hire a designer,
they build the building, it’s the Relief Society Hall, used for household production and marketing on the lower floor, and for meetings on the upper floor. That’s the first thing. The second thing that happens is Eliza Snow begins to send letters all over the territory to newly appointed
Relief Society presidents, giving them models based
on the original minutes of the Nauvoo Relief Society. They begin to call officers. Some of these wards, they
have deacons and teachers, they have treasurers, they have people
responsible for marketing, and for evaluating products
that they’re selling. They come in wholeheartedly
around the idea of opposing the gentile merchants. But they’ve now come back
with their own organization. And it is in the upper room in the 15th Ward Relief Society Hall, where women from
throughout Salt Lake gather together to plan the opposition meeting that they mount in 1870 against the anti-polygamy
legislation in conference. And they pass resolutions for what they want from Congress and they add by vote, they will ask the territory
legislature for the vote. They will have citizenship. They get the vote. They meet in the Relief Society Hall to evaluate the indignation meeting which was an amazing success. Got national press everywhere. They stood up, they defended polygamy, and their church, and they got the vote. And then Sarah Kimball said, I’m ready to declare myself
a woman’s rights woman. And Phoebe Woodruff said, I have been waiting for years for this moment. They appoint Bathsheba Smith to tour the territory with her husband to preach the importance of retrenchment, home manufacturers, and women’s rights if she wishes. And she did. And from that point on
women become committed to a national movement of political and economic
rights for women. And the Relief Society at long last, after two decades of starting and stopping, is established as a permanent organization that continues to the
end of the 19th century with amazing success in both the economic, the cultural, and the spiritual sphere. Well I’ve gone on too
long but that’s my story. I think you’ve got the ten items of illustration from the book. We’ll stop there and thank you very much. (applause)

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About the Author: Emmet Marks

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