Note: This is a chapter from a forthcoming co-authored book entitled Men and Women Working Towards Zion.
The history of Latter-day Saint (LDS) women from the time the Saints reached the barren Salt Lake Valley to the early twentieth century features lives of remarkable faith in the importance of women and their ability to lead their families into a Zion society. Previous and subsequent chapters discuss LDS doctrines of equality, the importance of women's public participation, and the role the faith community and workplace can play in supporting women's contributions to society. This chapter presents the history of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 to 1930 —a formative period in which LDS women experimented with different ways of expressing their devotion to the gospel. As in all dispensations, this devotion included faith, testimony and family work, but in this interesting early period it also included explicit notions of the value of women's public labors and political service. Quite literally these women and their families exemplified the doctrine and works outlined and discussed throughout this book.
LDS women of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century were strong women of covenant, dedicated to their God and the building of Zion. They stood beside their husbands in their determination to raise children of God, which required great courage and hard work. In this time period there was no room for delicate women—that is women conceptualized as inherently fragile and weak. Though not all were outspoken, their unfailing labors laid a historical foundation that is an example to women of all ages. Researcher Judith Rasmussen Dushku stated, "Neither vicarious influence nor coat-tail salvation was sufficient for the Latter-day Saint woman. 'Girls don't be afraid of the term 'strong-minded,' [a column in the Woman's Exponent] cautioned, 'for of such there is certainly a necessity; the stronger you are in mind and body the better for you...do not wait for any other person to bring you forward'" (Dushku 1976, 182). The early LDS women certainly did not wait, but were in the forefront of building a Zion around them.
There are four sections in this chapter whose overarching purposes are to illustrate how early LDS women participated in building a Zion on earth, and how we, with the same calling, can gain insight and strength through their example. Section one examines the unwavering faith early LDS sisters had in the Savior and in His revelation for their lives. Dr. Ellis Shipp, the second female medical doctors in Utah, testified:
I sought my Father and my God! He it was who inspired me with the higher intelligence, helped me to know my duty in all of its details, enabled me to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint. (Musser 1962, 283)
First and ever-present in these women's lives was the necessity to look to God for guidance. These women sought personal revelation through the Holy Spirit. Often such guidance led them to paths not commonplace for women in America at that time. With support from Church leaders, early LDS women were inspired to participate in public roles. As they sought opportunities for work and service, they focused single-mindedly on God's will for them and they had faith in His ability to assist them. This first section tells of the divine inspiration and relationships women had with God in making and accomplishing life choices and in developing their talents. It also discusses the involved and supportive relationships LDS women had with Church priesthood leaders.
The second section of the chapter examines how all members of early LDS families were required to participate in the family and communal economy. Manual labor was accomplished because life necessitated such, and as a result, all members accomplished domestic tasks that benefited the family. Yet, tedious tasks did not define the value of family members, or the value of work. It was through the concept of shared sacrifice that all family members promoted the physical and spiritual survival of the family. Specifically, through sacrificing for the family, they were building Zion and seeking spiritual survival. With this equal partnership family work pattern, all members participated inside and outside the home. Professor Kathleen Slaugh Bahr and researcher Cheri A. Loveless described the benefits of such family work structure: "Here lies the real power of family work—its potential to transform lives, to forge strong families, to build strong communities. It is the power to quietly, effectively urge hearts and minds toward a oneness known only in Zion" (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 26). As a global church, many members of the LDS faith in the developing world practice family work similar to that of the early Saints. In such a structure the lines between private and public labor as well as productive and reproductive work are more difficult to distinguish than in developed nations. Section two addresses the positive realities of merging public and private, and productive and reproductive roles that characterizes Zion—a society who upholds equal partnership family work patterns. In seeking to build Zion, individual identities are not invested in the type of labor performed, but in one's divine nature, and the labor is a tool of service to achieve Zion.
Section three then recounts the lives of prominent and publicly active LDS women in the early history of the restored Church. The early Church leadership championed education and professional involvement. Brigham Young fostered support for women's academic and occupation attainment frequently during his years as a prophet. He exclaimed:
If [Mormon sisters] had the privilege of studying, [they] would make just as good mathematicians or accountants as any man; and we think they ought to have the privilege to study these branches of knowledge that they may develop the powers with which they are endowed. (Derr 1995, 314-315)
Further, Brigham Young's daughter, journalist and suffragist Susa Young Gates, said of her father, "[He was] always proud to recognize and acclaim the woman of gifts and encourage her to use them to the fullest extent for the establishment of righteousness on earth" (Derr 1995, 315). In fact, the support women received from Church leaders regarding their autonomy and public activity was unmatched by any other group in America at the time (Arrington 1976; Derr 1995). Many women in the newly-settled Salt Lake valley took up the challenge to establish righteousness on earth by pursuing educational and professional opportunities, and many were formally called by Church leaders to do so. All spiritual gifts and talents were valued in building Zion and women's talents were not exempt from the call to build God's kingdom on earth.
In section four, the unique nature of women's public participation in this period at the turn of the twentieth century is examined. American society at this time had a distinctive sphere for women's public involvement. So, for example, during this period, in addition to economic and academic opportunities, women were very active in religious and political public matters. Speaking to a congregation of LDS women Eliza R. Snow, Second President of the General Relief Society Presidency, explained that LDS women were more privileged than their eastern sisters:
I will now ask of this [present] assemblage of intelligent ladies…do you know of any place on the face of the earth, where woman has more liberty, and where she enjoys such high and glorious privilege as she does here as a Latter-day Saint? No! The very idea of a woman here in a state of slavery is a burlesque on good common sense. (Beecher 1976, 32)
President Snow spoke proudly of the public privileges Utah women were afforded and these privileges presented many avenues for women to offer unique insight, fight for their liberties, and benefit the LDS community in ways different than their brothers. Specifically, LDS women of this period were substantially supported in their political pursuits as they campaigned for suffrage and statehood. Further, women's voices were heard as they made religious contributions through the Relief Society and Church as a whole. Indeed, early LDS women set a standard of public participation and voice unprecedented by any other concentrated group of women in America at the time (Cannon 1976).
Addressed in the conclusion of this chapter are the LDS cultural shifts of the 1930s that placed limitations on women's public participation. Such trends mirrored general U.S. cultural trends and thus created a deviation from the founding principles of joint male and female efforts to build Zion in the community. Understanding the negative consequences of such limiting trends motivates us to look beyond a more narrow slice of recent Church history to the early Church history and rediscover their efforts in building a Zion community.
As these sections come together, chapter four's significance within this book is best illustrated by former General Relief Society President Julie B. Beck's comment:
We study our history because it helps us change. Ultimately, the value of history is not so much in its dates, times, and places. It is valuable because it teaches us the principles, purposes, and patterns we are to follow, it helps us know who we are and what we are to do, and it unites us in strengthening the homes of Zion and building the kingdom of God on the earth. (Beck 2010, 125)
The women of the Church in 1847 to 1930 embodied in every sense "strengthening the homes of Zion and building the kingdom of God on the earth" (Beck 2010, 125). To these early sisters, participation in a community beyond the literal walls of their homes was a responsibility in building Zion and God's Kingdom. As President Beck made clear, we can look to our history—the history of our foremothers—and follow their faithful example as we mold our lives after the principles and patterns they exemplified. Indeed it is difficult to understand fully a historical people and their cultural influences without interpreting their lives through our own cultural limitations, but in focusing on the "principles…and patterns" they lived, here lies the value of their legacy. 
Section 1: Women of Faith
In investigating the lives of the early LDS women, one theme reigns true and clear: in general, they were women of unfailing faith in God and His priesthood on the earth. Their dedication to the Almighty was characterized by continual seeking of personal revelation that their will might be aligned with His. When seeking divine guidance, often the Holy Ghost led them to pursue activities that would benefit their families and the community as a whole. They felt that only through the companionship of the Holy Ghost and by miracles from Heaven were their accomplishments made possible. Often the approval and guidance of priesthood leaders were sought when making choices to serve their community. In fact, in many cases it was priesthood leaders who formally called women to serve as professionals and community participants in the establishing and building of Zion. The brethren upheld the notion that in order to obtain a Zion society, all worthy members’ efforts, spiritual gifts, and talents were necessary. Through tireless labor and public participation, the early LDS women demonstrated their testimonies of God, His chosen Prophets, and in God's revealed plan for them.
A Divine Relationship
A spiritual relationship with the divine was fundamental to every aspect of the early LDS women's lives. In Romania B. Pratt's, M.D. work as the first female physician in Utah "…never once was [her] professional work unaccompanied by the religious theme of her life" (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors"). These women felt deeply that the activities they performed were essential to the Church's progression and they wanted to do all they could to serve God's kingdom on the earth. Historian Jill Mulvay Derr recounted Brigham Young's confidence in men and women's spirituality: "These children of divine parents came to earth endowed with assorted talents and abilities that were not necessarily sex-differentiated" (Derr 1995, 314). There would be no shrinking back from sharing their spiritual gifts for these strong faithful women. Indeed, they felt their salvation depended upon the sharing of their talents. General Relief Society President Eliza R. Snow proclaimed:
Instead of depending entirely on our husbands for salvation and position, we have to work them out ourselves. The responsibility and labor that devolve upon women are becoming more important. God has put the means into your hands to become queens and priestesses in his kingdom, if you will only live for it. (Education In Zion Gallery 2011)
Undeniably early LDS women did live for their salvation and manifested that belief through continual service. Professional labors and public participation were a few of the ways in which these women sought to serve, but nearly always this activity was done in the spirit of giving and consecration as evidenced by Apostle George Albert Smith's tribute to Ellis Shipp M.D. at her funeral. Reflecting on her life-long labors he said, "She had always been faithful. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meant to her what it ought to mean to all its members—an opportunity for service, a stepping-stone to higher and more glorious opportunity and experience" (McCloud 1984, 181). For Ellis and her contemporaries, serving others (in all the forms that took, public and private) was a way to serve God in building Zion.
When prayerfully seeking guidance as to how to aid in the serving and building of Zion, many women were inspired by God to invest their talents and spiritual gifts in public activities and labors. In the Young Woman's Journal, Susa Young Gates advised girls seeking training in the medical profession to "first take the matter in her secret prayers before God and… ask His testimony as to whether it will be best for her to proceed with her plans" (Young Gates 1891, 77). Often the revelation received was in the affirmative and the young lady embarked on the challenging path to service in the medical field. For example, Ellis Shipp M.D. often spoke of her personal call to medicine and the ensuing challenges that accompanied:
How much I thank my Heavenly Father for His wisdom in the ordination of my circumstances. I thank Him that I was so far enabled to overcome my selfishness, and decide in favor of coming to Philadelphia to study medicine, for surely, had I consulted my own pleasures I should not have left my darlings. (Musser 1962, 185)
Great sacrifice was necessary to fulfill such callings from God. Shipp felt it her personal responsibility to obtain an education and perform her talents of medical wisdom with reverence to God's influence:
My hope, my object is to do good—and for this purpose do I seek to gain knowledge…All truth, all knowledge is of God—it has its origins in the Heavens. And with a proper degree of humility and reverence for the "Author of every good and perfect gift" there is no danger of becoming too wise. I verily believe that He is pleased with those who seek after knowledge, that it is His desire in so much that it becomes a duty to improve and cultivate the talents He has given us. (Musser 1962, 151)
Appropriate to the faith these women possessed, they would seek not only guidance in how to serve Zion, but also for strength from Heaven to accomplish their call. Continually they expressed gratitude to God for providing a path to succeed, but never did they expect the rewards of education, training, and public service to be handed to them without hard work. Again, Susa Young Gates commented:
The "calling" to a certain mission often comes in the form of a strong desire to fill such a sphere. And no one who has received such a "call" can afford to disregard its heavenly message. Therefore, girls, if you feel led that way, go to those who can help you and know that God helps those who try in all humility to help themselves. (Young Gates 1891, 133)
Perhaps the greatest strength God provided to those who helped themselves was the ability to overcome the sorrow of not being able to be everywhere at once. Dr. Ellis Shipp wrote, "When the subject [of going to medical school] was broached to me…the thought of leaving home and loved ones overwhelmed me and swept from me even the possibility of making the attempt" (Musser 1962, xi). Yet the Spirit confirmed to her that her talents obtained from medical training were vital to the saints in Zion and God helped her accomplish a way. She continued: "I feel that it was only through divine interposition of Providence that I was enabled ever to bring myself to pass through the ordeal, and it might have been that had I fully realized the magnitude of the undertaking I would have shrunk from it" (Musser 1962, xi).
A Relationship With Priesthood Brethren
As the female spiritual examples and prominent Relief Society leaders for the Church at the time, these women established strong relationships with Church priesthood leaders and with the priesthood holders in their homes. Eliza R. Snow exemplified such close relationships:
…the fact of her sex never prevented Eliza from achieving anything which was important to her. On the contrary, the fact of her sex, multiplied by her determination, her ambition, and her drive, had placed her in a position more prominent then any but Brigham Young. In matters touching the women she stood closer to the Prophet than did any of his counselors. (Beecher 1976, 31)
Such close relationships encouraged women to seek insight from their male counterparts as they received personal revelation regarding their labors. After individual contemplation, women like Ellis Shipp and Louisa Greene desired further approval and blessing from priesthood holders. "There was one…opinion, one sanction [Ellis Shipp] needed...She found Brigham in his office," here Ellis presented her desire to pursue medical school and "[Brigham] granted her what she had come for, what she desired. He…took her hand…as capable as his own were. Hadn't he, Brigham, had sight of her greatness all along? 'I say go, Ellis…Go, and God bless you'" (McCloud 1984, 102-103). Brigham also gave such approval to Louisa Green, niece of Eliza R. Snow, in establishing a woman's paper: "Brigham Young appointed [Louisa Greene] to the mission and blessed her in it" (Beecher 1976, 26). Later, the married Louisa Lula Greene Richards became the Woman's Exponent editor and "heralded Young as the 'most genuine, impartial and practical 'Woman's Rights Man' upon the American Continent'" (Derr 1995, 313). Early LDS women reverenced God's priesthood as a tool to help them serve others, and priesthood blessings often accompanied training, education, and labor pursuits: "After completing one of [the midwifery] courses the students would go to a member of the priesthood for the blessing they considered essential" (Arrington 1976, 61).
Many women were also called directly by the Church priesthood leaders to participate in the building Zion through activities that took place in the public sphere. Frequently these callings took the form of paid labor and labor-intensive work. In speaking to a congregation of Saints in St. George, Utah Brigham Young advised, "If I had my way I would have every man and woman employed in doing something to support themselves" (Derr 1995, 327). His call spoke to many women eager to aid in building Zion. Dr. Romania B. Pratt was one such woman:
The man to whom I am listening does not speak from his heart alone. As surely as the river of Galilee flows from the heights into the blue lake of the plain below, the words of Brigham Young are flowing from a divine source through my being. I shall study medicine, and I will not delay! (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors")
Parley, her husband, echoed President Young's call and encouraged his wife fully in her pursuits (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors"). Romania's graduation from to medical school was followed by the graduation of several other women (Divett 1963, 9), all called or supported by Brigham Young (Arrington 1955, 162). President Young's "general epistle for that period specifies that ladies should be trained in anatomy, surgery, chemistry, physiology, the preservation of health, the properties of medicinal plants and midwifery" (Arrington 1976, 57). Further, "Brigham Young encouraged women to pursue whatever occupations they could learn. And he gave them some propitious opportunities in education" (Mulvay 1976, 79-80). Beyond academics and employment, Brigham Young was inspired that women should have a voice in Zion. Therefore, he desired that "the women of Zion should publish a paper in their own interest…that…should be extensively circulated." He said, "It will contain a portion of Church history, the record of the works and experiences of women." The Woman's Exponent was issued on his birthday in his honor (Dushku 1976, 179).
In the building of Zion, the labors of all Latter-day Saints were necessary and valued. President Young, with urgency to fulfill this task, declared: "Let us... no longer sit with hands folded, wasting time, for it is the duty of every man and of every woman to do all that is possible to promote the kingdom of God on the earth" (Derr 1995, 322). Daniel H. Wells, President Young's second counselor, told the Relief Society: “Any man or woman engaged in any of these callings [building, manufacturing, agriculture] with pure motives, is just as much on a mission as if teaching the gospel” (Report of the Dedication of the Kaysville Relief Society House 1877, 148). Here it is evidenced that building Zion required more than just missionary work and caring for family members. It also required communal effort in community labor and was often accompanied by great sacrifice. When Romania B. Pratt's medical school funds ran dry, Brigham Young counseled the Relief Society to fund the remainder of her training despite the fact that such training necessitated a temporary absence from her young children. "We need her here," said Young, "and her talents will be of great use to this people" (Derr 1995, 329).
While several local leaders sought to curtail LDS women's participation in the public sphere, General Church leaders made clear that the talents and calling of women were necessary in God's kingdom. Eliza R. Snow was advised in 1867 to form the Relief Society in Utah so that "the ladies would get up societies by which they could promote…labor," which was "well pleasing in the sight of heaven" (Arrington 1955, 146). When LDS men failed "to store an adequate supply of grain," President Young called women to begin grain-saving. He explained: "if the sisters were told to save grain they would not sell it" (Arrington 1955, 158). The Relief Society maintained a successful grain-saving effort for decades and this effort in Zion was recognized and respected by the General Church leaders:
In 1883 the First Presidency addressed a letter to all bishops directing them not to take possession of and disburse Relief Society grain, to whom it belonged. Ten years later the First Presidency once more "gave the authorities to understand that they must not interfere with the Relief Society about storing up wheat." (Arrington 1955, 161)
Church leaders also respected women's public voice and supported them as women of the Church took political action in furthering Zion. A Relief Society building near Blanding, Utah features several letters from early LDS women. One particular letter described how the bishop encouraged the ladies to discover for themselves the importance of politics and decide to take up the cause of women's rights. The women resolved to accomplish this and felt that understanding and engaging in politics would help them better serve the Lord and do His work (Stearmer, Matt, interviewed by author, Provo, UT, 20 July 2011). In both participation and voice, women in the Church were recognized as essential in the establishment of a Zion on earth.
Patterns and Principles, Part 1
As previously discussed, President Julie B. Beck explained that our history "…is valuable because it teaches us the principles…and patterns we are to follow" (Beck 2010, 125). When examining early LDS women's lives, we uncover timeless principles we can emulate. That these women sought personal revelation from God and further guidance from Church leaders is the first pattern of behavior established. As a result, many women were called of God to participate in the public sphere, some even in the form of paid labor and political activism. We can glean from these patterns the principles that God may call, and has called, sisters in Zion to serve and sacrifice for the community publicly in addition to serving and sacrificing for their families, and that talents and skills necessary for the building of Zion are not apportioned by God on the basis of sex. The second principle we can learn and apply to our lives is that participating in the public sphere, for men and women, may be a spiritual calling in the building of Zion, ignored at one’s spiritual peril.
Section 2: Families Working Together
While the type, location, and logistics of labor differed among early LDS families, one theme remained clear: all members of the family and community labored. Labor was performed in the spirit of service for the building and strengthening of Zion. In fact, to reach a state of Zion they felt all must work diligently and the blessings of Heaven would be received. Fortunately, contemporary Latter-day Saints can look to the early Saints’ work patterns as an example of labor in Zion. If we look closely, we see productive labors, such as work that produces income, and reproductive labors, such as childcare and home maintenance, performed by men, women, and children alike. We see a prioritizing of family as the central unit of society and motivation for labor, and in this cause a melding of public and private spheres was encouraged. While practicing a Zion family work pattern, individual worth and identity are based on divine nature, not the specific labor tasks one performs. Among the early Church members, their most valued identity was as mothers and fathers whose goal was to bring forth righteous sons and daughters in Zion. Though all labored, and labored manually, the value of work was always defined in terms of family and community progression, not monetary value or American cultural expectations of domesticity and productivity.
A Global Sphere
Many member of the Church today recognize the value of women's unpaid domestic labor and support the notion that women may labor outside the home when it is an absolute financial and survival necessity. Perhaps this is a good place to begin in seeking to understand the value of women's paid and unpaid labor when said labor is not only necessary, but also performed for the strengthening of Zion and utilization of women's talents. To start, much labor performed by women is obligatory. As evidenced by the early LDS women, working was not a matter of wealth or prestige, but rather a requirement to sustain their family. It can be argued that today women around the globe do indeed work, though the magnitude and universality of their work is rarely understood and recognized (Chen 1983). Almost all families, LDS families included, depend greatly upon the unpaid, reproductive labors performed in the private sphere, but for many, this labor is only part of a significant web of income-generating and income-conserving efforts women perform worldwide (Chen 1983, 47). As members of the Church who are seeking to establish a Zion on earth, our goal should be to develop family work within our home and communities, which begins with understanding and support.
General Relief Society President Julie B. Beck illustrated the role of women's labor in the Church during her talk given at the 2011 Women's Conference. This statement was addressing all women of the LDS faith:
One of the questions that I get frequently is, "Is it okay if I work outside of my home or I don't work outside of my home?" You have to know that as an international, global, Relief Society president, that question isn’t always appropriate in all of the world’s countries. There are many, many places where if our women don’t work, they don’t eat. So of course they have to work. The question of whether or not to work is the wrong question. The question is, "Am I aligned with the Lord's vision of me and what He needs me to become . . . ? (Beck 2011, 4)
President Beck presents several realities and challenges LDS women around the globe today face. First, if women do not labor, they and their families do not survive. For example, Anwara is an impoverished mother from Bangladesh: "[her] life [is] a never-ending succession of long and hard day…'I cannot stop working,' she explains, 'because I would not then be able to feed my children. If they should die, life would have no meaning'" (Chen 1983, 46). The labors that women perform internationally are consuming and astounding. Women in Lima, Peru begin working at around ten years of age, work longer than 14-hour days, and are often the exclusive provider to their children with an average of 3.4 children supported by one mother (Bunster and Chaney 1985, 84-88). The truth is, women work whether development surveys choose to measure the type of labor they perform or not. Professor Martha Alter Chen, in her project to help poor women in Bangladesh, elucidates, "If we had consulted the statistics on Bangladesh, we would have read that most rural women are 'housewives'", and as such, they are assumed to not do "productive work" (Chen 1983, 46). But what, then, are "housewives" doing? A typical "housewife" in a developing country has the responsibilities to:
…raise and tend the domestic animals; thresh, parboil, dry, store and hush the grain; grow fruits and vegetables; clean and maintain the huts and homestead; give birth and raise the children; and, occasionally, produce crafts for the markets…their tasks are as critical to the welfare of their families and to national production as are the men's ["productive labor"]. (Chen 1983, 53)
Here it is made obvious that a "housewife" is productive and certainly works. Similar to early LDS families, the tasks these women carry out often take place in public and private spheres and are so intertwined with domestic reproductive labor that trying to establish a distinction becomes awkward. For these same "housewives" in Bangladesh:
…to most outsiders women's work remains "invisible" because it is not carried out in a work-place, not even in the fields, but in and around huts scattered throughout the village. Moreover, women's "productive" work is done in and around their so-called "domestic" work (housework, childbearing, and childrearing) so much so that the productive work of women appears as a "natural" manifestation of their domestic roles…women produce as much to conserve as to generate income. (Chen 1983, 52-53)
Therefore, the question is not whether or not women should work or where "real" labor takes place. The fact is that they are productive laborers, working in spheres private and public.
President Beck's second point is, as a global church, we cannot assume women and their families should not be laboring and we cannot assume the only labor to consider as work takes place outside the home while producing financial gain. Both assumptions are inaccurate and inadequate to the needs of LDS women around the world. What remains important is that we create a community and culture in which women are supported for their labors and their labors are recognized and valued; a culture in which the family is central to labor, thus the structure of work is accommodating to the family.
The real question, and President Beck's third point or question is: "Am I aligned with the Lord's vision of me and what He needs me to become?" (Beck 2011, 4) How then, can we, as the early Saints did, discover what God's will is for us? We are to rely on personal revelation for guidance in our labor choices and in seeking Zion.
Due in part to the agrarian community in which they lived and also due to their communal effort to build Zion, early LDS men, women, and children were all involved in domestic and public labor efforts. Many women worked as teachers, produced sewn goods and hats, aided in farm labor, and of course cared for domestic needs. Men worked on farms, tended to animals, and took joined responsibility for children's well-being. From New York, Nauvoo, and into early Salt Lake it is clear from historical accounts that LDS men and women both made an economic contribution to the family, and were both expected to contribute faithfully to the household and household economy (Derr, Jill Mulvay, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 24 June 2011). Likewise, children engaged in family labor both agrarian and domestic in nature. Each household produced everything themselves, which meant each family member contributed to reproductive (i.e. domestic) labors and productive (i.e. monetary) labors (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011). There existed no concept of men leaving their homes and families to labor, and households were a blend of work inside the home and work outside the home with little distinction being made (Derr, Jill Mulvay, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 24 June 2011). Dr. Ellis Shipp exemplifies one such experience of family labor:
Ellis desire[d] to serve and do her part…at harvest time when she joined the group of gleaners who covered the fields after the harvesters had garnered the bulk of the crop…After many days…she had saved the precious grain and produced a whole bushel… sold for fifteen dollars, a small fortune to turn over to the family cause. (McCloud 1984, 18)
The harvest was completed and the family whole benefited from their labors. Later in life Ellis recounted how, when her husband Milford was called on a mission, she provided for her family while her husband labored for the Lord and thus could not support the family at all:
Women in those days and in all generations of time have shown their valor, loyalty, and devotion in every righteous cause [of missionary work]. Therefore we were indeed most anxious to do all in our power to make ourselves self-sustaining that we could do our part for the Cause we loved and honored. (Musser 1962, 58-60)
Ellis developed skills essential to care for her family, which brought her much joy: "My independent nature felt so glad to be self sustaining," she proclaimed, "for I resolved to lean as far as mortal could upon myself and trust in God to pave the way to avenues whereby our daily needs could be honorably earned" (Musser 1962, 58-60).
In addition to reproductive labor, women contributed greatly to the family economy through the form of cottage, or manufacturing, economies which included handmade goods from textiles, dairy products, hair wreaths, to home décor (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011). Cottage economies were encouraged by the priesthood leaders in general conference where they counseled, "if the ladies would get up societies by which they could promote [their] home labor…they would do what was well pleasing in the sight of heaven" (Arrington 1955, 146). Brigham Young frequently "encouraged the exclusive purchase of homemade products [and] the expansion of home manufacturing…" (Arrington 1955, 147). The efforts of women's home manufacturing led to the establishing of a Women's Cooperative Mercantile and Manufacturing Institution in 1876, where home-made goods were sold to benefit families, the Relief Society, and community whole (Arrington 1955, 151). When family stores were opened, women and men labored together to supply farming and handcrafted products (Musser 1962, 84).
Family labors often extended beyond manual tasks into the realm of education, as is evidenced by the matching goals of Milford and his wives Ellis Shipp M.D. and Maggie Shipp M.D. When in medical school, Ellis received news that Milford had been admitted to the Utah bar; "perhaps he felt subtle pressure to achieve, to keep pace with Ellis, with these lovely, ambitious wives in his charge" (McCloud 1984, 135). Later in their marriage "Milford started the Salt Lake Sanitarian, a 'Monthly Journal of Medicine and Surgery.' Drs. Ellis and Maggie Shipp were editors and frequent contributors" to the journal (McCloud 1984, 149). Within this family, and other early LDS families, equal partnership family work was essential and practiced in the form of both domestic labors and public pursuits, all for the benefiting of Zion.
But goals were not reached without great sacrifice on the part of all family members. When Romania B. Pratt M.D. was called to attend medical school in Pennsylvania:
It took months to prepare for the years that were to be spent away from home, but Romania was resolute, and one day she said to her husband, "Parley, the house"…''Yes, Romania, the house"…That, too, was sold and a farm also…They had to increase their funds to the utmost…Little Parley, fourteen years of age, had gone to Ogden to work in a broom factory…Esther had an orchard, and there was a garden where she raised strawberries. Through diligent care both brought her some income. (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors")
LDS children were taught that labor was part of Zion, and the labors their parents performed were for the benefit of the Saints. Dr. Ellis Shipp often expressed gratitude for the labor her children performed: "If honors should ever come from the practice of my profession, my beloved sons (Bard and Richard) should share them. They cared for my infants, kept our apartment in order, watched the telephone, carried the messages to me" (McCloud 1984, 145). Her family whole worked diligently in the service of Zion:
Through blinding rain, deep snows, over steep muddy trails [Ellis] hurried time and time again to the call of duty…She could never turn down a call for help and her children, though small, respected her for it and sensed the special nature of the work their mother was doing. (McCloud 1984, 141)
Just as all family members worked together, they also took rest from their labors together. This poem from a 1880s Women's Exponent demonstrates early LDS women's vigor in establishing equal work and rest for all:
In the daylight shall be crowded all the work
that I will do:
When the evening lamps are lighted, I will
read the papers too. (Dushku 1976, 183)
In a 2008 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Elder Dallin H. Oaks recounts a contemporary experience of family work and sacrifice:
My mother used to love quoting the words of Pearl Buck, who said, "I love my children with all my heart, but I can’t love them with all my time." And so she was very careful in the limited time that she had available after being the breadwinner for the family. She was very careful with what we did in the scarce time that we were privileged to be together. She liked us to work on projects together. I look back on that with greater affection than I experienced at the time. It seemed like mother was always organizing us to do some project to clear out the garage. But I look back on it, and I realize that she was pursuing a very important parenting function in getting the children to work together and with their parents. (Building Up a Righteous Posterity 2008)
Elder Oaks continues, "It’s harder and harder to do that in some urban societies that many live in. People in underdeveloped parts of the world where husband and wife and children work together in the rice fields don’t have that same kind of problem. But the principle works throughout, and it’s very, very important for us" (Building Up a Righteous Posterity 2008).
All Spheres Were A Family Sphere
In the early church, often the spheres of public and private work were melded together, sometimes so completely that the two spaces were indistinguishable (Derr, Jill Mulvay, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 24 June 2011). An excellent example of this is the lives of the LDS women who trained as nurses:
…over the course of a lifetime, much of the work of these women [nurses] took place not just within hospitals and health care agencies, but also within their families, and within their families’ particular patterns of wage work and unremunerated housework, care work, and that on farms or small businesses…we see how these women, either by choice or by circumstances, actually moved rather easily and intermittently back and forth between domestic and market economies. Their paid nursing work was not separate from their work as wives and mothers; it was integrated. (D’Antonio 2007, 113)
Nurses constructed a "rather fluid domestic space" (D’Antonio 2007, 130-131) that "emphasized the ability of private, rather than public, strategies that helped women reconcile the demands of both work and family life" (D’Antonio 2007, 114). In this case, mothers not only physically moved between public and private spaces, but their skills were rendered to produce financial assistance and literal nursing to their family members.
Another example was early schoolteachers, most female, who would dictate when the end of school days and terms would occur so as to accommodate the needs of the family (Mulvay 1976, 68). Further, "As a teacher, a Mormon woman could fulfill her traditional home role outside of the home…keeping school was an extension of traditional housewifery goal for many women" (Mulvay 1976, 82).
For some LDS women, professional work was literally welcomed in the home as was the case with Dr. Ellis Shipp:
She moved…her family right by her office on Main Street. She was fulfilling functions as a mother and as a doctor simultaneously and neglecting nothing. Her medicine became very much a "family practice," her children not only cooperating but sacrificing that those in need might have their mother's aid. (McCloud 1984, 139)
Ellis was not a cultural anomaly in work-family values. Their family work pattern was supported by peers, as was evidenced in a Women's Exponent series from 1981 called "Professional and Business Opportunities for Women". Here Susa Young Gates explains, "In the world women are small merchants and tradesmen, and in England it is not uncommon to see the small shop under the dwelling house kept by the neatly clad matron of the home (Young Gates 1892, 466). What a wonderful and significant blessing these families received—that their professional demands and sacred family callings could be accomplished simultaneously. In this early LDS community, work was brought to the family, but also, the family was brought to work. In one case, "Young Ellis [Ellis Shipp's daughter]…remembered... jump[ing] onto the train her mother was boarding…her mother took her the thirty miles to answer the call to a surgery case, treasuring as much as the child those hours in the…train together" (McCloud 1984, 46). That same young Ellis was born to her mother while Ellis Shipp was attending medical school. Ellis progressed in her studies without hesitation as she cared for an infant without aid. Her colleagues looked on with awe: "Not once did [Ellis] seem concerned or resentful, wondering how she would care for a baby during the months to come. She took one day at a time and was caught up in pleasure...and gratitude" (McCloud 1984, 130).
Joining productive labors of the public world with the reproductive work of the private sphere supported the idea that the family was central to the lives of the early Latter-day Saints (Derr, Jill Mulvay, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 24 June 2011). As in Zion, the family stood as most significant to one's labors, and there were many ways LDS women negotiated constructing a sphere in which the family was central. The question of whether one was to perform productive versus reproductive service was meaningless because both were of necessity to family survival and functioning. Further, the Saints recognized that without domestic work no "productive" or public work would be accomplished. Therefore they greatly valued the manual work accomplished, and this valuation rendered all women's labors visible.
Family Work is the Work of Zion
In her inspiring article Family Work, Professor Kathleen Slaugh Bahr describes her own childhood experience of working side-by side with members of her family and the benefits that ensued:
Caring for our large family kept all of us busy most of the time. Mother was the overseer of the inside work, and Dad the outside, but I also remember seeing my father sweep floors, wash dishes, and cook meals when his help was needed. As children we often worked together [and] while we worked we talked, sang, quarreled, made good memories, and learned what it meant to be family members, good sons or daughters and fathers or mothers, good Americans, good Christians. (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 26)
She suggests that becoming Christian, or Christ-like, is achieved through a process of working with your family and for your family. "Family work links people," she explains, "On a daily basis, the tasks we do to stay alive provide us with endless opportunities to recognize and fill the needs of others. Family work is a call to enact love, and it is a call that is universal" (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 29). This call to equal-partnership family work began with our first parents, Adam and Eve. As they left the Garden of Eden they were commanded to labor together by cultivating the land (Moses 5:1) and by bearing children (Moses 5:2-3). Together they "blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters" (Moses 5:12; Bahr and Loveless 2000, 27). Just as Adam and Eve labored to build a Zion on earth, the early LDS families too labored to farm the land and bear and raise righteous children. It was a task to be accomplished side-by-side with unfailing faith in their dependence on one another. "He, my husband, had awakened in my soul its inmost determination to achieve," Dr. Ellis Shipp recounted, "My desire was to be his loyal companion, his intellectual equal, ever one with him in all his noble aims and purposes" (Musser 1962, 51). Kathleen Slaugh Bahr and Cheri A. Loveless describe the similar example Adam and Eve set:
As they worked together in this stewardship, with an eye single to the glory of God, a deep and caring relationship would grow out of their shared daily experience. Today, the need for salvation has not changed; the opportunity to do family work has not changed; the love that blossoms as spouses labor together has not changed. Perhaps, then, we are still obligated to do the work of Adam and Eve. (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 29)
Family work remains the model we are to emulate in seeking to establish Zion today. The question begs: how can we, as Latter-day Saints in a post-industrial society, maintain the benefits of frontier community work structures (i.e. family work) when the contemporary cultural work structures vastly differ? It is through comprehensive service to one another and a support of our families through shared labor—whatever form that labor may take. For example, children may contribute to housework, sharing the time sacrifice of domestic labor, and thus providing parents with more time to spend with them. Also, when parents teach their children skills they ensure a shared labor effort and empowerment of family economy.
"This invitation to serve one another in oneness of heart and mind can become a simple tool that, over time, will bring the peace that attends Zion" Bahr and Loveless explain (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 33-34). They continue:
I am still in awe of the power of shared participation in the simple, everyday work of sustaining life. Helping one another nurture children, care for the land, prepare food, and clean homes can bind lives together. This is the power of family work, and it is this power, available in every home, no matter how troubled, that can end the turmoil of the family, begin to change the world, and bring again Zion. (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 34)
It is still the responsibility of all LDS family members to participate in serving, laboring for, and laboring with our families and communities.
Labor and Identity
While the early Saints understood work as an opportunity for service, the types of work carried out were selected based on necessity and were not necessarily defining characteristics of one's identity. This was particularly true with domestic and manual labors. In other words, early LDS women did not think themselves more or less worthy based upon the cleanliness of their house or the occupation they chose. Respected artist Alice Louise Reynolds was described by General Relief Society President and friend Amy Brown Lyman as "chiefly in the intellectual realm: She had no inclination nor talent for handwork, such as sewing…[and] routine housework did not appeal to her…She felt that she was much better at working with her head than with her hands" (Derr 1976, 35). With such inclinations Reynolds remained esteemed among her peers. Ellis Shipp expressed similar aversion to for housework: "I believe that women's life should not consist wholly and solely of these routine duties…cooking, washing dished and doing general housework…I think she should have ample time and opportunity to study and improve her mind" (Musser 1962, 110). Brigham Young also felt that women were valuable beyond their ability to perform domestic labor and that it was essential to the community that they contribute beyond such work:
We believe that women are useful, not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, make beds, and raise babies…but that they should stand behind the counter, study law or physic, or become good bookkeepers and be able to do the business in any counting house, and all this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large. (Derr 1995, 330)
LDS men too received support from their communities and families in matters beyond physical labor. In a letter written in 1847 Ellis told her husband Milford, "Today I have imagined you preaching…Preaching is truly your forte. I think your talents are too precious, too great and rare to be spent in financial pursuits. Someone else should make the money and let you do the preaching" (McCloud 1984, 140). With much gratitude to Ellis, Maggie, and his other wives for their financial and temporal support, Milford was able to serve several missions and travel to preach to Saints throughout Utah.
Even in labors beyond domestic, the theme was to serve others and grow closer to God. Ellis's lifelong labor of sustaining a medical practice and training hundreds of midwives was founded on her "burning belief that through service we overcome self and find purpose and joy" (McCloud 1984, 156). Nothing brought the Saints more joy than investing their identity in the calling of fatherhood and motherhood. For the Saints of Zion, raising righteous posterity who would conduct the work of the Lord was the most significant task to accomplish. This was the first and most significant command given to Adam and Eve: "They shall be saved in childbearing" (1 Tim. 2:15, Joseph Smith Translation, italics added). Kathleen Slaugh Bahr and Cheri A. Loveless explain that this "indicate[s] that more than the sparing of Eve's physical life was at issue...Both Adam and Eve would be privileged to return to their Heavenly Father through the labor of bringing forth and nurturing their offspring" (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 27). Essential to our salvation and exaltation is the joint labor of mothers and fathers in raising children. All other labors performed were, in a sense, a companion to these most important labors. Ellis commented, "This is our mission, the greatest work…we can perform in this life is to be true wives and faithful mothers. Greater joy could not be had. Nothing can ever compare with the joy we have in our offspring" (McCloud 1984, 158).
Patterns and Principles, Part Two
While the social organization of the early Saints was complex and dynamic, several patterns can be observed and principles gleaned, that we might emulate their efforts in building Zion. Full family participation in equal-partnership family labor stands as the first pattern. As a result, the workplace was designed to accommodate children and families. This principle, that the family is central in service and labor, is significant in our building Zion. To obtain a Zion society, public and private work should both welcome family participation and accommodate family needs.
The second pattern was the intertwining of private and public spheres, and reproductive and productive work. This intertwining was evidenced in several different ways. First, it could be seen in the economic valuing of women, of domestic work, and of home industries. Also, as men and women joined in types of work, they also shared the location of work. Today, many families experience similar overlap, where both men and women labor to provide for their families. Therefore, the principle we can apply from this pattern is one of accommodation of the workplace to the work of the family.
Many women question, "should I work professionally or be a mother?" Today we face economic uncertainties in which women and men are publicly laboring out of necessity, but industrial culture provides little space for families to enter into the professional sphere. In support of our fellow Saints, it should always be an option for men and women to work professionally and be parents. This can be accomplished through reorienting the workplace to be accommodating of children's needs, thus placing family as the first priority of time and labor. Indeed, a work system in which family/reproductive labor and productive labor, or private and public spheres, are divided is a dysfunctional system, which will ultimately prove destructive to the progression of families. Further, welcoming and accommodating mothers in the workplace should be seen as necessary at all times, not only when families are in dire need of additional financial income.
As the third pattern, for both men and women, reproductive and productive or occupational work was performed for the benefit, not detriment, of their children. Our identity, like the early Saints, is as children of God who are to raise children of our own. The principle is that we are not defined by the literal work we perform but by our divine relation to God and to our children. Like Adam and Eve, if we are to progress our mission is to serve our families, with our families: "Adam and Eve entered mortality to do what they could not do in the Garden: to gain salvation by bringing forth, sustaining, and nourishing life" (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 29).
Former Primary General President Cheryl C. Lant explained:
Having children is a lot of work. And we have to not be afraid of that, because it’s that very element of working hard and being willing to do whatever it takes that makes us who we are. It’s the sacrifice that makes us who we are. I want to bear my testimony of the joy that comes from having families, from having children, because there’s not only the commandment from the Lord to do it, but there are great promised blessings. (Building Up a Righteous Posterity 2008)
Section 3: The Women Who Worked
Women in the early Church endeavored to be educated so as to bless Zion. They often sought to use that education professionally, and in so doing, received community support from many sources, including their male peers, Priesthood leaders, the Relief Society organization, other women, women's journals, and other sources. Indeed, these skilled women were often called by the Church to become better educated and develop professions that would utilize their talents and strengthen the community of Saints. Through the sharing of their expertise and talents, LDS women blessed the Latter-day Saints by serving as nurses, doctors, midwives, dentists, lawyers, artists, journalists, and teachers. In some cases, women achieved academic training that was the equivalent of what was achieved by their male peers. The vocational and educational efforts these women accomplished further benefited their families, uplifted their community, and they also experienced personal blessings as they sought to live God’s plan for their lives.
The Support Women Received
The LDS Church has always placed an emphasis on self-sufficiency and the development of personal skills. President Brigham Young advised that all Saints, men and women, should find the means to support themselves (Derr 1995, 327). Early LDS women internalized his call, as illustrated by the nurses of that time period who had "strong…religious convictions and altruistic desires, [but] also kept one eye firmly focused on the social realities" (D’Antonio 2007, 121-122). Within the early LDS community there were thus many opportunities for women to develop personal skills. For example, St. Mark's Hospital and several other hospitals opened their own nursing training schools (D’Antonio 2007, 116). Susa Young Gates advised women interested in medical school seeking sponsors that "this will not be a difficult thing to do, for our people love the stirring and ambitious in both sexes, and are generally willing and even eager to help those who show a desire to help themselves" (Young Gates 1891, 77). With numerous opportunities available, the women of the early Church felt training was not only a means to support themselves and their families, but also as a means of building the kingdom of God on earth. Thus, many women in the early Church were led to a life of education and profession.
These women received a great deal of support from their male ecclesiastical leaders. At a Conference meeting in 1873 at the Salt Lake City Tabernacle President Brigham Young encouraged LDS women to cultivate their mind and expand their efforts beyond domestic and reproductive labors. He proclaimed: "…The time has come for women to come forth as doctors in these valleys of the mountains" (Derr 1995, 330). "As always," writer Susan Evans McCloud explained, "what Brigham envisioned had a way of becoming a reality through his own power and the power of his people" (McCloud 1984, 100). LDS women, with the encouragement of the Relief Society, became world leaders in women's medical education and "during the last quarter of the nineteenth century the number of Utah women who studied medicine 'could not be equaled in an other specific locality on the face of the earth'" (McCloud 1984, 100). Concerning women in the field of education:
Brigham Young encouraged women to pursue whatever occupations they could learn. And he gave them some propitious opportunities in education… In 1875 he endowed the Brigham Young Academy at Provo [and women were asked] to serve on the board of directors and the executive committee…the women who served as trustees and faculty of these institutions set a precedent of prestige for women in education and assured new opportunities for women…. (Mulvay 1976, 79-80)
In 1868 President Young "applauded the admission of women to the [University of Deseret]" and commented that "…we wish the sisters…to learn…every branch of knowledge and kind of employment suited…to their several tastes and capacities...Thus trained…for acquiring all the knowledge and doing all the good their…surrounding circumstances will permit" (Derr 1995, 327). Women were to be supported by their Prophet in their receiving an education, training in a profession, and then developing a professional occupation. With similar encouragement, but in an area of different social service and in a different time period, President Joseph F. Smith urged Relief Society leader Amy Brown Lyman to organize in 1919 the Relief Society Social Service Department which would be a forerunner to the LDS Social Services, an organization that today is called the LDS Welfare Services. These organizations have blessed and continue to bless the lives of millions (Hall 2010, 211).
Male family members in the early Church also supported their female relatives in achieving an education and acquiring professional training—skills understood by these men to be for the benefit of all. Dr. Ellis Shipp's relationship with her husband Milford stands as an excellent example of mutual support. She commented, "[Milford] encourages me to cultivate my talents, to study, write, and improve every moment of time, and he says he thinks I will be enabled to do good in the world" (Musser 1962, 105). She later writes, "How anxious [Milford] is for me to persevere…improve and advance that I may gain a knowledge of my profession. How much I have to urge onward, how much to comfort me, and how much to thank my Father for" (Musser 1962, 179). Ellis first came to Milford and expressed her desires to become a doctor, Milford was supportive from the beginning, "willing that his wives should earn, glad for their cooperation, and so was the first to support Ellis in her ambitious plan" (McCloud 1984, 101) Ellis and her sister-wives repaid Milford's support, urging him to pursue his occupational preferences and inspired calls.  In her journal Ellis recounted, "I do hope Milford's wives may succeed in qualifying themselves for useful and profitable avocations in life…that he will be able to follow pursuits best suited to his tastes and inclinations" (McCloud 1984, 110). The common theme stands that men and women in the early Church understood the values of their partners’ talents and potential, a value too great to be wasted in their joint efforts of building a Zion community.
As previously discussed in Section 1, early LDS women were often issued a formal call by the Church to build their talents in the service of Zion. In 1868 President Young formally called Mormon women to become midwives (Arrington 1976, 57) and in 1873 he "asked the Relief Society presidents throughout the Church to appoint three women from each Salt Lake City ward and one from each settlement to study physiology and nursing" (May 1976, 228). As a result, in 1898, "the Relief Society Nurse School was organized…and it continued to train Mormon women in nursing for over two decades" (May 1976, 228). When President Young supported Romania B. Pratt in her medical school training, it was his design that she return to Utah and teach women to "serve competently and with scientific cleanliness in cases of childbirth." His encouragement "resulted in the most remarkable flowering of medicine among women during the second quarter century…[and] that ever has existed in any one region on the face of the earth" (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors"). What remained remarkable was the legitimacy these LDS women were afforded when they set out to become a professional: "When…the Prophet called a woman to act as a medical agent, she and everyone else took the call seriously" (Arrington 1976, 50). When Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. H. Young, Emmeline B. Wells, Jane S. Richards, and Drs. Romania B. Pratt and Ellen B. Ferguson approached President John Taylor about the need for a hospital he "thought it a very ambitious undertaking. But at the same time he knew the strength of the women of Zion…The abilities and the character of these women, and many of their peers, were overwhelming" (McCloud 1984, 142).
Even without a formal call by the prophet, women were often set apart and offered a blessing on their education and profession by a priesthood holder. Ellis Shipp and Martha Hughes Paul were "officially set apart for her work and given a priesthood blessing…by George Q. Cannon…This was a sweet and strengthening experience for [them]." Similarly, "Romania Pratt and Maggie Shipp were…set apart by John Taylor" (McCloud 1984, 139). It was essential to early LDS women and their priesthood brethren that their medical talents be developed as part of the work of the Lord and, while these women certainly were paid for their work, their occupation was also viewed as a calling from God. The supportive role Priesthood brothers exemplified through offered blessings remains a responsibility of LDS men today. As a standard of building Zion and centralizing the family, fathers and husbands can magnify their Priesthood though administering strengthening blessings.
Some women were called to medical or teaching professions independent of previous interest, however, most early LDS women who sought education and work were led to such pursuits because of their spiritual gifts and talents given to them by God. The members and leaders of the Church greatly appreciated all blessings these remarkable women had to offer and sought after their skills. Brigham Young Academy's (BYA) first president, Benjamin Cluff Jr., approached writer Alice Louise Reynolds and indicated "that there was no literature being taught in the Brigham Young Academy, and that persons he had talked to thought [Alice] was somewhat gifted in English." He then questioned if Reynolds "would be willing to go to the University of Michigan for two years emphasizing English, thereby preparing [herself] to teach literature at Brigham Young Academy" (Derr 1976, 34). At 21 years of age, in 1894 she returned to BYA where "she taught the first class in Chaucer and…in Shakespeare ever offered at the school. She also taught history and development of English literature. The following year she was given the responsibility for teaching all the literature offered at the school" (Derr 1976, 34). Another early LDS women at the professional forefront was teacher Ida Cook who moved to Logan, UT in 1875 where she established a high school. She "was engaged to teach at $90.00 per month…[this] salary was much higher than most male teachers were receiving…The high school did succeed; one hundred and fourteen pupils were enrolled in 1877" (Mulvay 1976, 77). During that same year BYA professor Zina Young Williams Card:
…taught a class of grown men, who had never attended school. The reason for their attending BYA was because they had heard that no ridicule or unkind remarks would ever be passed upon them. Many of them, until they were grown, did not realize how handicapped they were without more schooling...How they would work! They advanced rapidly in their school life, and their own self-respect. (Education In Zion Gallery 2011)
How remarkable that Professor Zina Young Williams Card was able to forever bless the lives of these men who, with their additional education, could go on to be of even greater service to their families and the kingdom.
It is important to note that not all male peers were supportive of women's vocation attainments. This is illustrated by the following case:
Lucinda Dalton met [prejudice] in Utah's country schools. "Well I remember my disgust," she wrote to Emmeline B. Wells, "when I asked a gentleman teacher if, in his opinion, I was sufficiently advanced in mathematics to study algebra with profit; and he replied that it would be a waste of time for me to study it, because I already had more learning than was necessary for a good housekeeper, wife, and mother, which was a woman's only proper place on earth." Similar discrimination was common throughout the United States [at this time]. (Mulvay 1976, 78)
What remains significant, however, was that the leaders, the prophets and apostles of the Church remained among the strongest supporters for early LDS women's attainments in school and professions. The women’s professional efforts were deemed worthy of pay and their talents were deemed invaluable contributions to Zion (Hall 2010, 208-209).
Relief Society leaders in the Church likewise sustained early LDS women who were called and chose to further advance in education and work. "Using the Relief Society as their vehicle, many [women] emulated and sometimes surpassed their non-Mormon sisters in expanding their activities into community affairs," explains historian Dave Hall (Hall 2010, 208-209). Relief Society President Eliza R. Snow encouraged Dr. Ellis Shipp to "extend [her] needful [medical] services to those in other lands" (Musser 1962, 284). Ellis viewed this call as her mission and later lectured and provided medical attention to communities in Canada, Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho (Musser 1962). Relief Society support came in the form of financial assistance as well: "Individual Relief Societies supplied the funds to educate some sisters" (Arrington 1976, 58) and Eliza R. Snow made clear that if women who were called to study medicine "cannot meet their own expenses, we [the Relief Society] have means for doing so" (Derr 1995, 329). With their own independent funds, the Relief Society was able to better utilize the skills women possessed by providing the financial necessities education and training required. In the 1890s the Relief Society established a membership due of $0.10 a year to fund the general Relief Society board. One goal they hoped to accomplish was the forming of an employment office for immigrant girls and women (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011). As usual, the Relief Society went beyond their original goals and continued to fund education and training for many women (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors") and even opened the Deseret Hospital (Parker, under "Deseret Hospital Board of Directors"), which was designed to accommodate mothers and children, especially in childbirth.
Beyond the Relief Society organization, early LDS women possessed an extraordinary spirit of encouragement for and faith in their fellow sisters in Zion. Ellis Shipp said of her sister-wife: "[Lizzie] is studying music and intends to become a professional. I sincerely hope she may. I believe she has the capabilities if all things are propitious" (Musser 1962, 195). She also encouraged all women to seek education in medicine and felt "it the duty of every mother to understand perfectly the laws of health" (Musser 1962, 88). Ellis believed the most important calling in this life was parenthood and that in order to be a worthy mother, education was necessary: "Truly it is time that woman should shake off this lethargy and awaken to the responsibilities of motherhood, and educate and prepare for those responsibilities" (Musser 1962, 211). Her call to women to be educated and "prepare for those responsibilities" was shared by Eliza R. Snow who "insisted that if women were to be considered equal with men in the medical profession, they would have to be trained at the same schools and armed with the same degrees." She alleged: “We want sister physicians that can officiate and unless they educate themselves the gentlemen that are flocking in our midst will do it" (Education In Zion Gallery 2011). It was important to these LDS women, as wives, mothers, and as daughters of God, to become educated and support their sisters’ efforts in such pursuits. Susa Young Gates proclaimed: "Let me urge you all to take this matter seriously in hand…take up some…steady vocation and thus develop the intellect that lies waiting to become a bright and shinning ornament to the characters of all our daughters of Zion" (Young Gates 1891, 25).
Through the Women's Exponent and the Young Woman's Journal, LDS women were encouraged and admonished to cultivate their talents as opportunity provided:
Time was—and not so long ago, either—when a girl was looked down upon if she worked for pay. It wasn't even nice for a girl to be educated—too much…How different now! A girl may become anything she wishes to be through her own talent and hard work, and the world will be proud of her for her initiative…Every girl has the right to the joy and independence which earning her own living brings. There are a great many opportunities open to girls today, and daily doors formerly closed to women are opening! (Stewart 1926, 629)
Early LDS women certainly took full advantage of the doors opening up to them. The next part of this section highlights some of the occupations these women commonly entered.
When Ellis Shipp completed medical school in Pennsylvania, she earned the distinction of being one of the first women doctors in Utah (second only to Romania B. Pratt); "She had proven that a woman could dream grand dreams and mould those dreams into reality" (McCloud 1984, 137; author's spelling). Nursing too offered the opportunity for women to "remain active [as] empowered participants in constructing meaningful lives, in supporting their families’ domestic economy, and in participating in their communities’ social world" (D’Antonio 2007, 114). Dentistry was encouraged for early LDS women and of this profession, Susa Young Gates commented: "No man, be he ever so narrow and prejudice upon the woman question will attempt to deny that a woman can draw, fill and make teeth just as well as a man can," she continued, "There is no good reason, certainly, why our girls should not crowd out the men from this easy, lucrative and fairly clean business" (Young Gates 1892, 325-326). As doctors, midwives, dentists, and nurses, women were accepted as healing agents and countless Latter-day Saints were blessed by these women's medicinal skills.
Early LDS women boasted being some of the first female attorneys in the United States. This was a great witness of the progression in privileges LDS sisters achieved in comparison to non-LDS women:
It was telegraphed east and west that two ladies had been admitted to the bar of Utah as practicing lawyers, and the local press has had considerable to say in regard to it; yet it might with equal justness and more force have been telegraphed that here in Utah…women enjoy more of what is contended for as woman's rights than they do in any State in the Federal Union; and that they appreciate their position and are seeking to qualify themselves for spheres of usefulness to which their sisters in other parts of the country can only yet look to prospective. (Dushku 1976, 184)
Obtaining a degree in law and practicing law were seen as avenues for LDS women to "qualify themselves" that they might be useful to their families, communities, and Zion. With much zeal, Susa Young Gates encouraged young women to pursue professions in law:
What, a girl study law? Yes ma'am, I can see no reason why she should not, if she can get the opportunity...You say she may marry just after she has been admitted at the bar? Very well, then, ma'am, is she apt to be any the worse wife or mother for having cultivated her mental powers to the utmost? I think not. If she has mental qualifications which fit her for this work, I cannot see why she should not use them. (Young Gates 1891, 132)
The Women's Exponent and Young Women's Journal were two monthly publications written for LDS women, predominantly by LDS women. Authors contributed in the form of journalistic accounts, poetry, sermons, and even non-fiction. One significant example was Emmeline B. Wells who served as Editor-in-Chief of the Women's Exponent for 37 years. For Emmeline, the journal was her livelihood and, despite proposals from the Church, she refused offers of financial aid from others (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011). Her journalism skills were a labor of love and while they provided immediate monetary blessings to her family, her efforts blessed many women with a public voice and all members with important insight.
Several early LDS women became accomplished artists in mediums varying from painting to singing to poetry. Alice Smith Merrill Horne, a local to Fillmore, Utah was very dedicated to her studies and with much fortune received the opportunity to study "under local artists J. T. Harwood and Mary Teasdel." Eventually she "gained some repute as a watercolorist…By 1931…Mrs. Horne had opened her gallery [and]…had sold 474 paintings for more than $49,000 and placed some 30 collections of works by Utah artists" (Derr 1976, 31-33). Horne did much to promote the artistic works of her contemporaries in addition to her own painting. Twenty years after Horne, musician Florence Jepperson was born and her art of singing would bless the lives of thousands of people through her vocal performances and instruction. At age 13, Jepperson became a contralto soloist for the Provo Tabernacle and later moved to New England to study at the New England Conservatory of Music. The Conservatory director named her "the finest contralto that ever came to [the] institution." At the age of 34 she left her career on the east coast and moved to Provo, Utah where she became the Chair of Brigham Young University (BYU) music department. With her husband, Franklin Madsen, she developed a successful music program at BYU and taught as a professor for 37 years (Education In Zion Gallery 2011). Listeners and students alike were privileged to partake of Jepperson's artistic talents and, like most early LDS women, she was willing to share her gift with others through her occupation.
A calling and occupation most prized by many early LDS women was the ability to teach and instruct others, whether as standard educators, or as instructors of specific occupations. Eliza R. Snow ever encouraged teaching as illustrated by her comment: "If he [or she] who causes two blades of grass to grow where one grew before is a benefactor to the human race, how much more is he or she who contributes to elevate a human being from helpless poverty to comparative independence'" (Arrington 1955, 147). This call to elevate others from helplessness was first issued to early LDS women when they reached the Salt Lake Valley. Upon arrival, "women were frequently called…to use their ingenuity in setting up the pioneer schools" (Mulvay 1976, 69). Two women who stand out as extraordinary educators were sisters Mary and Ida Cook. They received their formal education and training on the east coast and later moved to Utah after their conversion. Once there, "President John Park, committed to strengthening the growing University of Deseret, immediately took advantage of the talented pair." Ida was asked to join the university's academic department and he placed Mary as the principal of the primary department. These two women sacrificed much for the continued education of the Saints:
At the close of the 1870-71 school year, funds for the university were cut significantly and John Park was called on a mission. For two years the only functioning aspect of the university was the model school, which continued under the principalship of Mary Cook, and the advanced classes under Ida Cook. As acting presidents, they kept the university alive until John Park returned. (Mulvay 1976, 75-76)
Susa Young Gates also did much to further the education of the Latter-day Saints. At BYU she taught theology, served for 25 years on the Academic Board of Trustees, and founded the Department of Domestic Sciences. In this department she invited science professors to lecture because she "wanted the girls to have instruction in Physics and Chemistry" (Education In Zion Gallery 2011).
Beyond academic training, the early women of the Church were dedicated to sharing their vocational knowledge and talents that their education might reach beyond their smaller circles of influence. The first three women to return from Philadelphia's Woman's Medical College each "set up successful midwifery classes to train women from every settlement in Mormon country" (Arrington 1976, 58). For all three, it was their intention to return to Utah:
To practice, to teach midwives, nurses, wives, and mothers, and to set an example of how Mormons might stay true to their faith and stay abreast of the changing times, changing knowledge, and changing ways of caring for each other and each other’s families. (D’Antonio 2007, 117)
Ellis Shipp "would only be satisfied when she felt she was giving her students her best," (McCloud 1984, 141) and she started an exceptionally successful nursing school which ran from 1878 to approximately 1940 (McCloud 1984, 177). Much of this occupational training took place in Relief Society meetings, with the hope that the sisters of the Church might progress in their skills to bless Zion (McCloud 1984, 166).
Blessings and Benefits
Through hard work, dedication, and with much support from both men and women in the Church, example early LDS women earned an education and entered important professions. As a result, these women and their families received tangible benefits, often in the form of pay. Also, the community was greatly blessed by the talents and skills these women were so willing to share. Most significantly, spiritual blessings were poured out upon the Saints as the early LDS women devoted their spiritual gifts to all those around them and fulfilled the measure of their creation.
Patricia D’Antonio said of the early nurses, "To them, nursing was not only about the work but also…the meaning of the work…nursing held the promise of individual self-fulfillment and faithfulness to the needs of their families…nursing meant choices and opportunities they would not otherwise have had" (D’Antonio 2007, 131). The opportunity to assist in caring for one’s family and the ability to provide for oneself were a great comfort to these women. The independence and family service that accompanied women's education and work proved to be most beneficial to women's self-worth. In a Young Woman's Journal article Susa Young Gates commented, "…once you get into the way of earning your own money, it is so delightfully independent that it is very difficult to return to dependence" (Young Gates 1891, 25). While independence and self-fulfillment resulted, family blessings served as the primary motivator for these early LDS women's occupation efforts. As always, Dr. Ellis Shipp exemplified a dedication to meeting the needs of her family:
In my life heretofore I had not had a thought even of the responsibility of providing for the sustenance of a family, and even though the family was small it seemed sometimes a heavy load to carry. But I determined to make the best of every opportunity and therefore numerous were the sacks of fruit and the beautiful-looking glass jars I carried home with me…besides this, I had engaged for teaching the Ward school. It was quite an undertaking with two young children, housekeeping, cow to milk and many other duties to perform, but I was so grateful for anything and everything that could possibly help our cause to its ultimate fulfillment, that we might comfortably provide for ourselves without the need of charity. (Musser 1962, 62-63)
Later, in medical school, she contemplated the academic road before her, "which she had not strength to accomplish, but she held no illusions concerning her inner motives: it was for the future advantage of her children that she suffered, that she deprived herself of the joy of their present association" (McCloud 1984, 124).
For the community, the services early LDS women provided were invaluable. Because these women became educators, the children of Zion progressed in ways they otherwise could not hope to achieve. Women's journals provided voice to the women of the LDS community and gave expression to the history of LDS women. And perhaps most notably, early LDS female doctors aided in delivering thousands of infants. "For more than six thousand times have I felt the exquisite bliss of seeing the mother's smile when for the first time she clasped her treasures in her arms" Ellis recalled (Musser 1962, 282). Concerning the courage and blessings early midwives provided the Saints, author Chris Rigby Arrington stated, "Many present-day Mormons owe their first grasps of mortality to the sure hands and quaint midnight courage of Zion's deliveries" (Arrington 1976, 62). Today, our progenitors continue to bless the community of Saints with their courageous stories and inspiring efforts, efforts that helped even our own grandparents and great-grandparents enter mortality.
Early LDS women who sought education and vocational training often reflected on the spiritual blessings that resulted from their work. Nurse Clara Wall recounted her greatest accomplishment "was that her paid work gave her brother and two nephews the financial freedom to serve as…missionaries for the Mormon Church in the United States and abroad" (D’Antonio 2007, 112). When musician Florence Jepperson formed 2,000 choral groups of singing mothers across the U.S. and Great Britain, "Much good resulted. Husbands, not members of the Church, [were] converted; family ties more closely woven; and their testimonies more deeply rooted." (Education In Zion Gallery 2011). Zina Young Williams Card once instructed an all-male class at BYU and because of her efforts, "Many of [the] young men became bishops or high councilmen, went upon missions and proved successful in the Kingdom of God" with confidence in their abilities to serve proficiently (Education In Zion Gallery 2011).
Patterns and Principles, Part 3
As always, there are principles we can learn from early Latter-day Saints in their pattern of consistent and unfailing support for women's education and professional work. Early LDS women were often cheered on by their fellow Church members and community in the choices that they made. This support came from priesthood holders, Relief Society leaders, female peers, and family members both male and female who provided opportunities for women to choose schooling and vocations. The principle we gather is that the skills and training these educated women possessed were understood as valuable to the women themselves, their families, and the community at large. As Latter-day Saints seek to build Zion today, we must become a community that, like the early Saints, believes women have something to offer in the form of education and professional work. It must be seen as essential that the talents of female Latter-day Saints be utilized to help our communities progress. The second pattern evidenced by early LDS women was that, when inspired and circumstances permitted, many women chose to pursue education and paid professions that they felt were a calling from God. The principle to understand and enact is that women who choose to labor outside the home can bless a community through their professional participation and knowledge, and this may be done not only with God’s consent, but with God’s active encouragement to do so. We must support each other in our various efforts to create Zion as the early Latter-day Saints exemplify:
A guide was taking a group of tourists through the Daughters of Pioneers Museum…in Salt Lake City. When they reached the Dr. Ellis Shipp Room they saw a woman there, weeping. The guide went to her and said, "Are you sick? Can I do anything for you?" "Oh no," the woman wailed, "I'm all right. I'm just crying out of my love for Doctor Shipp. Before I went to her class we were so poor, my children went hungry. Mothers and newborn babies were dying all around me. I thought if I could just study in Doctor Shipp's class and become a nurse and midwife, I could help my family and do some good in the world…At last I went to see Doctor Shipp. She put her arm around me and said, 'Of course you can come. You don't need any money. Come, I'll help you.' And we went. And she held my squirming baby on her lap while she lectured to us so I could take notes. I never paid her a cent, not even in eggs. I was a new convert to the Church from Germany and could hardly understand of speak English. She was so patient, spelling out words for us and telling us what they meant. I helped bring a lot of babies into the world after I got through. Oh, how I loved her!" (McCloud 1984, 186-187)
Section 4: Women's Public Sphere and Public Participation
For women in America, the nineteenth century marked a period of dynamic activity by women, both in the public and private spheres. While women were active in the public sphere, this activity is better understood as occurring within "women's public sphere" as a result of distinct male/female social circles. Historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg investigated these nineteenth century distinctions between men's and women's public activity:
American society was characterized in large part by rigid gender-role differentiation within the family and within society as a whole, leading to the emotional segregation of women and men…It was within just such a social framework…that a specifically female world did indeed develop…Within such a world of emotional richness and complexity devotion to and love of other women became a plausible and socially accepted form of human interaction…Women, however, did not form an isolated and oppressed subcategory in male society. Their letters and diaries indicate that women's sphere had an essential integrity and dignity that grew out of women's shared experiences and mutual affection and that…retained a constancy and predictability. (Smith-Rosenberg 1975, 9-10)
As part of the American cultural framework, women during the 1800s enjoyed a social network of intimacy with other women who would remain their support structure from birth to death. While equality between the sexes was diminished because of "emotional segregation" due to "rigid gender-roles", women were afforded a space in public life in which women could uplift and support other women. As a legitimate collective in public activity, women took advantage of opportunities to support and strengthen one another:
This was…a female world in which hostility and criticism of other women were discouraged, and thus a milieu in which women could develop a sense of inner security and self-esteem...They valued each other. Women, who had little status or power in the larger world of male concerns, possessed status and power in the lives and worlds of other women. (Smith-Rosenberg 1975, 14)
While LDS women shared some of the experiences of American women as a whole, early LDS women also functioned outside of the American mainstream. Specifically, while LDS women were publicly active in a sphere appropriately termed a "women's public sphere" like other American women, LDS families did not display as deep gender role divisions between the sexes. This was, perhaps, a result of the LDS view that partnership between men and women was essential to eternal progression. General Relief Society president Amy Brown Lyman was a witness to such partnership of LDS men' and women's public spheres:
"[Lyman] had grown to maturity watching women make valued contributions to the well-being of their communities as they followed the call of Church leaders to establish and develop home industry and promote improvements in public health while they tirelessly carried out their role...of charity and care for ward members in need…These same women were active politically as well...All these endeavors were seen as complementary to those carried out by men through the priesthood organization at a time when both sexes were actively seeking to build a Mormon commonwealth in the West. (Hall 2010, 207-208)
Indeed, from 1870 to 1930 the Relief Society experienced "years of vigorous activity on a remarkably wide range of projects. During this period the influence of the organization as a semi-independent 'power' within the Church, and within the national women's moment, reached its peak" (May 1976, 227). What the female public sphere provided for LDS women was a bridging of the ideology that women belonged in a strict private sphere and the reality that women had contributions to make in a male public sphere. Creating a public space for women was enabling, and LDS women took advantage of opportunities in this sphere. (Tait, Lisa, interviewed by author, Provo, UT, 28 July 2011). Specifically, early LDS women were political agents, they participated enthusiastically in the religious activities of the Church and Relief Society, and they established methods to voice such activities through journal publications.
Political Public Activity
LDS women greatly valued their collective voice and saw political activity as a way to bring women of the world together. In 1888, "notable Utah women" were asked "to represent [their] state and [their] sisters at an International Council of Women in Washington D.C. The Council [was] called by the National Woman Suffrage Association" (McCloud 1984, 148). To the women of the Church, meetings of this nature were "the first attempt 'to unify the spirit and method of the world's organized womanhood,' and marked an 'important epoch in the progress of the woman cause'" (McCloud 1984, 148). When LDS women witnessed discrimination it was their determination, rooted in their religious beliefs, to take public action that was, at times, unprecedented by their non-LDS female contemporaries: "As early as 1869, the editor of Utah Magazine, E. L. T. Harrison, commented on a remark made by a visitor from the East suggesting that Mormonism might lead the way in asserting the rights of women" (Dushku 1976, 193). Indeed, "[LDS] women's participation in the political struggle for statehood and their continued political activism were unusual at a time when other American women were just beginning to voice themselves politically" (Cannon 1976, 170). Heather Symmes Cannon continued to comment:
During this time, when woman's role did not normally include political participation, Mormon women became active politicians; they held mass meetings, lobbied Congress and the President, voted en masse from 1870-87, and employed the pressure of the press through the editorial columns of the Woman's Exponent. (Cannon 1976, 157-158)
Certainly, these early LDS sisters represented a powerful force in women's rights and rights for the LDS population as a whole. The Cullom Bill, proposed by the federal government, provided federal officials power to enforce anti-polygamy laws and "deprived wives of immunity as witnesses." Such a restriction of women's voice and a "threat to polygamy and the Church's political and judicial power in Utah elicited strong feminine protest. In 1870 the women held the first of many mass meetings protesting the impending passage of this bill" (Cannon 1976, 162).
For LDS women, both prominent and peripheral, mass meetings were the most common expression of political undertaking. The breadth and depth of issues discussed and action taken remains remarkable:
Mass meetings were the most dramatic form of feminist political action. Meetings were held in the prominent cities and towns of Utah in 1870, 1878, and 1886. The speakers protested against national legislation and judicial abuses and injustices, debated anti-Mormon propaganda and misrepresentation of their situation, and defended their religion and themselves. Resolutions were drafted and sent to Congress and the President. Generally, a series of meetings was inaugurated by a huge meeting in the Salt Lake Theater or Tabernacle. In 1886 the Church-owned railroads issued half-fair tickets to women wishing to attend the Salt Lake meeting, and the Church newspaper, the Deseret News, strongly encouraged attendance. (Cannon 1976, 162)
Women from around Utah would gather to express support for women's national rights and to protect family-oriented policy. Emmeline B. Wells and Jane S. Richards led the feminist movement in Utah with the support of General Relief Society President Eliza R. Snow who lent her "eloquent oratory [and]...figurehead support…In 1878 she conducted the proceedings of the largest meeting of women ever assembled in Utah, held to protest against the interference of the Ladies' Anti-Polygamy society" (Beecher 1976, 30-31).
Also in 1870 women in Utah were granted suffrage (McCloud 1984, 142) as the third state in the country to give women the vote (Cannon 1976, 174). After "unanimous approval by both houses of the territorial legislature…Church leaders expressed heartily support" (Cannon 1976, 164). Seventeen years later, with anti-polygamy sentiments rampant among the federal government, the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 was passed, which abolished women's suffrage in Utah (Cannon 1976, 167). When suffrage had originally been granted the women of Utah, federal leaders intended LDS women to vote against polygamy and their priesthood leaders. As such stalwart Church members, this was not the case. When their voting privileges were reversed, these women felt a sense of renewed zeal in their beliefs about equality in political rights. At a mass meeting in 1886, just prior to the passing of the Edmunds-Tucker Act, the women wrote of their strong protest to the injustices this bill presented:
Resolved, By the women of Utah in mass meeting assembled, that the suffrage originally conferred upon us as a political privilege, has become a vested right by possession and usage for fifteen year, and that we protest against being deprived of that right without process of law, and for not other reason than that we do not vote to suit our political opponents. Resolved, that we emphatically deny the charge that we vote otherwise than according to our own free choice, and point to the fact that the ballot is absolutely secret in Utah as proof that we are protected in voting for whom and what we choose with perfect liberty. (Cannon 1976, 167-168)
Indeed it was a political injustice that these women were stripped of their voice. But they were not politically silenced. The right to vote and to be heard went beyond a national issue for these women; political rights were a religious matter, a community matter, and global matter. Dr. Romania P. Pratt bore testimony of this fact:
This (the fortuitous use of the ballot) has been exemplified in the workings of equal suffrage in my own community, and the universal acceptance of this righteous equality cannot fail to bring to the world greater freedom, higher justice, and closer union and advancement in everything that will elevate humanity, and bring them to that condition of harmony, fraternity and peace, foreseen by the prophets…of ancient and modern times…. (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors")
Eventually Utah women were again granted the right to vote, but this right was not the only cause of political action among LDS women—their religious belief, founded in the doctrines of equality, impressed them to be political agents. It was important for the building of Zion and the strengthening of marriages and families that women had the opportunity to enter the voting booth and to hold mass meetings. Much of these efforts sparked from women's early participation in Utah's fight for statehood; an experience which proved advantageous to women's efforts in other political ventures: "The political expertise gleaned from their participation in the struggle for statehood served Mormon women well; women's suffrage was upheld…twenty-four years before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment extended women's suffrage throughout the nation" (Cannon 1976, 170). The battle for statehood was abnormally long, taking 47 years, and six unsuccessful petitions before Utah was made a state in 1896 (Cannon 1976, 157). In her petition for statehood written to the U.S. government, Eliza R. Snow stated:
Our numbers, small at first, have increased, until now we numbered one hundred and fifty thousand; and yet we are allowed only a territorial government. Year after year we have petitioned Congress for that which is our inalienable right to claim—a State government; and year after year, our petitions have been treated with contempt. Such treatment as we have received from our rulers, has no precedent in the annals of history. (Cannon 1976, 157)
Women's mass efforts in the fight for statehood continued into the government forming process: "When the opportunity for statehood finally came, Utah's women were prepared to work for the restoration of their political rights…[and] became active in drafting committees and in the pre-convention meetings of the two parties." This insured the adoption of a female suffrage clause in the Utah state constitution (Dushku 1976, 189). Early LDS women also ran and were elected for office. In an address given to the Utah State Agricultural College in July of 1940, Amy Brown Lyman advised:
I would like to advocate the idea of women becoming more interested in politics and government, both local and national. They should not only vote, but also play an active role in the political process, helping select candidates and even running for office themselves in fields where they are especially qualified. (Hall 2010, 235)
Utah was "the first to have a female state senator", electing Martha Hughes Cannon (Cannon 1976, 174). Artist Alice Smith Merrill was elected in 1891 to the state's third legislature where she served two terms (Derr 1976, 31-32). Brigham Young's daughter, Susa Young Gates exemplified political activity as she was a member of the National Council of Women, and she helped organize national policy in home economics (Education In Zion Gallery 2011). Women were also political agents on a more local and rural level. In 1880 seventeen women in Beaver County, Utah "wished to elect two ladies as trustees." When the "brethren opposed and defeated their idea because there was 'no law for it,'" the women "petitioned the legislature to remove the political disabilities of the women of Utah and to grant them the right to hold public office" (Mulvay 1976, 79). Also in Beaver, Utah, Lucinda Lee Dalton served as an officer to the territorial women's suffrage association (Derr 1976, 30). In November of 1911, the world's first all-women city council was elected in Kanab, Utah. Mary E. Wooley Chamberlain served as the mayor, Luella Atkin McAllister as the treasure, Tamar Stewart Hamblin as clerk, Blanche Robinson Hamblin as a councilor, and Ada Pratt Seegmiller as a councilor until 1914 (Brunner; Fischer 2011).
Participation in political office served as an excellent way for women to voice concerns about women's needs and family needs, but LDS women also developed and utilized personal relationships leading women's rights activist of the day. These relationships proved most advantageous to LDS women's political progression. Emmeline Wells explained that because "women of Utah were so progressive in the suffrage question and had sent large petitions asking for the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment…to enfranchise all women" she, Emmeline, was invited to the "annual convention at Washington in January 1879." At this convention LDS Utah delegates were asked to present before Congressional committees, to the President of the U.S., and "to the Lady of the White House" (Dushku 1976, 190). Once LDS women's voices reached the east coast they became acquainted with many female leaders. At the International Council of Women in Washington D.C. held in 1888, Ellis Shipp presented a paper on childcare and "made the intimate acquaintance of many…[of] the greatest women of the generation; Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth C. Stanton, Clara Barton…" (McCloud 1984, 148). Susa Young Gates also became personally connected to prominent women:
Susa Young Gates was a[n]…advocate for Women's rights…and living in an era with limited women's rights [she] lived an accomplished and influential life…She moved in national and international circles—she entertained Susan B. Anthony and Clara Barton in her home, corresponded with Leo Tolstoy and joined the International Women's Council in taking tea with Queen Victoria. (Education In Zion Gallery 2011)
These non-LDS female activists became deeply connected to LDS women and expressed much encouragement for the progression of women's rights in Utah. In the 1890s the Relief Society presented Susan B. Anthony with silk made from the women's silkworm industry (Arrington 1955, 157). Anthony expressed her gratitude:
My pleasure in the rich brocaded silk is quadrupled because it was made by women politically equal to men. The cast that the mulberry trees grew in Utah, that the silk worms made their cocoons there, that women reeled and spun and colored and wove the silk in a free State, greatly enhances its value. My dressmaker in the near future will make it into the most beautiful gown that your octogenarian friend ever possessed. (Dushku 1976, 193)
Beyond admiration, U.S. women's rights leaders were prepared to defend the rights of their LDS friends: "The 'Women's Women' of the National Women's Suffrage Association not only recognized Mormon women's intellectual equality, but defended in Congress Utah women's right to suffrage during the Edmunds and Edmunds-Tucker debates" (Cannon 1976, 171). For leading women, all women's voices were to be heard, and this included that of the LDS population. Despite pressures from anti-Mormon groups, Elizabeth Cady Stanton held firm that "She would not be a part of any organization that did not make all women feel welcome if they shared common goals… [and] 'Mormon women, black women, and Indian women' must not be excluded." Susan B Anthony echoed Stanton's dynamism (Dushku 1976, 192). With support from national feminists, these early LDS women truly set precedence for political activity and many felt the Relief Society should be associated with national women's organizations, such as The National Suffrage Association and The National Council of Women (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011).
Eighth General Relief Society President Amy Brown Lyman grew up in this culture surrounded by women with strong political voice. This greatly influenced the Church member and human rights activist she grew up to represent:
Lyman could best be termed…a cultural feminist. She did not challenge the idea that men and women had separate yet complementary roles to play in society. But she was strongly committed to equality in employment, equal pay for equal work, and the necessity of women's involvement in community affairs, including politics. Lyman was especially committed to what she and others of her generation termed "organized womanhood." This meant women working together as women to perform desired reforms…as Lyman watched the benefits that members of the Relief Society brought to their communities through collective activism, she recognized the corresponding gains in confidence and self-esteem that came to these women through their participation in these endeavors. (Hall 2010, 220)
Much gratitude should be given to our foremothers for their political participation that lead to women's suffrage, Utah statehood, and the setting of a model for female politicians. Yet the real principle to garner from such political activism is that LDS women felt they contributed an important voice that should and would be heard in a national dialogue on important issues of the day. Today, the women of the Church are scattered throughout many nations where they face political injustices and political opportunities. As a strong female body, we have the responsibility to be "woman working together as women." Our organized womanhood, through political activity, can be the key to equality reform and justice.
Religious Public Activity
The Relief Society provided ample opportunities for LDS women to participate in a larger community dialogue. During this time period women were given the space to be the innovators and developers of Church programs, allowing them autonomy and public participation (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011). The Relief Society, then, functioned as a fairly independent organization:
The Society was never independent in the sense of challenging priesthood authority or in failing to respond eagerly and willingly to instructions of the First Presidency. Such actions would have been unthinkable to Relief Society leaders and members alike. But the distinctly separate organizational structure and programs of the Relief Society reflected the attitude that while priesthood leaders established the general policy goals, the Relief Society leaders were perfectly capable of initiating and executing programs to achieve these goals. (May 1976, 231)
This partnership between Relief Society sisters and Priesthood brothers is described by General Relief Society President Julie B. Beck: "the history of Relief Society elevates and validates the standing of women and demonstrates how they work in companionship with faithful priesthood leaders" (Beck 2010, 114).
Through the Relief Society, women were able to enter a public sphere that might have been otherwise inaccessible:
Mormon women…were not strangers to the idea of separate spheres, nor were they unaware of their ability to use such ideas to expand their own sphere of usefulness in the Church. Using the Relief Society as their vehicle, many emulated and sometimes surpassed their non-Mormon sisters in expanding their activities into community affairs—most often with the approval and encouragement of Church leaders who saw the benefits that come to the community and to the Church's reputation at a time when Mormons were trying to counter a negative public image linked to polygamy and patriarchy. (Hall 2010, 208-209)
Some of the ways in which Relief Society women were able to "expand their own sphere" into a more public sphere included welfare and ministering to the poor, systematic retrenchment, and independent economic funds.
Perhaps one the most significant legacies of the Relief Society program is its ability to assess and meet the needs of the poor and struggling. In the early Church, Relief Society leaders placed this public responsibility as paramount to all other public activities in the building of Zion. Ministering to the poor adopted many forms, from financial aid, to free medical services, to career and educational training. Financially, the Relief Society was quite prepared to meet the demands of the impoverished Saints as they reached the Salt Lake Valley: "By 1876, Eliza R. Snow reported that 110 branches of the Relief Society had disbursed $82,397 over a seven to eight year period—73 percent of which was to relieve and support the poor" (Derr 1995, 324). Fifty years later, as America approached the Great Depression, General Relief Society President Amy Brown Lyman issued a call for the Relief Society to be "a Community Builder". She said the women of the Church ought to "focus on the society's impressive accomplishments in the realm of social welfare, including the dynamic activism of the 1920s" and that "the achievements of Relief Society women, both in public life and in the home…stand today as a monument to the power of their faith and service and as a challenge to the coming generation" (Hall 2010, 227).
Priesthood leaders also assigned calls and tasks to Relief Society members that led to public activity:
…five tasks were officially assigned to the Relief Societies during the last third of the nineteenth century: systematic retrenchment; the establishment and operation of cooperative stores specializing in merchandise of home manufacture; the promotion of home industry, particularly the silk industry; grain-savings; and nursing, midwifery, and the maintenance of a hospital. (Arrington 1955, 147)
Systematic retrenchment was a call issued by Brigham Young to the women of the Church. His hope was that by the principle of self-sufficiency and through training, LDS women would be capable of running a home industry and contributing to the isolated LDS economy (Derr 1995, 324). As a result, many shops and industries were opened and managed by women and "beginning in 1869, most of the Relief Societies began to open up their own establishments" (Arrington 1955, 151). Women also contributed to the public market through home industries. One particular home-industry assignment issued by President Young was the silk industry: "In 1877 the Relief Societies throughout the Church were assigned by President Young, 'to raise silk and do all in their power to clothe themselves and their families'" (May 1976, 229).
As always, Relief Society women went above and beyond their call, "Beginning in 1877…the Relief Societies commenced a…campaign of traveling lecture tours, the importation of machinery, and the planting of more than 10,000 new mulberry trees" to establish a "lucrative and self-rewarding [silk] enterprise" (Arrington 1955, 153). President John Taylor instructed stake presidents and bishops to support and sustain the silk industry that "the labors of [the] sisters may be brought to a successful issue, and sericulture…become one of the prominent industries of our mountain home" (Arrington 1955, 156).
Voluntary grain-saving, too, presented a method in which the Relief Society women participated outside the home. Much of the grain was purchased with funds from home-industry efforts: "[Relief Society women]…bought wheat with funds raised through sale of such items as quilts, carpets, rugs, jam, and Sunday eggs" (May 1976, 229). With Emmeline B. Wells in charge, grain-savings presented an opportunity for the Relief Society to establish funds and grain storage at their disposal (Derr 1995, 325). In 1906, "Relief Society stores [were sent] to the victims of the …San Francisco earthquake" and the next year they sent grain to "Chinese famine victims". Twelve years later, "In 1918 the Society sold its entire wheat inventory, 200,000 bushels, to the United States Government for war relief purposes" (May 1976, 229).
It was through the public efforts of establishing home economies, running shops, developing a silk industry, and grain-saving that the Relief Society was able to gain and maintain independent economic funds that would be utilized to meet the needs of LDS women. Additionally, with established membership dues (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011) funds and opportunities increased for the Society:
The Society during this period was also financially independent from other Church organizations. Its operating expenses were not allocated from general Church funds but were raised from members' annual dues. Decisions about disbursement of money raised through sale of Relief Society handiwork and other fund-raising projects were made by the Society leaders themselves, not by the general Church presidency…The leaders of the organization were consistently supported by the First Presidency in claiming the right to control the disbursement of their stores of grain, even when their decisions conflicted with those of the local bishop. (May 1976, 232)
Assisting women in the Church became the primary use of Relief Society funds and, as previously mentioned, these resources were often used to sponsor women in obtaining an education and professional training in the public sphere. For example, in 1882 the Relief Society "established the Deseret Hospital…The hospital had no endowment and was operated on funds solicited by the Relief Society…While [the hospital] was open…the Relief Society had used its facilities as a training school for midwives" (Divett 1963, 10).
Beyond providing financial aid to its members, the Relief Society gave women an opportunity to publicly worship, demonstrate faith, and bare testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Women, through inspiration, were very active in forming Church auxiliaries. This was the case with Eliza R. Snow of whom it was said: "There is hardly an auxiliary organization in the present Church which does not rest solidly on the base built for it by Eliza R. Snow" (Beecher 1976, 27). The founding of the Relief Society itself was viewed as a spiritual necessity and companion to the priesthood. In fact, Joseph Smith saw the forming of the Relief Society as a preparation for women to receive their temple endowments once the temple was complete. Further, the first Relief Society organization met in the Masonic lodge which was also where daily Masonic and endowment rituals were performed by priesthood holders (Beecher 1982, 32). Relief Society members then encouraged the sharing of faith, testimonies, and spiritual gifts throughout the community in the form of washing and anointing women giving birth, assisting as temple workers and matrons, in the designing and construction of temple and burial clothes, and they served as undertakers to the deceased (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011). Similarly, female doctors in Zion were described as "the unseen hand of God, who ministers in His own divine way to those whose need is great." These Relief Society sisters performed spiritual miracles and "with utter simplicity of heart and manner [and] sublime faith in the good that their disciples could do, Utah’s pioneer women doctors imparted their knowledge to their student classes" (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors").
Artist Alice Merrill Horne posed a question to the women of the Church: "If God spoke to Emma Smith concerning music and art, should not we, the recipients of the benefits, from that 'turning of the key' [on women's behalf], be glad to preach the Gospel of beauty?" (Derr 1976, 39). Just as Emma preached the gospel through her music and the female doctors through their spiritual healing gifts, Relief Society members today should be glad to "preach the Gospel of beauty" publicly as disciples of Christ.
In 1872, at the encouragement of Brigham Young, Louisa Lula Greene established a newspaper for LDS women titled the Woman's Exponent (Derr 1995, 330). The Woman's Exponent along with the Relief Society Magazine and Young Woman's Journal would serve as a historical record and public voice for early LDS women over several decades. The intention was that LDS women "'might represent themselves and tell their own story" (McCloud 1984, 142) and the resulting newspapers and journals were significant and supported by the leaders of the Church. Of the Women's Exponent Brigham Young desired the women record their own version of Church history and circulate publications throughout the stakes of Zion (Dushku 1976, 179). In 1874 George A. Smith gave a discourse about the Exponent where he described it as a "very ably edited sheet, and one containing a great deal of information." He then encouraged the men of the Church to subscribe and read the journal: "I invite all elders, bishops, and presiding officers in the stakes of Zion…to solicit all their brethren and…sisters, to become subscribers…[and] through the patronage…the ladies will be able to enlarge this paper, and to extend its influence" (Dushku 1976, 179). Three ways in which these journals extended women's influence publicly was by giving voice to political, religious, and occupational matters.
The reporting of political activity and opinions was one main objective for LDS women's journals, particularly the Woman's Exponent. The goal was to express "The Rights of Women of Zion and the Rights of Women of all Nations" (Dushku 1976, 178-179). Female Church leaders understood that LDS women were under intense observation and scrutiny by non-LDS men and women, thus they went to great efforts to demonstrate political equality between the genders and freedom of political opinion for women. An April 1896 Exponent editorial explained:
The women of Utah are being watched as no other women are at present time, and it should be their laudable ambition to set an example even in political affairs that other states can point to with pride and seek to emulate. (Cannon 1976, 171)
In order to set an example to the nation of political justice, journal articles called LDS women to political action. An editorial in the Woman's Exponent in 1893 issued this call:
In the present state of affairs in the country, women are and very naturally must be [as] deeply interested as men if not even more. Women will likely be the greatest real sufferers for more men run away from trouble than women... Consequently, women should take an active part in ameliorating the condition if anything can be done, and at any rate to try and become acquainted with the situation and see wherein their efforts may be available. (Cannon 1976, 173)
There was no apologetic tone in journal articles that called for political justice and female public participation: "[The Woman's Exponent] tone was neither self-conscious nor cautious, and it firmly and directly discussed feminist ideas and explained how they enhanced gospel ideals" (Dushku 1976, 178). It is important to understand what "feminism" meant to the early LDS women, and how these principles remain significant and true today. Historian Judith Rasmussen Dushku described the feminist ideas found in women's journals: "As the voice of Utah's women, the Exponent exemplified the three defining qualities of feminism in any age: a desire to encourage women to speak for and to women, a sense of injustice and inequality of opportunity, a conviction of the absolute equality of the sexes" (Dushku 1976, 181). Importantly, these feminist calls to equality are applicable to all era. A poem from an 1894 volume of the Exponent read:
Now the voice of womankind is startling all the world;
Women must have equal rights with man.
Everywhere beneath the sun her banner is unfurled.
Woman must have equal rights with man.
We but ask for freedom and the right to live and be,
What we are designed in God's great plan;
And we're sure all thinking men will very shortly see,
Women must have equal rights with man.
Come ye sisters, let us rise and educate our minds,
Put aside our follies great and small;
Work with heart and soul to help all womankind,
Gather round our standard one and all.
Do not pause nor falter, but be valiant in the fight,
And the flame of liberty we'll fan.
Till it spreads o'er all the land, then hail the time of right.
When women shall have equal rights with man. (Cannon 1976, 173)
Many religious writings and sermons from LDS women were also included in monthly publication as the "Woman's Exponent…was considered first and foremost to be the mouthpiece of the Relief Society" (May 1976, 232). In 1939, just after being called as the General Relief Society President, Amy Brown Lyman established three purposes for the Relief Society Magazine. These included: "education, social welfare work, and spiritual uplift" (Hall 2010, 225). Some spiritual literature included hymns, religious poetry, and exploration of Church doctrines. Early contributor Eliza R. Snow wrote lyrics for several hymns, which expressed her deep doctrinal understanding (Education In Zion Gallery 2011). These public female spiritual expressions proved valuable to all in Zion.
Early journals also supported women's occupational efforts through publishing women's literature work, advertising business operations, and through encouraging education and professional attainment. For 40 years the Woman's Exponent and Young Woman's Journal published articles and poems by author Lucinda Lee Dalton (Derr 1976, 30). Artist Alice Smith Merrill too wrote articles for the Young Woman's Journal varying in topics from "building and beautifying the home" to a bibliography series on Utah artists (Derr 1976, 33). Journal advertisements helped women build successful enterprises. When Milford Shipp started The Salt Lake Sanitarian in 1888, both Drs Ellis and Maggie Shipp contributed to the journal through publications and editing (McCloud 1984, 149). The Woman's Exponent often advertised women practitioners, including Ellis Shipp, and Ellen B. Ferguson who used the Exponent to "announced herself as a specialist in the diseases of women" (Noall, under "Utah's Pioneers Women Doctors"). Readers were always encouraged to broaden their public influence for the benefit of the community and this encouragement was evidenced by two series featuring potential occupations for women in the public sphere—from 1891 to 1892 Susa Young Gates authored a series in the Young Woman's Journal titled "Professional and Business Opportunities for Women" and later in that same journal, from 1926 to 1927 Agnes Lovendahl Stewart wrote a series of articles called "What Shall I Do?" Both series listed opportunities for women to work in the public sphere that they might be capable of supporting themselves and serving others. Alice Smith Merrill explained the importance of personal progression in an article for the Woman's Exponent: "The home must be kept sweet and clean…but the brain is as prone to get cobwebby as the best room" (Derr 1976, 31-32).
Ultimately, these journals served as a public support for women and their accomplishments. As part of its regular publications, the "Exponent reported on the triumphs of women around the globe in achieving special awards and recognition" (Dushku 1976, 183). Support was evidenced through providing a public outlet for women to examine and present the world around them, and sustaining women's public efforts remained ever central to the purpose of early LDS female-oriented journals.
Patterns and Principles, Part 4
The patterns of public participation displayed by early LDS women stand as an example. These women were extremely politically active in their communities and on a national level. The principle we can understand from their model is that women of the Church have valuable political contributions to make and can be influential on a national and international level. Early LDS female politicians believed that political equality was part of the progression towards Zion. Eliza R. Snow wrote:
Were we the stupid, degraded, heartbroken beings that we have been represented, silence might better become of us; but as women of God, women fulfilling high and responsible positions, performing sacred duties…we not only speak because we have the right, but justice and humility demand that we should. (Cannon 1976, 164)
LDS women have a spiritual obligation to speak up for the rights of women and for the support of policy that benefits the family. We must believe that we have the ability to affect national discourse and help families progress. In her introductory remarks at an 1886 mass meeting, Isabella Horne spoke:
It has been said by some, "What good will it do to hold a mass meeting?" If is does no good, it will be a matter of history to be handed down to our posterity, that their Mothers rose up in the dignity of their womanhood to protest against the insults and indignities heaped upon them. (Cannon 1976, 171)
Today families face extreme insults and indignities, but in looking to our foremothers’ political actions, we too can gain the courage to rise up as political agents.
From the history of the Relief Society, yet another pattern evidenced by early LDS women is the communal sharing of religious gifts and testimony. President Julie B. Beck asserted:
There is a worldwide hunger among good women to know their identity, value, and importance. Studying and applying the history of Relief Society gives definition and expression to who we are as disciples and followers of our Savior, Jesus Christ…The history of Relief Society teaches us that our Heavenly Father knows His daughters…Understanding the history of Relief Society strengthens the foundational identity and worth of faithful women. (Beck 2010, 114)
Understanding the religiosity and faith of our early Relief Society sisters offers an important principle to adopt: LDS women have spiritual gifts and testimonies of Christ that are valuable to the building of Zion and must be shared not only in the home, not only in the Church, but also in the public sphere. Relief Society members must be the champions of women's contributions and insight. Their voices teach of Christ and His gospel.
A third pattern of public activity lived by early LDS women was the providing of public voice to women through journals and publications. While Relief Society journals may not exist today, modern Latter-day Saints can adopt the principle of providing LDS women with opportunities to express concerns and ideas on a public level. Women’s ideas for the Church, whether those ideas come from leadership or from members, should be articulated and heard. Indeed, it should feel comfortable for women to offer their ideas in Church settings. In the early Church, women developed "female activism…to address the issues affecting them in a new setting. In the process, they created a valued role for themselves in Church and community, one praised by priesthood leaders and individual members alike" (Hall 2010, 214). LDS women around the globe today face issues that can be addressed if given expression and often it is only through a female perspective that all concerns facing women and families are brought to light. Amy Brown Lyman saw a female-oriented agenda as "vital to the spiritual and emotional well-being of Mormon women, an agenda which made valuable contributions to the entire community" (Hall 2010, 233). Further, she was "never…afraid to stand up for what she knew was right and, as a leader, encouraged others to do the same" (Hall 2010, 231).
The principle we can take from the early LDS women and their public participation is that we too can be public participants for the blessing of Zion in our own day:
We study our history because it unites faithful women. The history of Relief Society is a Spirit-filled story of strong, faithful, purposeful women. As a part of the Lord's restored Church, Relief Society can now be found in nearly 170 nations. Everywhere in the world adult women in the Lord's Church can be given serious and important responsibilities. (Beck 2010, 115; my italics)
The spirit, intellect, courage, voice, and hard work that characterized the lives of early LDS women stand as an example for Church members today to emulate. It is important to understand that these women were examples in their own time. Early LDS women's vanguard position in society stands out in comparison to the position of non-LDS female contemporaries. Historian Barbara Welter, in her keynote article "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860" eloquently describes the restrained and oppressed cultural understanding and treatment of women in America at that time. She described the Victorian ideologies regarding women that circumscribed their place in society:
"True feminine genius," said Grace Greenwood (Sara Jane Clarke) "is ever timid, doubtful, and clingingly dependent; a perpetual childhood." And she advised literary ladies in an essay on "The Intellectual Woman"—"Don’t trample on the flowers while longing for the stars." A wife who submerged her own talents to work for her husband was extolled as an example of a true woman. In Women of Worth: A Book for Girls, Mrs. Ann Flaxman, an artist of promise herself, was praised because she "devoted herself to sustain her husband’s genius and aid him in his arduous career". (Welter 1966, 160)
While early LDS women certainly aided their husband's career progression and hoped their spouse's talents would develop, this was not done at the surrender of their own development, spiritual progression, and maturation. Among the strong sisters who sought to build Zion, there was no room for clinging dependence and childishness. Historian Claudia L. Bushmen explained the valuable role LDS women played:
Women living in groups on the frontier were in a relatively good position in the early nineteenth century. All their native gifts were encouraged for the benefit of the community, and imagination and initiative brought them social recognition. The loneliness of isolation and the false limitations of polite society were both missing…The Mormon Church encouraged the participation of women. From the beginning they "voted" to sustain Church officials. They participated in holy ordinances and pronounced blessings to heal the sick. The sacred temple ceremonies assured them that they would hold places of high honor in the next world. (Bushmen 1976, xviii)
Yet, the example of activism early LDS women set was not only a result of their frontier circumstances. Their actions stemmed from a deep understanding of women's value and contributions. Concerning Victorian ideals upheld by mainstream America Emmeline B. Wells stated:
See the manner in which ladies—a term for which I have little reverence or respect—are treated in all public places!...She must be preserved from the slightest blast of trouble, petted, carressed, dressed to attract attention, taught accomplishments that minister to man's gratification; in other words, she must be treated as a glittering fragile toy, a thing without brains or soul, placed on a tinselled and unsubstantial pedestal by man, as her worshipper. (Dushku 1976, 183; Emmeline's spelling)
Emmeline and her LDS peers understood that all children of God, sons and daughters, were designated charge of their own salvation and progression. A Zion would not be possible without the efforts of both men and women. While other women in the U.S. were "warned not to let their literary or intellectual pursuits take them away from God" (Welter 1966, 154), LDS women were encouraged and even inspired by God to develop intellect and personal skills. Such deviation from national ideals presented vast opportunities for LDS women and blessings ensued:
Though seldom specifically articulated, the attitude conveyed by Relief Society women [during the 1870-1930 period] was one of tremendous confidence in themselves and in their ability to fulfill, and in many respects actually to define, their "callings" in the Great Basin Kingdom. In sharp contradistinction to the passive and protected Victorian ideal of femininity then dominant in the rest of the country, the model Relief Society member was an active and absolutely necessary participant in the building of Zion. Relief Society women acted on the assumption that the challenge of "building the kingdom" would require the full scope of their energies and talents, not merely those considered by the rest of the country to be "ladylike". As a result, a chronicle of Relief Society activities during these years is one replete not only with examples of charity and sacrifice, but also with a multitude of economic, political, and cultural projects that demanded a high level of executive and organizational ability. (May 1976, 233)
The period that would follow this significant time of women's participation in Church and community efforts, that is, after the 1940s, does not reflect the same spirit of joint efforts by men and women building Zion. During the 1950s to 1960s, also know as the neo-Victorian era, LDS women and men ironically adopted the Victorian ideals their forefathers and foremothers forcefully advocated against. The concept that a man presides over the home and woman is his assistant was adopted during the neo-Victorian era in American culture. In this view, men's responsibilities became directed 100% towards activities outside the home and away from family (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011). This placed productive work for pay as central to family, rather than work as a component of family service, and children were thus viewed as primarily a woman's concern (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011). Historian Dave Hall elucidates on women's new roles, particularly through the Relief Society:
The conclusion of World War II marked an important transition for the Latter-day Saint Relief Society…at the war's end, the Relief Society emerged with a more limited agenda, one that marked a milestone in a long path leading from its earlier status, in which it enjoyed considerable autonomy and relatively broad prerogatives, toward a newer position, perhaps best characterized as one among several closely regulated Church auxiliaries. (Hall 2010, 205-206)
This sudden shift in principles and Church-wide adoption of mainstream American morals was due to several interacting and complicated factors. First, the growth in Church membership at the beginning of the 20th century necessitated administrative adjustments. Thus, the Church felt a need to "streamline its procedures and reduce its expenditures… [by] further limiting and supervising the actions of the individual quorums and auxiliaries" (Hall 2010, 248). Most Church organizations, including the Relief Society, were then simplified as the Church moved "toward more rigid models drawn from developing management styles in government and industry" (Hall 2010, 229). As a result, the Relief Society and LDS women's activities as a whole declined in frequency and variety.
National social trends regarding women also greatly influenced a decline in organized LDS women's activism. In order to "appeal to women coming of age in the Progressive Era" women of the older generation felt a great deal of pressure to implement national ideas (Hall 2010, 210). This included a limiting of women's public participation and academic training for the protection of the family. In the wake of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans "craved the kind of stability a settled family life seemed to represent," (Hall 2010, 248) and women were to be the foundation of that stability—her role was to stay settled in the home where husbands and children could find refuge. While stability and refuge seem laudable, women were discouraged from pursuing education, participating in public activities, and developing skills necessary to support a family. What neo-Victorian ideals presented was a place of silence for women where her only voice was represented vicariously through her husband and children. One wonders what important family concerns were also left silenced under such ideals.
Church leadership priorities also shifted. In 1933, J. Reuben Clark was called as Second Counselor in the General First Presidency. He would go on to establish a LDS welfare program and become an apostle. His insight and influence, naturally, was sometimes influenced by his personal relationships and experiences:
Based on [Clark’s] own experience…[his wife maintained the house and conducted all spiritual matters while Clark pursued a career], no doubt reinforced by that of his eastern peers, he saw this division of labor as the natural role of women: Men were to make a living, and women were to make a home that would be an emotional refuge for their husbands and to raise the children. Anything else that claimed the attention of women he saw as a distraction and a deviation. It was almost the polar opposite from the perspective toward women held by Lyman and many others in the Church who had witnessed the Relief Society's dynamic activism in the 1910s and 1920s and could bear record of the benefits it brought to the Mormon community. (Hall 2010, 219)
Unfortunately the Relief Society program was directly affected by these imported "eastern" patterns of living that were inconsistent with previous LDS practices. Thus, in 1940 Clark implemented a new vision of the Relief Society:
He asked the Relief Society to pull back from its broad agenda and focus its energies on supporting the welfare plan as its major non-home-centered objective. Encapsulating his views that the organization should pursue only a limited range of tasks under the close supervision of Church leaders…he urged the Relief Society to give up its broad agenda of educational work and leave the "merely social, cultural, and educational" to other community agencies…In calling upon the [S]ociety to assume its rightful position as the "handmaid of the priesthood," Clark envisioned its role as much like his own marriage. In that relationship, his devoted wife concentrated on providing support and assistance for him. He thus discouraged the Relief Society's practice of leading out in independent, if complementary, spheres of activity. (Hall 2010, 232)
General Relief Society President of the time, Amy Brown Lyman, however, "felt it her duty as she fulfilled her own calling to safeguard the welfare of the women within her stewardship…she thought Clark's plans were based on faulty assumptions or inadequate information about women and their needs." Therefore, "she saw it as her responsibility to make him aware that a more nuanced approach was required" (Hall 2010, 234). Regrettably, Lyman's concerns eventually were disregarded as Church leadership and membership alike continued to assimilate into American Victorian patterns of living.
Today the societal pressures influencing Church members are evolving, yet there remains some retention of the cultural practices of the 1940s that somewhat restricted the potential of LDS women. In 1976, Professor Cheryll Lynn May deliberated:
It seems as if in some respects the Victorian female ideal of a century ago, scorned by Relief Society leaders at the time as needlessly wasteful of human potential and as demeaning to women, has been resurrected as a model for the modern Relief Society woman…Even in this greatly circumscribed role, the Relief Society continues to be a vital and growing organization, warmly supported by the majority of its members. But it must be admitted that there is missing in the modern Relief Society the sense of confidence and exhilaration of reaching out to conquer new frontiers that characterized the group in earlier years. A sense of loss at the Society's decline is naturally felt when one reviews the inspiring achievements animated by the spirit. (May 1976, 236-237)
As May illustrates, the missing "exhilaration" and "conquering" stand out when considering the remarkable patterns and principles lived by early LDS women who were seeking Zion. The "rigorous demands of a frontier settlement" ensured that women "were…expected to develop any other skills they possessed, whether medical, organizational, educational, or whatever, to further the building of the Kingdom" and "any other course [was] intolerably wasteful of human resources." May questions: "One might ask if such waste in human potential is any more tolerable today than it was in 1870" (May 1976, 238).
Indeed, the human potential LDS women possess today is certainly no less than that of their early LDS sisters. The success of early LDS women "shows…the submersion of talent and ambition among these women that was just waiting to find channels for expression" (Tait, Lisa, interviewed by author, Provo, UT, 28 July 2011). We must now question if such channels are as readily available today. If not, then by implementing the principles established by our foremothers in the Church from 1847 to 1930, Church members can return to the path of utilizing efforts by both men and women in building Zion.
These principles include recognition that LDS women can have a relationship with the Divine through which they receive personal revelation. This revelation can and has led women to callings of service and sacrifice for the community in the public sphere. As early Church leaders exemplified, Church leaders today should be, and are, supportive of women and the personal revelation they receive. Another significant principle to implement is that of family work. All family members should participate in and benefit from family work. With this model, the family should be positioned as the most important unit of society, and the professional sphere should be accommodating of that focus. If women are called or choose to labor in the public sphere, a community can and should believe women have something to offer in that public space. Among the Latter-day Saints, we should believe that women can bless a community through their professional participation and knowledge. On a national and global level, Church members must support that LDS women have valuable political contributions to make and that they have power to influence a national and international dialog. Further, the spiritual voice of women—their testimonies and teaching of the gospel—must be heard and valued by peers and Church leadership.
As we approach Zion and its equality between men and women, we begin to see a sharing of labor, a supporting of education, political activism, and public activity, and a partnership that resembles that of our human-parents, Adam and Eve:
Adam and Eve entered mortality to do what they could not do in the Garden: to gain salvation by bringing forth, sustaining, and nourishing life. As they worked together in this stewardship, with an eye single to the glory of God, a deep and caring relationship would grow out of their shared daily experience. Today, the need for salvation has not changed…the love that blossoms as spouses labor together has not changed. Perhaps, then, we are still obligated to do the work of Adam and Eve. (Bahr and Loveless 2000, 29)
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Building Up a Righteous Posterity. Roundtable Discussion at Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting. 2008. http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,8027-1-4404-4,00.html (accessed March 15, 2012).
 Many scholars of LDS history would refer to the "early LDS period" as the time from Joseph Smith's First Vision to just before the Pioneers reached the Salt Lake valley (Derr, Jill Mulvay, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 24 June 2011). For our purposes, however, "early LDS" refers to the period in LDS history from 1847 to 1930 (or from the time the Latter-day Saints reached Salt Lake City to the time in which cultural shifts of WWII and the Great Depression occurred). [Back to manuscript].
 Because of the nature of history, often the most public or reputable figures are discussed, as will be the case in this chapter; however, great effort will be made to address cultural themes and standards that affected women throughout the Church. It is significant to note that the specific women presented, and whose history is most extensive and available, were the elite women of the Church. Professor Maureen Ursenbach Beecher notes: "…for that half century there was a powerful elite running as an effective undercurrent in the tides of Mormonism. Rulers in women's sphere, 'free to create their own forms of personal, social and political relationships,' they participated parallel to their brothers in what they considered to be the building of God's kingdom" (Beecher 1982, 38-39). These LDS women were personally acquainted with the Prophets, held high-office church callings, were often polygamous wives, and, most significantly, they were looked to as the standard of righteousness for all LDS women. "Minute books and personal accounts, newspapers and magazines indicate that it was those 'leading sisters' who interpreted the doctrines and set the behavioral standards for their sisters; they discovered worthy causes and organized effective social programs; they made alliances and identified enemies. The corporate and often private lives of all Mormon women, however, remote from the central Salt Lake Stake, were impacted by the doings and sayings of these few" (Beecher 1982, 27). While many LDS women, especially those living in rural communities, were unable to attain the levels of public activity and professionalism that these elite women accomplished, it is significant to understand the examples these privileged women set. Claudia L. Bushman commented: "Most of these remarkable early women belonged to an elite echelon; they were leaders of their community or noted for their special accomplishments. That they were more productive and energetic than their sisters, or at least better placed, seems likely. But they do not seem to be far in advance of countless other lively women" (Bushman 1976, xxiii). Many women, not so well known, were not far behind in accomplishments and activity as these elite few and it is significant to note that women in peripheral community did share in the activities by getting together and reading the works of these women or coming into the cities for conferences (Tait, Lisa, interviewed by author, Provo, UT, 28 July 2011). Hopefully, in presenting the lives of several prominent women we can glimpse into lives many LDS sisters sought to emulate. [Back to manuscript].
 Because many of the most prominent early LDS families were polygamous families, and because polygamous marriages often facilitated women's working outside the home, it is important to note the conditions of early polygamous families. Polygamy was regarded as a sacred calling, reserved for the most righteous of the Saints. As such, many polygamous husbands were called to serve time-intensive Church callings and missions away from Utah. These men and their wives were well-regarded and respected for their sacrifice (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011), but being away from home meant that wives were often the primary providers for their homestead. Polygamous husband Milford Shipp "was a person of intellect, but not the man to make a living for four wives" (McCloud, 1984 101). Historian and scholar Claudia L. Bushman explained:
…the practical requirements of living as plural wives challenged the limiting stereotype of women accepted by civilized America. A plural wife could not be the helpless, fainting, protected female or she would likely faint alone. Plural wives often had to look to themselves rather than their husbands for financial support and physical labor. For practical purposes many were more like widows than traditional wives. The regular absence of their husbands simplified their housekeeping chores, allowing them to participate in a broader range of activities than their eastern sisters. In one of the neatest ironic contradictions of the period, the "enslaved harems" of Utah produced some of America's most efficient early feminists (Bushman 1976, xix).
Indeed, plural wives were not the picture of oppressed vulnerable Mormons their eastern counterparts thought they were and "in their defense the [LDS] women praised polygamy as conductive to the 'elevation and independence of women'" (Cannon 1976, 163).
Here it is appropriate to pause and consider two beliefs about polygamy that are widespread throughout the current Church: first, the notion that polygamy was necessary at the time because women needed husbands to provide physical sustenance and protection. As evidenced by the personal accounts of many plural wives, it is clear that polygamous husbands often did not provide all material needs to their wives and were frequently absent. The second belief is that there existed among the early Saints a surplus of eligible LDS women who needed husbands, which led to plural marriages. While it was customary for women to seek marriage, statistics do not indicate that there was a substantial enough difference in the number of worthy males and females in the early Church to warrant polygamy as essential (Madsen, Carol Cornwall, interviewed by author, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 July 2011).
In reflecting on the remarkable lives early plural wives embarked on, perhaps it can be argued that polygamy was a blessing to LDS women—it created circumstances where women could pursue education and occupations not available to women of other faiths. Polygamy today, as practiced by LDS splinter groups that have broken away from the LDS Church, is not called of God and does not provide independence for women. Indeed, close investigation of such marriage often paints a picture of modern-day slavery (Kimbel 2008). [Back to manuscript].
Full Citation for this Article: Adams, Alixandra Lewis (2014) "Men and Women Working Towards Zion: The Early Saints," SquareTwo, Vol. 7 No. 1 (Spring), http://squaretwo.org/AdamsWomenWorked.html, accessed <give access date>
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1) Jenne Alderks
I believe this sort of study and analysis is what President Beck hoped would come out of the women of Relief Society studying their history. These stories are inspiring and I hope that when women read them they sense that they too have important works to do in the church and in their communities, yet I fear the neo-Victorian era will continue to hold a large majority back. Having examples to look towards is important for me to feel the confidence to do the work I feel called to and I am sure many other women of the church wish to have examples of actively engaged women to emulate.
One area I wish the author had discussed in this chapter was the community support mothers received in the care of their children as they went to school and worked. Cost and access to childcare is often the biggest barrier to mothers returning to school and the early Relief Society demonstrated inspiring examples of ward members taking children in while parents were on missions and away at school.
Another modern day parallel that shows the church is still committed to mothers' education through distance education from the church universities which include the General Studies and Pathway programs through BYU and BYU-I respectively.