In the late nineteenth century, a newspaper written and published by women and for women sprung up in what most Americans thought was the unlikeliest of locations: Utah, the home of the Mormons. Along the top of the newspaper the masthead proudly declared its concern: “The Rights of the Women of Zion, and the Rights of the Women of All Nations.” It was called the Women’s Exponent. This declaration—and the paper’s articles on suffrage and women’s rights—puzzled onlookers who thought about the religion mostly as a strange polygamous sect.
“How could women simultaneously support a national campaign for political and economic rights while defending a marital practice that to most people seemed relentlessly patriarchal?” That’s the question addressed by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in her latest book, A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 (see p. xiii).
But Ulrich’s book is about more than polygamy and women’s rights. It’s a bold new social and cultural history of early Mormonism more broadly, as seen in the earliest and most personal writings of many overlooked figures of Mormon history.
Pulitzer and Bancroft-prize winner Laurel Thatcher Ulrich joined host Blair Hodges to talk about A House Full of Females at Provo, Utah in March when she offered a lecture sponsored by the BYU Women’s Studies program, department of history, and Maxwell Institute. A video of that lecture will be available in the coming weeks.
About the Guest
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, of Sugar City, Idaho, is a professor of history at Harvard University. She has served as president of the American Historical Association and the Mormon History Association. Her book A Midwife’s Tale received the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize. Her latest book is A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870.
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