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Natalie R

An Unlikely Partnership? Orrin Hatch and the Founding of National Women’s History Month, Part 3

By March 31, 2016


This is the third and final post in a series about Orrin Hatch’s role in the National Women’s History Week/Month in the context of the backdrop of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Last time when I left off, I intended to explore the process under which both Senator Orrin Hatch

Barbara Mikulski on Meet the Press, 1983

Barbara Mikulski on Meet the Press, 1983

and then Representative Barbara Mikulski came to co-sponsor National Women’s History Week. This partnership is very curious given many of their seemingly diametrically opposed views. Mikulski was an advocate for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In 2012, as a senator, she cosponsored a bill with others to reintroduce the amendment for ratification. Most of the news coverage I found that included both Orrin Hatch and Barbara Mikulski focused on the heated debate over the Equal Rights Amendment.

My working argument throughout this series has been that the co-sponsorship of National Women’s History Week was an effort to demonstrate bipartisanship during the otherwise contentious time concerning women’s rights during this period. I do not diminish Women’s History Week as a “token” effort to show cooperation during this time, as it was a much-needed recognition during a time when other weeks and months were being set aside to celebrate the historical achievements of non-white men in power.

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An Unlikely Partnership? Orrin Hatch and the Founding of National Women’s History Month, Part 2

By March 23, 2016


Photo Courtesy of U.S. Senate Historical Office Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks at one of his first Senate hearings. Right from the start, he was active on labor and judicial issues.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Senate Historical Office
Sen. Orrin Hatch speaks at one of his first Senate hearings. From SL Tribune

This is part 2 in a 3 part series about Women’s History Week/Month and Orrin Hatch.
The late 1970s and early 1980s was a time of transformative change for the women’s movement and American women’s political activism in general. From well-known feminists like Betty Friedan, who fought for the passage of the amendment, to Phyllis Schlafly, whose STOPERA campaign innervated once politically apathetic women to political action, the campaign for and against the Equal Rights Amendment demonstrated the power of women’s political mobilization to sway the American public opinion.

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An Unlikely Partnership? Orrin Hatch and the Founding of National Women’s History Month, Part 1

By March 10, 2016


This month is National Women’s History Month in the United States. The founding of women’s history week, which was later made a full month, can be read here. Integral to this celebration and recognition of women’s history was a Congressional Resolution for National Women’s History Week cosponsored by Representative Barbara Mikulski and Senator Orrin Hatch in 1981. The unlikely partnership of Hatch, a conservative of Mormon Utah, and Representative Mikulski, a democrat from Maryland, made many take notice. A 1982 article described the reaction including that of Gerda Lerner, the historian responsible for the first graduate programs in women’s history and author of seminal women’s history texts:

A resolution was pushed through Congress by two most unlikely allies, conservative Orrin Hatch and liberal Barbara Mikulski. A proclamation was then signed by President Reagan who commented: “The many contributions of American women have at times been overlooked in the annals of American history.

This brought wry smiles from Gerda Lerner, the first female president of the Organization of American Historians. “I can’t think what was in the minds of the people in Congress who sponsored it,” she said. “I suppose it shows that supporting women’s efforts legitimize their own past something that is a nonpartisan endeavor if ever there was one.”

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Seeing Religion (or Mormonism) Whenever I Teach

By September 24, 2015


This semester I am teaching both halves of American history at a small liberal arts college.  As a historian of American Religion, I tend to look for religion in whatever I am teaching at the moment. But then there is the nagging question of “because it is my specialty, do I always look for it?” and “Is it relevant?” Well, of course, it is. The same thing could be said for gender, race, class, ethnicity, etc. Religion (or if we want to call it a belief-system, meaning-making, what have you) is everywhere.

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My Dissertation Writing Process Tools (or how I almost got it done)

By May 29, 2015


I have been absent from the blog for quite some time (yes over a year 🙁 ) But I am back to write about…my dissertation writing process. Future posts will be back to our fave topic of Mormon history. However, I know many of us are writers, researchers, and scholars and are regularly engaged in some form of writing.

Now, this is not a prescriptive post about how to write the dissertation. In fact, it is far from it. Instead, I am going to share some of the tools that were and are essential to my writing.

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“The cheerless, crushed and unwomanly mothers of polygamy”

By May 14, 2014


When we decided to devote a month to women’s history beginning with mother’s day, I thought about how my research about Mormon girls and young women is also very much about hopes for the future mothers of the next generation of Mormon children. It is clear that the changing (both Mormon and non-Mormon) representations and experiences of Mormon women as mothers is an integral aspect of the church’s metamorphosis from being perceived as an outsider religion to becoming patriotic, religious Americans. A question along the lines of “how did Mormon women transition from a group of polygamist wives who fought for women’s suffrage to embodying the model of wholesome stay at home wives and mothers?” has dominated scholarly research about Mormon women’s history.

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Choosing Modesty

By March 27, 2014


By now most of us probably know about the story Hannah’s New Dress. I will let Peggy Fletcher Stack describe the scenario from her excellent and multilayered article Does Mormon Modesty Mantra Reduce Women to Sex Objects from from February 28th:

One of them tells of little Hannah, who wanted to wear to the zoo a red-and-white sundress that her grandma had given her, but she noticed it didn’t have any sleeves. So her mother put a T-shirt under it. “Now I am ready to go to the zoo,” said the child.

The message is implicit: modesty matters and should matter even to the youngest members of the church. What is most striking about this story is that the young girl is the one who recognizes the problems with the dress.

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Young girls in Primary in the 1920s and 1930s

By January 28, 2014


(or more accurately titled “How I Justify my Facebook Procrastination”)

A question I am usually asked about my research is why I end my study of Mormon adolescent girls and young women in 1930? The beginning year for my research 1869 is a pretty obvious choice—at least to me! 1869 is the year the Retrenchment Association was established and certain monumental events such as when the transcontinental railroad first traversed Utah and just a few short years before Mormon women could exercise suffrage in the territory. So why then end my study in 1930? First of all, the church celebrated its centennial year. Secondly, the year of 1930 (or thereabouts) is historiographically considered to be the end of the church’s transformation to be considered a part of mainstream America. In Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saint, 1890 – 1930, Thomas Alexander writes: “In the view of the relative isolation of Church members in the nineteenth century from the currents of social change in the remainder of the nation, the alteration of Mormon society by 1930 was nothing less than miraculous.” What did this so-called end of this transitional period specifically mean for adolescent girls and young women? Can it be considered a turning point for the young females adherents of the church?

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Is the Jewish Comparison a Helpful One?

By January 10, 2014


Note: the following books and article discussed are no by no me representative of the studies that look at Judaism and Mormonism in contrast. They are studies I happened to come across in my early days of reading about Mormon history. For example, I do not discuss Armand Mauss’s  All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (2003) because it was simply not a book I read until later in grad school. Also, while I am very interested in the discussing about Mormonism as an ethnicity, I don’t feel too qualified to discuss in such a brief post. Plus, it’s already been covered here at JI back in 2008 here and here.

During my seventy-two hour self-imposed house arrest during the latest snowpocalypse here in Michigan and the POLAR VORTEX!!! (OK those will be my only references to the weather), I had extra time to develop my first lecture for the American Jewish History class I am teaching this semester. I had the chance to sit through the class a few years and was very interested by one of the questions posed to the class: are Jews a nation, ethnicity, religion, race, or all of the above? The question is a provocative one and assumedly has varying answers depending on what sort of group you asking and what region/area you are asking it in.  I am sure there may be different answers in a religious studies class versus a history class, as well. I don’t remember they’re being a specific reached consensus on the answer from the class I sat in on, but I do remember they’re being arguments and understandings for a variety of answers.

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Guest post, Spencer Lincoln Green, Savage Nobles: Childhood in America and LDS Culture

By October 30, 2013


For our monthly series Childhood, Children, and Youth, we are excited to have a guest post from Spencer Green. Spencer is finishing a PhD in American Studies at Penn State Harrisburg. He focuses his research in folklore and environmental humanities, but as a past president of the Children’s Folklore Society, he makes frequent forays into LDS children’s folklore as well.

An article I wrote which is coming out in the next issue of the Children’s Folklore Review has made me think more about how Latter-day Saints in America view children and childhood. Nearly half of all speakers in General Conference will mention a child’s exemplary actions. This of course follows many scriptural precedents where members are instructed to ‘be as little children.’ The conspicuous absence in scriptures or general conference addresses of the crying, willful children present in pews every Sunday is understandable, but interesting. Pre-modern Europeans viewed children as little imps, devils or “hellions” as my mother was fond of saying. Despite all the facebook updates about how wonderful our children are, the popularity of sites like reasonsmysoniscrying.com attests to some recognition that this is more than a medieval view, so why the reluctance to speak of our little angel’s darker natures?

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Adolescence, Gendered Anxieties, and the Emergence of the YLMIA and YMMIA

By October 26, 2013


As I have been writing (or trying to write!) my dissertation of conceptions of and conversations about Mormon girlhood from the 1860s to the 1930s, I have been doing some thinking about how the development of adolescence as a new age categorization overlapped with Mormon concerns about youth. As part of the monthly series Childhood, Children, and Youth , I have offered some, perhaps, scattered historiographical thinking below about the development of the YLMIA and YMMIA in relationship to the emergence of age categorizations in gendered terms.

As many of us know the story: on November 28, 1869, Brigham Young stated the following:

There is a need for the young daughters of Israel to get a living testimony of the truth. Young men obtain this while on missions, but this way is not opened to the girls. More testimonies are obtained on the feet than on the knees. I wish our girls to obtain knowledge of the Gospel for themselves. For this purpose I desire to establish this organization and want my family to lead in the great work.[1]

The fact that young women did not have the same opportunities to learn about the religion that young men gained through serving missions was not lost on Brigham Young. However, instead of instituting a missionary for young women, to Brigham Young the most suitable solution for him seemed to put his most trusted female church members, his wives, daughters, and their close friends, to the challenging task of forming a new organization, the Retrenchment Association, which would later become the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association.

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Guest Post, Amy Moore, “The Flapper Rose” and Other Warnings

By October 23, 2013


We are delighted to have  guest post written by Amy Moore  in our monthly series Childhood, Children, and Youth.  Amy writes “I graduated in 2011 from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in History Teaching.  Church history has always interested me, partly because I grew up near Kirtland, OH and was inspired by the lives and legacy of the early Saints.”

In the May 1929 issue of the YScreen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.38.42 AMoung Woman’s Journal (YWJ), Ruth May Fox wrote of an experiment.  After hearing that the life of a rose could be extended by applying heat, Fox took a “half-blown” rose she had received as a gift and held it to her heated stove.  The rose bloomed quickly and its color remained, but to her dismay, the rose lost its freshness and its life.  By forcing the rose to bloom prematurely, Fox destroyed a fundamental element of the flower’s beauty.  As president of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA), the young women’s auxiliary of the LDS Church, Ruth May Fox extended the lesson of her rose to adolescent girls: “Oh, I thought, how like the girl who has failed to appreciate and preserve her innocent beauty, but, longing to be grown up, has blossomed before her time.”  Fox called her experiment “The Flapper Rose.”[i]   

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Guest Post, Lisa Tait, Thinking Generationally

By October 22, 2013


As part of our monthly series Childhood, Children, and Youth, we are very pleased to have a post from Lisa Tait. She has recently joined the staff at the LDS Church History Library as a Historian and Writer, working on projects to expand the Church history web site. She has a PhD in American Literature from the University of Houston and researches late nineteenth/early twentieth century Mormon history, focusing on periodicals, women writers, and generational dynamics. She also serves on the executive committee of the Mormon Women’s History Initiative. In her spare time (which amounts to about ten minutes every other Saturday), she thinks about how much she would enjoy doing some hiking with her dog.

I am going to start with a few opening observations, by way of theory, and then present a case study.

My interest is not so much on childhood or youth specifically as it is on generational dynamics. The classic study on this subject is sociologist Karl Mannheim’s “The Problem of Generations.” Mannheim observes: “Different generations live at the same time. But since experienced time is the only real time, they must all in fact be living in qualitatively quite different subjective eras…. Every moment of time is therefore in reality more than a point-like event—it is a temporal volume having more than one dimension, because it is always experienced by several generations at various stages of development.”[1] Another study builds on Mannheim’s ideas to assert that history must be viewed in terms of “generational constellations”—that is, the “lineup of living generations ordered by phase of life.”[2]  Any given historical moment will be characterized by a particular lineup of generations, and members of those generations will therefore experience, participate in, and react to those events according to their position on that generational spectrum.

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Girls Go Scouting: the Bee-Hive Girls and Pioneer Girls

By October 14, 2013


As part of our monthly series on childhood and youth, I asked a colleague from Michigan State University Rebecca A. Koerselman to co-author a post with me. Rebecca received her Ph.D. in history from MSU where she wrote her dissertation on the construction of evangelical identity through youth and summer camps in the post world war II era. Now she lives in Shawnee, OK where she teaches in the history department at Oklahoma Baptist University and in her words “lives the dream.”  Over the years, we have had many conversations about how Evangelical and Mormon adults, despite religious differences, had similar concerns and reactions to fears about how each group’s youngest members would subsume and maintain their religious identities, and, in turn, guarantee the future of these religious traditions.

One specific way that both Mormons and Evangelicals[1] contended with their fears about the maintenance of their religion through the next generations was to offer wholesome leisure and recreation opportunities for young children. These programs were usually tailored toward the assumed specific needs of each gender. For the purposes of this blog post, we will examine the development of scouting oriented programs for young women.  A comparative examination of the ways that Mormons and Evangelicals encouraged appropriation of proper gender roles through these scouting programs reveals how each religious tradition attempted to achieve the same goal of engaging their youngest adherents. Adult religious leaders did not just promote and develop their own youth programs as a means of offering wholesome entertainment, but they believed that these programs were vital toward the perpetuation of new generations of believers.

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Monthly Theme: Childhood, Children, and Youth

By October 2, 2013


“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” the statement released by the church in September of 1995 declares that “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” These words first read aloud in September of 1995 by church president Gordon B. Hinckley were another powerful iteration among many since the church’s early days that reaffirmed the theological and cultural significance of children within Mormonism.

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Mormon Studies Weekly Roundup (MSWR)

By September 22, 2013


Time for another weekly news roundup!

Since it’s college football season, what no better place to start than with last night’s BYU v. Utah game. (I am going to make the assumption that a fair share of our readers watched or at least knew about last night’s game in which Utah came out victorious with a score of 20 to 13). This article from KSL features an interesting map of where the highest concentrations of Utah and BYU fans live along the Wasatch front. In summary: if you are a Utah fan avoid Highland and if you root for the Cougars avoid Cottonwood Heights.

After you’re done perusing the map move along to Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article that outline’s the church’s newer and subtler “post-Prop 8” strategy to deal with proposed gay marriage legislation in Hawaii. In a September 15th letter, LDS leaders in Hawaii urged church members to review “”The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in addition to contacting member of the Hawaii Legislature to voice their opinions.

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Placing the Short Creek Raid in the Context of the Cold War

By August 29, 2013


Ever since rereading Elaine Tyler May’s Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era for a second time during my first year of my PhD coursework, I became curious about how Mormon families, especially in the heart of the Mormon Culture Region, fit within the context of the idealized suburban Cold War family. I questioned how the religion’s history as an “outsider” religion and group in the nineteenth century and the church’s long (and arguably an ongoing) transition, more or less, into the mainstream United States affected the typical monogamous Mormon family’s position and feelings of belonging and/or outsiderhood in the post-World War II era.  When pondering these questions, it is impossible to ignore the Short Creek Raid of 1953. The July 26th raid occurred during the especially heightened summer of 1953.  Just over a month before the raid,  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the infamous American accused of espionage, specifically passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union, were executed.  Additionally, during the same week as the armistice for the Korean War was signed. The Short Creek Raid is not merely an event that matters within Mormon history but is illustrative of larger fears of deviancy that plagued the United States throughout the Cold War era.

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Did her Religion Matter? Lenore Romney as Political Wife and Candidate

By July 24, 2013


Lenore_Romney_1970_campaign_commercialThe deceased Lenore Romney, the mother of 2008 and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the wife of republican governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969 George Romney, came into the spotlight in 2012 when both Time Magazine and the Washington Post featured stories that covered her effect on her son’s political career. Both stories featured her failed run for a senate seat in Michigan in 1970.  Compared to the contemporary images of Ann Romney as a housewife, what was most striking about these stories was not that Lenore Romney did not win the election for the U.S. senate seat but that she had run for office at all. It is necessary to note that Ann Romney also did actually run for and win a public office position  in the 1970s. She was elected as the town meeting representative in Belmont, Massachusetts in 1977.[1] However, probably because she has not pursued her own political career, the story has fallen mostly by the side after her husband stepped into political spotlight.

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Conference Report: Society for the History of Childhood and Youth

By July 2, 2013


Last week I was finally able to attend the biennial conference for the Society for the History of Childhood and Youth (SHCY). I have been eager to attend this conference for a few years. This year the conference was held at the University of Nottingham, which allowed the Society to highlight its international focus.

I noticed several themes throughout the panel that I thought could enhance the study of children and religion—and in specific case, Mormonism. Before going any further, it would be remiss not to point out Rebecca de Schweinitz’s article on the historiography of Mormon childhood in the Spring 2012 issue of the Journal of Mormon History, which provides a detailed overview of work on Mormon children, childhood, and youth to the recent present.[1] De Schweinitz was also a founding member of SHCY when it first began in the early 2000s.

The first thematic question that drew my attention was

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The Jewish “Gentile” Governor: A Brief Snapshot of an Interaction between Jews and Mormons

By May 8, 2013


In my early years of graduate school, I became interested in a project that compared mainstream American attitudes toward Mormons and Jews during the Progressive Era. One night while looking around on the internet, I came across the name Simon Bamberger, the first Jewish, democratic, and non-Mormon governor of Utah. He served 220px-Simon_Bambergeras governor between January 1917 and January 1921. Born in Germany in 1846, he left for New York City as a teenager and eventually migrated to Utah in 1872. Throughout his years in Utah before he ran for governor, Bamberger ran two hotels and built a railway between Ogden and Salt Lake City. As the story goes, Bamberger’s supporters urged him to campaign in a community of Norwegian Mormon converts   where Bamberger was greeted by a Norwegian man who stated:

“If you tink ve let any damn Yentile speak in our meeting house, yure mistaken.” Bamberger replied: “As a Jew, I have been called many a bad name, but this is first time in my life I have been called a damned Gentile!” The Norwegian man changed his demeanor when he learned Bamberger was a Jew and enthusiastically proclaimed: “Hear him men, he’s not a Yentile, he’s a Yew, an Israelite. Velcome my friend; velcome, our next governor.”[1]

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