Eliza R. Snow as a Victim of Sexual Violence in the 1838 Missouri War– the Author’s Reflections on a Source

By March 7, 2016

Perhaps you have heard or read that I gave a talk called “Beyond Petticoats and Poultices: Finding a Women’s History of the Mormon-Missouri War of 1838” at the Beyond Biography: Sources in Context for Mormon Women’s History conference at Brigham Young University.  My paper sought to address the history of how women experienced the violence in Missouri, particularly as victims of sexual violence.  As part of that research, I examined the case study of Eliza R. Snow as a possible victim of a gang rape that might have left her unable to have children. Eliza R Snow I looked at a few of the rapes and attempted rapes in Missouri, recalled by various witnesses, legal testimonials, and personal accounts, with a discussion of why women are not specifically named in most sources. The scarcity and limitation of sources has presented historians with the difficulty of uncovering a history of sexual violence in Missouri, and of identifying actual victims. So I concluded with an examination of a primary source that amazingly came to me only three weeks prior to the conference, via a colleague who received it from a member of the family where the source is held. That source gives a description of Eliza’s rape, and its larger meaning in Snow’s life and possible motivations for her polygamous marriage to Joseph Smith.

The case of Eliza R. Snow has received considerable media attention in the last four days, and has invited many questions from those who have read the brief report in the Salt Lake Tribune and other outlets. A brief newspaper report, while introducing readers to this information, could not possibly address the larger history, context, and methodology I offered in my paper.  So, to that end, this post is meant to respond to those questions in brief, while also opening an important and ongoing conversation about the history of sexual violence in Church history, and the particular case of Eliza R. Snow.

The account comes from a portion of the autobiography of Alice Merrill Horne written in her later years. Horne was a member of the Utah State Legislature, a board member of the General Relief Society, and a famed art critic and patroness. Born in 1868, she was the granddaughter of Apostle George A. Smith and Bathsheba W. Smith, the 4th General Relief Society President, who was one of the original members of the Female Relief Society in Nauvoo in 1842, and close friend to Eliza R. Snow and other high leadership of the Relief Society in Utah Territory. Bathsheba’s granddaughter Alice remembered visiting her grandmother as a young girl, and hearing the elderly women of Mormonism reminisce about the early days of the Restoration. I quote here using Alice Merrill Horne’s own words: “The most important Mormon women of the nineteenth century often gathered at the Smith home abutting the Church Historian’s Office.” Alice would “sit on her grandmother’s lap and listen, catching . . . the whispered word unraveling, spelling, and signs made by those ladies.” It was there, at one of these rendezvous of feminine confidences, young Alice overheard the account of the brutal gang rape of Eliza R. Snow. “There was a saint—a Prophetess, a Poet, an intellectual, seized by brutal mobbers—used by those eight demons and left not dead, but worse. The horror, the anguish, despair, hopelessness of the innocent victim was dwelt upon. [W]hat [sic] future was there for such a one? All the aspirations of a saintly virgin—that maiden of purity—had met martyrdom!” In this case, the rape left its victim not only emotionally scarred, but also permanently affected. Eliza R. Snow would never be able to have children.

Horne links Eliza’s inability to bear children in part to the decision to marry Joseph Smith polygamously in Nauvoo, Illinois. To her, the connection was clear: “The prophet heard and had compassion. This Saint, whose lofty ideals, whose person had been crucified, was yet to become the corner of female work. To her, no child could be born and yet she would be a Mother in Israel. One to whom all eyes should turn, to whom all ears would listen to hear her sing (in tongues) the praises of Zion. She was promised honor above all women, save only Emma, but her marriage to the prophet would be only for heaven.”

So, with that brief introduction to the source upon which I am basing my argument for Eliza R. Snow’s rape, I want to address the four most significant questions that I am receiving from online forums, colleagues, and friends.

1. The first question has to do with the authenticity of the source itself. Admittedly, the source is problematic, as a hearsay account written forty or fifty years later from the memory of a young girl, listening to elderly women describe something that had happened thirty years before. Without apparent corroboration from Eliza herself or other sources, this source on its own might be worthy of dismissal. Audience attendees, as well as online commenters, have sought clarification on this point. And justifiably so. Here are some of my thoughts, lettered a through f:

a. What I “revealed” last Thursday is not necessarily new information. I first heard of the rumor probably ten years ago from Eliza’s biographer, Jill Mulvay Derr, who discussed it with me when the question of the Emma-Eliza stairs story came up at an MHA conference. Further, Derr had at times discussed Eliza’s possible rape in some semi-public forums, which were then reported in various blogs. What made my presentation unique from Derr’s is that I had access to and presented the official source publicly at this official conference.  Further, Derr has argued that Eliza’s poetry about Missouri exposed a particular rage, as well as carefully-worded and brutal descriptions of the Missouri mob violence, while not going into specifics about herself. Not a smoking gun, but certainly contextually significant. I discuss some of these poems and interpretive frameworks in my paper.

b. Horne’s account is not distant and vague; its language and tone are personal, intimate and familiar.  Horne gives no indication at all that she didn’t get the information from Eliza herself. In fact, later in the document, Horne describes in detail her personal relationship to Eliza R. Snow, as a mentor and friend and Relief Society leader. By virtue of being the granddaughter of one of Snow’s best friends, and in spite of her age difference to the elder leader, Alice apparently enjoyed some kind of intimacy with the Presidentess. I consider it unlikely that Horne would have reported an account of this severity without some kind of prior communication and verification from Eliza herself.

c. The source comes from Alice Merrill Horne, not some easily discounted anonymous or outside observer. In other words, she was no yahoo. Horne was well-respected, educated, influential, widely published, and connected to the highest circles of church leadership. By virtue of her reputation and her social and religious credentials, it is difficult to dismiss the source outright as the ramblings of an unknown, a fame-seeker, or a gossip.

d. Alice’s motives are not to debase or disrespect Eliza R. Snow, but to describe how she overcame great trial and struggle to become the spiritual, political, and artistic leader that she was. Horne viewed Eliza’s life as a triumph over tragedy and constructed it as such. Given that construction, what possible other motives could she have in describing it as she did? As a private autobiography that went unpublished, she did not receive money or fame for the disclosure. But she apparently intended it, in part, as an instructive lesson for her descendants or the larger membership of the Church, on how an important Mormon leader and the most famous Mormon woman was able to overcome a violent crime and still make a successful life.

e. The importance of “institutional” family memory is worth consideration here. Memory is tricky, especially when disseminated through families, it becomes like a game of telephone, with details and interpretation changing with each telling. And yet, in each family,  life-changing events of the past become part of the self-identification and group construction of that family, and are sometimes remembered quite clearly. I can’t remember when my father’s family first told me about the tragic death of their grandmother in 1925 from complications related to childbirth. And yet, I heard the story so often that I knew it completely changed the trajectory of my grandmother’s life and the lives of her siblings. So much, that the stories of two step-mothers, some child abuse, and the young children shuttered from home to home during the Great Depression were often the subject of dinnertime conversations and family gatherings well until my grandmother’s death. And at some time in my young life, I remember hearing my grandmother’s own account of the day her mother died. She went into her parents’ bedroom, saw her mother lying on the bed (there might have been blood on the sheets or not, that is unclear in my memory) and my great-grandmother softly said, “Bee, I need you to go get your daddy.” My great-grandmother died that day. If I ever write my family history, I will include a tragic moment witnessed and remembered only by an eight-year-old girl in 1925, without corroboration, shared with a granddaughter in the 1980s, and written down here in 2016. Similarly, Horne’s 1930s account of Eliza R. Snow’s 1838 rape invites us to consider the possibilities and limitations of individual and institutional memory and how it is transmitted.  Perhaps Horne remembered details of Eliza’s rape incorrectly:  were there eight assailants, or just one?  Were there more? The various accounts of gang rapes from the Missouri period list many different numbers.  Lack of clarity on details doesn’t mean that the rape didn’t happen at all, since it was significant enough for her to include fifty years after first hearing it.

f.  If readers are still not convinced of the authenticity of this source, I readily invite those concerns in the comments here.  But, as a preview, I offer the (hopefully) future publication of my research, which will include at least one corroborating source on Eliza that has been given to me in the last few days.  I am eager to explore other primary accounts of the Missouri violence as Mormon women experienced it.  Further, I am keen to consider what a rape account might look like, if passed down through family memory.  I think it would look exactly like this one.

2. Eliza and Emma and the infamous stairs story. This story is persistent and tenacious. It was the very first question I received in the Q & A following my presentation, and I have received many more questions about it. It boils down to whether Eliza’s ability to have children could possibly have been “damaged” from Missouri, when she was supposedly pregnant and miscarried in Nauvoo. The stairs story has largely been discounted by many historians, including Richard Bushman, Linda King Newell, Valeen Tippetts Avery, and Derr herself, as apocryphal, as motivated by anti-Emma sentiments in the 1870s, and as a way of sensationalizing the Nauvoo polygamy experience. It is impossible to cover the Emma-Eliza stairs story here, but I offer for your consideration, JI’s Amanda’s overview here, as well as Brian Hales’s examination of the same here. I am sure that comment on this post will address this event, and I invite those discussions as we complicate Eliza’s narrative in light of the account of her rape.

3. Eliza’s supposed infertility or inability to have children. No one knows why Eliza R. Snow couldn’t have children. She was 34 years old when she experienced the Missouri violence, and 38 when she married Joseph Smith, and 41 when she married Brigham Young.  Her age might have precluded being able to conceive as easily had she been in her twenties. But, without the obstetric knowledge that might have diagnosed some kind of trauma to her reproductive organs, or some other condition unrelated to age or rape, it is highly improbable for historians to give her a posthumous diagnosis. But, if the Horne account is accurate, it appears that Eliza herself considered the Missouri rape to be the cause of her infertility. Does that mean the rape was so violent that her internal organs were damaged? Does it mean that she was unable to have intercourse at all, either from emotional or physical trauma? Or did she perhaps acquire a sexually transmitted disease like chlamydia or gonorrhea?  Both of which are known to cause pelvic inflammatory disease that can scar the fallopian tubes, cause inflammation of the uterus, and make it impossible to bear children.  In a pre-antibiotic era, such an infection would have gone unchecked to the point of incurable damage.  It is impossible to know. But this account offers an alternate explanation for Eliza’s infertility that counters the dubious stairs-miscarriage story.

4. The fourth question I have heard is whether I am using the Eliza case to defend or justify polygamy, according to Horne’s description, and my Tribune statement, which has received much criticism for being an apology for polygamy. I did not intend it that way. Let me be quite clear on this point: The origins and practice of Mormon polygamy, as introduced by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, are complex, multi-faceted, and difficult to pin down with uniformity or consistency. Before I had seen the Horne source, I had often wondered at the connections between the traumas that women experienced in Missouri and the origins of polygamy, in that Mormon male leadership had felt incapable of protecting women from mob assaults. The vulnerability that women felt perhaps fostered a climate whereby celestial marriage offered solace, protection, or some kind of spiritual connectivity that kept the community cemented together in the face of danger. The Horne document presented me with evidence of the possibility that Joseph offered, and Eliza accepted, a polygamous marriage as a way of providing spiritual comfort in the absence of earthly justice. I am interested in exploring this question, but I also invite readers not to project their issues with Joseph Smith onto a topic which I have intended to bring historical attention to very real and violent crimes committed against Mormon women. I am merely trying to understand how Eliza viewed her polygamous marriage to Joseph Smith as a response to her own personal circumstances, and that is a fair historical question to ask.

Finally, I hope that readers will consider the impact of knowing Eliza’s status as a rape victim.  I worried, even agonized over revealing this brutal part of her past, that those who cherish her memory would consider her identity somehow changed by this. I am mindful of those who think I was wrong to reveal this at all, but I stand by what I did. If we seek to conceal this crime against her out of some kind of protective impulse, I believe that we are perpetuating the idea that rape brings shame to its victims.  What are your thoughts on this, readers?  I do think Eliza would want to be remembered for the wholeness of her amazing life, her poetry and hymns, her Relief Society leadership, her role in significant Restoration and pioneering events, and her contributions to Mormon women then and today.  Her story humanizes and feminizes an event that has always been told as a story of male war, male imprisonment, and male victimhood.  She unsilences the silenced.  And yet, her victimhood does not and will not define her, but this new knowledge has the potential to bring hope and healing to other victims of sexual violence among our Church membership and others, for whom Eliza provides an emulative model of strength, hope, faith, and resilience.  Whether as a historian or a Mormon woman, that is my main purpose in sharing Eliza’s story.

Article filed under Announcements and Events Biography Gender Memory Polygamy Reflective Posts Research Tools Responses Women's History


Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Andrea. This is a fascinating insight into both an important and difficult part of the Mormon past and historical methodology as it relates to the source(s) that document that point.

    Comment by Christopher — March 7, 2016 @ 7:26 am

  2. You’re a saint, Andrea; this is important research, both for the historical community and the Mormon community writ large. I hope that readers encountering this for the first time recognize 1) that you’ve been working on this for a long time, and this isn’t a conclusion you jumped to quickly, and 2) that your paper digs into sexual violence more broadly, as this is just one of many cases. As you say, this lens should change how we view the Missouri War on many fronts.

    My two thoughts:

    1) As I’ve told you, I approach this issue with this question: if Eliza were raped in 1838, what would the evidence look like? Because of the culture of shame and silence, women wouldn’t (and didn’t) write about it. Men wrote about the rapes, but always erased the names. So you could have circumstantial evidence, like Eliza’s poetry, which you mention. And you’d have oral traditions passed down in intimate settings and perhaps not written down until someone is two or three generations removed, of which we have two accounts in this instance (including the Horne reference). So what would evidence for Eliza’s rape look like? Exactly like this.

    2) This is radical speculation, but I do wonder if there is a connection with the “stairs” story. Not to a real stairs incident, but to the story: what if the Snow descendants, who passed along the story generations later, sought for a way to explain her infertility while also maintaining her “virtue,” so to speak. And knock Emma down a peg at the same time.

    Again, this is important work, Andrea. It was an honor to hear the paper in person, and I hope to see it in published form as soon as possible.

    Comment by Ben P — March 7, 2016 @ 7:43 am

  3. Thank you so much, Andrea. It’s interesting to read more into your paper and I anxiously await the full publication.

    I can’t help but raise another sensitive issue around this topic, and I hope my words will be taken in the spirit they’re intended. I noticed all of the criticisms of the source and your paper, at least those I saw online, come from men. Which isn’t to say that makes any criticism moot, but to suggest this is precisely why there’s a huge value to having women write history to provide a perspective and a voice that might otherwise be lacking or might not be able to read between the lines, so to speak. So I thank you and Jill Derr and others for shining a light on a topic that, frankly, I probably would miss in my own readings.

    Comment by John Hatch — March 7, 2016 @ 7:52 am

  4. Thanks, ARM. This is important work. Your presentation Thursday was sensitive and nuanced and you have extended that here. Thank you for offering something more substantive than the unfortunate headlines.

    I believe Alice Merrill Horne and believe that Eliza is a powerful example of healing and restoration. As you said on Thursday, this is not just a Mormon woman, this is The Mormon woman.

    Comment by JJohnson — March 7, 2016 @ 7:55 am

  5. Excellent treatment of a difficult and nuanced topic, Andrea. I appreciate the time you’ve put in to this response!

    Comment by ETJenkins — March 7, 2016 @ 8:06 am

  6. Thanks, Andrea. I too feel privileged that I was able to be present for your paper on Thursday. It was powerful and delivered in a sensitive manner. I’m also glad that you blog at the JI and that you’re using the blog to address questions and further illuminate the methodological issues at play here. As for your broader historiographical/cultural interests, I eagerly await your published work on this: “Her story humanizes and feminizes an event that has always been told as a story of male war, male imprisonment, and male victimhood. She unsilences the silenced. And yet, her victimhood does not and will not define her, but this new knowledge has the potential to bring hope and healing to other victims of sexual violence among our Church membership and others, for whom Eliza provides an emulative model of strength, hope, faith, and resilience.”

    Comment by David G. — March 7, 2016 @ 8:55 am

  7. Thanks as always for your careful, meticulous & responsible history-making on this topic; I am so grateful for your scholarship and the exemplary historical empathy and methodology you bring to it. There is no one I would rather trust with a thorny and potentially explosive historical revelation; I’m grateful for your paper, wish I could have heard it in person, and look forward to its publication.

    Comment by Tona H — March 7, 2016 @ 8:55 am

  8. I’m grateful for your thoughtful, careful, and responsible work on this difficult topic. Thank you!

    Comment by Jason K. — March 7, 2016 @ 8:57 am

  9. Andrea, thanks for taking the time to address some of the questions and concerns regarding the historicity of this claim. It was an interesting and enlightening read.

    Personally, I believe that this historical fact, if true, will help a lot of victims of rape among the Church. It may give a sense of light and hope and take away that negative false feeling of guilt. I sometimes notice a stigma among American attitudes that have leaked into the minds of some Church members that women who are victims of rape are some sort of unchaste woman who did something wrong. I am glad this is not the attitude reflected by the First Presidency, however, when they say things like “[v]ictims of abuse should be assured that they are not to blame for the harmful behavior of others. They do not need to feel guilt.” But, nonetheless, I am sure there are some who DO feel guilty. And knowing that an iconic woman figure like Eliza Snow has been through the same things might give hope for some.

    These thoughts, of course, are merely preliminary. I wonder what others think too.

    Comment by Eric Lopez — March 7, 2016 @ 9:17 am

  10. Andrea, thank you very much for taking the time to write this up. It helpfully clarifies and expands your argument, and generously provides the original source so that readers can evaluate it independently.

    To John’s point, I am a woman who, with great respect for Andrea and with affirmative interest in her larger exploration of sexual violence in Missouri, remains unconvinced that the source here constitutes strong enough evidence to raise the likelihood of a sexual assault on Eliza above the level of “suggestive but unconfirmed possibility.”

    In particular, I find it unsupported to suggest that the possible assault caused Eliza’s infertility. At *most* it seems we can say that Alice Merrill Horne believed that Eliza believed that her infertility was caused by the rape. This would be a deeply important finding in itself, one that sheds important light on Eliza’s psychology and on the meaning of her life for early Mormon women. But it’s a different claim than the claim that the assault caused Eliza’s infertility, and that’s a distinction that newspaper reporters can grasp and historians should take pains to emphasize.

    Now, I am not an historian, so of course I remain tentative and open to the informed opinions of actual historians–like Andrea! But what I have grasped about source criticism, largely from reading critical accounts of Mormon history, is that sources recorded long after the fact at second (or third) hand are not reliable *as evidence for actual happenings*. Of course, they reliably and importantly convey plenty of other rich cultural information and may (and should!) by examined in that way. If I’m wrong about this, I’m happy to take correction.

    In particular, I find it unlikely that a girl young enough to sit on her grandmother’s lap (what, 9 or 10 at the oldest?) would have the understanding to decode veiled and hushed allusions to sexual violence, especially in that era of reticence on sexual topics. I simply find that implausible. I find it much more likely that she encountered the rumors as an adult and projected them backward to that scene. I believe that, in fact, she would have had many motivations to do so, none malicious or salacious but nevertheless interested: 1) re-framing the origins of polygamy in a manner more acceptable to the post-polygamy era; 2) presenting Joseph in a gentle and domesticated mode more acceptable to the settled neo-Victorianism of Deseret; and 3) shaping Eliza’s life story as one of heroic triumph over unspeakable hardship.

    My continued caution notwithstanding, and despite our differences in evaluating the evidence, I admire Andrea’s important work here and deeply appreciate her bringing it to light. I’m more informed on a topic I had only cursory acquaintance with before, and I have a larger context for making sense of the Missouri and Nauvoo periods, as well as the meaning of those periods for Deseret Mormons 70 years later. Thank you, Andrea!

    Comment by Rosalynde — March 7, 2016 @ 9:21 am

  11. Thanks, Andrea. I wasn’t able to hear the paper and it’s good to see some of the reasoning behind it!

    I think your last question is a good one–and the sentiment behind saying, no, if I were Eliza, I wouldn’t want this known of me (which was my first reaction), needs further unpacking. Because I do think you’re right: covering this up does ascribe shame to Eliza, when there is no need for it. Eliza can stand as an ultimate example of what many of us unfortunately already know: how to move on after trauma and how to make your life and your experiences count.

    Comment by Saskia — March 7, 2016 @ 9:29 am

  12. Andrea, I can personally confirm that your careful and sensitive work has already helped one victim of sexual assault. Thank you.

    Comment by Cynthia L. — March 7, 2016 @ 9:39 am

  13. Andrea, thank you for this very careful commentary on the issues surrpounding the source and its disclosure. I did see a fair amount of criticism online from various directions, but FWIW I thought you were very responsible and that this careful disclosure was the right thing to do.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — March 7, 2016 @ 10:18 am

  14. Thank you for filling in some of the blanks for me, too far away to have attended the conference. Hearing about this on Twitter had a sensational air to it that your explanation of sources here alleviates. You are to be commended (and have been here) for your thoughtful consideration of the sources, and what they might mean. This is important work that will have a lot of impact in many different ways, especially for those who are themselves victims of sexual violence. Breaking the silence helps.

    Comment by kevinf — March 7, 2016 @ 10:35 am

  15. Thanks to Andrea for bringing this new document to light. Her analysis is appreciated and insightful.

    An May 30, 1877 letter from Eliza to Daniel Munns has not be cited much in the responses to Andrea’s Thursday presentation. Coming directly from Eliza, it may have importance: http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/JS0883.pdf

    Best,

    Brian Hales

    Comment by Brian Hales — March 7, 2016 @ 10:39 am

  16. I cannot wait to read this paper in full and have been anxious for more context and information ever since the story of your presentation broke. I am a scholar of Mormon women’s life writing myself, and the ways you describe how the incident is recorded rings true. Thank you for this outstanding work.

    Comment by Emily Ward — March 7, 2016 @ 10:49 am

  17. Was this or any of the other sessions recorded? If so, will they be available online?

    Thank you.

    Comment by Pete — March 7, 2016 @ 11:54 am

  18. Thank you Andrea. Knowing there was a strong possibility Eliza was a victim of mob violence (and/or cared for other victims) does create a monumental change in how I consider her life and leadership.

    Comment by Ruth Anne Shepherd — March 7, 2016 @ 11:57 am

  19. I am sorry that I missed the conference last week, and am grateful to learn more about your paper and source here. I look forward to reading your future work on this topic.

    Alice Merrill Horne’s use of the language of “martyrdom” to describe a loss of fertility or other “aspirations of a saintly virgin” seems quite provocative. It also seems to fit with her assertion that ERS’s fate was “worse” than death. Do other sources about early Mormon women’s experiences of violence also characterize female survivors as martyrs?

    Comment by Megan Falater — March 7, 2016 @ 12:09 pm

  20. The claim here is that the Missouri Militia were the rapists. One of their commanding officers was Alexander Doniphan. The idea that Joseph would present evidence to property damage and theft to Alexander, but not tell him about the rape of a prominent and respected woman seems unlikely.

    Is there any evidence that Doniphan interrogated troops or launched an investigation over rape of the Mormons?

    Would this not be counter evidence that a rape occurred (of anyone) if the militia did not engage in any such investigation. Doniphan was as friendly to the Mormons as any one ever was and he had the power and legal standing to do such an investigation; as well as the moral conviction to see officers or soldiers who did such a thing punished.

    Thanks.

    Comment by MIthryn — March 7, 2016 @ 12:45 pm

  21. Andrea,

    Thank you for taking the time to add context for those of us who didn’t attend the conference last week and have only read the news stories about your presentation. This additional information helps. I have just a couple follow up questions.

    1. The SLTrib quotes you as saying that the Mormon founder Joseph Smith “offered her marriage as a way of promising her that she would still have eternal offspring and that she would be a mother in Zion.” In the above OP you say “The Horne document presented me with evidence of the possibility that Joseph offered, and Eliza accepted, a polygamous marriage as a way of providing spiritual comfort in the absence of earthly justice.”

    I’m no historian, but this seems like a real speculative stretch. Alice Horne’s opinion on the possible explanation for Eliza’s plural marriage to Joseph may have no bearing on reality. Do we have any other evidence to corroborate this interpretation?

    2. “The source comes from Alice Merrill Horne, not some easily discounted anonymous or outside observer. In other words, she was no yahoo. Horne was well-respected, educated, influential, widely published, and connected to the highest circles of church leadership.”

    I’m trying to have an open opinion about Alice Horne’s writings, but honestly I just don’t see why we should trust them as accurate. She could be everything you’ve characterized, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a typical human with cultural biases and flawed memories etc. Without having read your full research, I worry that you’ve given Alice Horne too much credit and trust.

    Comment by hope_for_things — March 7, 2016 @ 12:56 pm

  22. Brava, Andrea! Thanks for this post and your analysis of the problems involved. I was skeptical after reading the Tribune’s story, but you have convinced me.

    Comment by Polly Aird — March 7, 2016 @ 1:18 pm

  23. While I don’t specifically know, I presume all the conference sessions were recorded and will eventually be posted online. I participated in the joint BYU/Church History Department Conference a few years ago, and that is what happened in that case.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — March 7, 2016 @ 1:35 pm

  24. Her name is Eliza R. Show Smith Young. The least you could do is to get her name right.
    She was married twice. Why do you ignore this when using her name?

    Comment by Aelph Young — March 7, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

  25. Joseph Smith III was under the impression that Eliza was a virgin at her death and there is a recounting of him asking Angus Cannon as much. Did this virginal reputation exist only in RLDS circles or was it more common than that?

    Comment by Jake D. — March 7, 2016 @ 1:53 pm

  26. Pro tip: When leaving a comment chiding others for not getting someone’s name right, make sure to take care and proofread carefully to ensure that you, yourself, get the name right before hitting “add comment.”

    Comment by Christopher — March 7, 2016 @ 1:54 pm

  27. It is the silence that gives these types of crimes power. The fact that women during that time period were often raped and victimized should be shared, so that we can know that they, through the power of Christ’s Atonement, were able to rise above those circumstances and heartaches to live whole and healthy, productive lives. Those who have been victimized in today’s society, need to know that healing is possible. That Christ understands our pains, as he has suffered their specific heartaches and responses to these tragedies. I think that we need to talk about all the aspects of our lives, and not just the happy ones. Otherwise, people will look back and think that our lives were easy, and that others will not understand the pain we go through. Knowing that others have faced such detrimental hurts and gone on, can give a tremendous amount of hope to those who suffer now. Keep sharing.

    Comment by Andrea Lauritzen — March 7, 2016 @ 1:57 pm

  28. Much of the skepticism seems to come from a simple-minded insistence on inflexible “rules” about interpreting historical records. “It’s a late account, therefore it must be wrong” betrays an amateurish inability to reason and evaluate. What happened to Eliza is important. How Andrea exercises professional judgment — a skill utterly unavailable to some of her critics — is equally as important.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 7, 2016 @ 2:35 pm

  29. Aelph, I think you’re being needlessly dogmatic about the name.

    First, although she married Brigham Young, she never took his name. The name she claimed at death and for her burial was Eliza Roxcy Snow Smith–no “Young.”

    Second, whie that is indeed the name she claimed at death, she was a published author, and her authorial name was Eliza R. Snow. That was the name she was known and went by for most of her life. I don’t think it is somehow inappropriate to use it.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — March 7, 2016 @ 2:36 pm

  30. I really liked the article. It being a generational memory made it even better. There is a binding of generations when memories are shared, even if flawed. It inflected was I saw as ultra feminism. A powerful secret binding the early women to the next generation. Important work. Great job.

    Comment by Shantel — March 7, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

  31. I knew there were rapes and murders that took place during the Missouri War, but I always felt it was brushed aside or glossed over in Church history. I don’t think it should take center stage, but I’m glad to know even someone as strong as Eliza Snow was affected by the brutality. And please, if you can disprove the Emma-stairs story, do so! I love Emma Smith and admire her so much, while being an anomaly among women in firmly believing that polygamy is a Celestial law and true!!

    Comment by Rochelle Hamel — March 7, 2016 @ 3:45 pm

  32. While I wouldn’t dismiss the claim, there isn’t any solid proof. If she told people about it, I would’ve thought she’d write about it in her journal, which would have been private. If she wanted people to know about it, there are ways she could have left her own account. As it is, she didn’t. I believe it’s a private matter; not because she should feel ashamed, but because she kept it private. I can only imagine how she might feel having her reproductive organs discussed and the cause of her not having children. Women who are raped should never feel ashamed; utilising an unverified claim isn’t the way to teach that. I’d far rather concentrate on all the good, positive and admirable things about her. If any church leaders made mistakes, rather than digging it over and over, we should remember that they’re just people. So are we. There has only ever been one perfect person. I believe the same goes for Emma Smith; she gets far too much grief. I can only imagine how I would’ve behaved if I’d had her life.

    Comment by Helen — March 7, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

  33. I commend you on acknowledging the strength of such Mormon women who pioneered the early days of our church, however I wish you had addressed her as a survivor rather than a victim of sexual abuse. Clearly this would better demonstrate her endurance as well as that of the truth of the doctrine having survived and triumphed over horrific trials to bear an even stronger testimony and a life in the service of God.

    Comment by Sister Camoline Owens — March 7, 2016 @ 6:24 pm

  34. I don’t see the real value in this research. Lots of assumptions. Just creates controversy.
    What does it have to do with anyone’s salvation. I gain infinitely more by reading the BOM.

    Comment by Dennis — March 7, 2016 @ 6:33 pm

  35. This is turning out to be a real litmus test for readers’ maturity, historical awareness, and ability to understand and assess historical sources.

    Comment by Anon today — March 7, 2016 @ 6:43 pm

  36. At this point in history, I believe whether or not Eliza R Snow was raped, if she wasn’t, then plenty of other women, certainly were. If she did indeed endure that horror, then I only have all the more respect for that admirable woman. If she didn’t, and the story was somehow put together incorrectly, then that’s okay with me too. We can only make connections with what we have before us. But overall this is about the woman we know and revere. This situation makes me review her life once more and have all the more respect for this amazing woman.

    Thank you for you research. Thank you for bringing some of the reality of those times to the forefront. I admire your work, and your courage in handling this the way you did, Andrea. I like to be able to consider what was “real” in any time period we examine as an LDS people.

    -Jan Johnson
    Washington

    Comment by Janet Johnson — March 7, 2016 @ 7:39 pm

  37. I have always loved Eliza R Snow, and was so excited when a volume containing all her poems was finally published. I’m 55, and in 1980 I was raped. I felt at the time that the Lord must hate me because I was unable to fight off my rapist. And the church at that time only had President Kimballs statement about better off dead, than to loose your virtue without a fight. I read a book back then by Susan Brownmiller called Men, Women, and rape, and was shocked when she said rapes had happened in Missiouri. As a life member of the church, I had never been told that. All these years later, I can only say, if I had known this way back then, I probably wouldn’t have felt the Lord hated me. So no matter what anyone else tells you, I say, thank you for helping bring these hidden stories to light. And any victim who suffers will find this story reassuring and encouraging in their healing journey back after sexual violence. I look forward to your published paper, book, or however this is published. And as a victim, you are right, this is good to know. I’d like to think that Eliza is smiling now, knowing her story can inspire so many hurting women. Thank you again.

    Comment by Kathryn Olson — March 7, 2016 @ 8:32 pm

  38. Dear Andrea, Thank you for this post.
    Eliza inspires me. She didn’t shake her fist at God, quit the Church, abandon her faith or become bitter. She is the epitome of posttraumatic growth. I love and appreciate Eliza all the more. She understands. She gets pain, trauma and crisis. She choose hope and healing through the atonement of our Savior.

    Since reading the article in the Tribune I have thought on the experience of Joseph Smith in the Richmond Jail. When the accounts of brutality including rape are boasted of by the guards and Joseph commands, “Silence ye fiends of the infernal pit! In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk or you or I die this instant!” I’ve wondered if enough was said by the guards that Joseph recognized some of the victims? I’ve wondered if he knew Eliza in particular was hurt because of their brutish description? If so, it makes the Richmond Jail story all the more poignant.
    Thank you Andrea.

    Comment by Tami Harris — March 7, 2016 @ 10:16 pm

  39. Thank you for posting this, for all your work and efforts in trying to discern a past so important to all of us then and now. Thank you for fighting on through it all, everyone.

    Comment by wreddyornot — March 7, 2016 @ 10:52 pm

  40. Andrea–I’m so grateful for you but dang I know how long it took to write this and the fact you have to take the time to write a beautiful demanding essay that gives you *no credit* on your c.v. and towards your justly deserved next promotion to justify long established feminist / subaltern / minority historiographical methods because people find it hard to believe that a woman in a war zone–a settler colonial aggression zone (Missouri! people! Missouri!)–was sexually assaulted. . . it would be a significant historical finding if there was no rape in such a context. exasperation for you and for us. thanks for backing her up, ardis. feminism still necessary. more feminism please. until people can wrap their heads around the fact that very well trained university historians are rigorous in their methods, that complicated methodological questions have been closely theorized, etc. and meanwhile, do you need someone to do your dishes, because i’ll drive up and do them and make you a lasagna. i have a feeling it’s been a long week for you. with respect, your colleague, jb

    Comment by Joanna B — March 7, 2016 @ 11:00 pm

  41. Andrea, I’m grateful you’ve decided not to hide this story of a real woman who influenced the RS and the LDS faith. You are correct in believing withholding the story would bring more shame to those who now need to hear this, like me. Many of us have been victims of sexual abuse. I have overcome mine although that does not mean it has no influence in my life. I had a very sacred experience when I knew Christ would heal me. He did. Reading this brings her to life for me, a real woman with real problems that we still deal with. It gives her life and emotion that I appreciate feeling. Thank you.

    Comment by Christina Cope — March 7, 2016 @ 11:31 pm

  42. It is interesting to me to find so many responses and even your timid approach to this topic as being new. Being raised in an LDS family full of family historians and geneaologists I have heard and understood from a very young age that the early saints suffered at the hands of the mob in this very real and very violent way. My understanding was that sometimes young girls and grown grandmotherly women alike had to endure such suffering. Many accounts of the hardships are more blandly stated in journals and histories given by the men in my family while the sisters writings tend to be full of emotions such as gratitude for our Savior Jesus Christ and the blessings they saw daily as they continued to push forward with hope anf faith. Your ‘source’ is so on par with what my experience has been that I cannot think of a more accurate way to collect an account of the event. I would probably have some doubt in the acurate details if they had been peinted in a newspaper or the veracity of a claim if it had been written in a history book due to the tender nature of the matter. When one wants to forgive, to move forward and to not give power to the agressor one does not draw attention to it unless it is to help oneself or others around you gather strength and courage to heal. If it was bitterness Eliza R. Snow had harbored all of these years than we would have an accurate account with details of each of the assailants. It is in her writings that I find a connection to empathy and understanding that can only come through a mothers true and pure sense of love for her aching and growing child. I hope that the debate over the veracity or validity of the source can end so we can at once, examine the example of healing and her very personal connection with her Heavenly home that the life of Eliza R. Snow so graciously affords us. Thank you for your paper

    Comment by Tgw — March 7, 2016 @ 11:55 pm

  43. Great job Andrea.
    Yes, it’s tricky distinguishing AMH’s own interpretation from what Bathsheba told her,
    and what Bathsheba said from what Eliza said — though AMH likely reported the basic facts accurately.

    I too wonder whether Eliza linked her rape and infertility, and how — as you say, whether it was an emotional, or a physical inability . . .
    I also wonder if the Eliza-Emma story was invented as an alternate explanation for infertility.

    AMH might be referring to social status (“Mother in Israel”) and the sealing rite (“marriage…only for heaven”), rather than babies in heaven, but it’s hard to know.

    I like your exploration of a link between Missouri violence and polygamy — the protection of a husband in the face of violence makes sense as another motive or justification, along with others.

    Comment by Maxine H. — March 8, 2016 @ 1:47 am

  44. Andrea, I ask for your permission to translate this into Spanish and post it in my JS page. I hope this way it would be enjoyed by more members of the church. I have read the article as well as the other published comments during last week, looking for one to translate that would include more from you. This is it. But I am asking for your approval first. Thanks for your inspiring work. Adrian.

    Comment by Adrián Arnould. — March 8, 2016 @ 5:58 am

  45. Andrea
    I was quite shocked when I heard the hullabaloo over the release of your research. I thought this was quite common knowledge. While certainly not an LDS pioneer scholar I was privileged to read the entire Women’s Exponent while in school as a research assistant. Those women frequently made mention of the crimes committed by the mobs back east – while never coming right out in their articles and saying “Eliza was raped”, I was under the impression that many of them suffered that same horror at the hands of the mobs. Who in the world could they have turned to for redress? The leaders of the mobs? The governor of Missouri?
    From the little background I have I feel this is totally within the realm of possibility. Your medical deductions are also correct (I have more experience with that). It was no shame on any of the women’s part if raped by ‘slime’, just as it was no shame on any of them if bit by a mosquito carrying typhoid. This just elevates Eliza in my mind. Keep up the great work!

    Comment by L Nielson — March 8, 2016 @ 10:59 am

  46. I compare the horrors Elizabeth Smart endured and overcame. Anyone in her presence feels of her power, her goodness, her purity of heart. And look at all the people she has and will continue to help through the sharing of her story.

    Comment by Abbie — March 8, 2016 @ 11:06 am

  47. I am grateful for you having shared this sad information on Eliza’s horrific experience. It only endears her all the more. It gives further depth and dimension to her character as we consider that hainous trial she endured and came out conquerer.

    Comment by Cindy — March 8, 2016 @ 11:33 am

  48. To Jake D-
    Virtue is something that can only be given away, not taken. If Eliza was raped, and did not engage in consensual sex, she indeed would have been considered a virgin. There seems to be some misconception in the world today that the breaking of the hymen is the one and true indicator of virginity, which is not the case. Virginity cannot be taken, it can only be given.

    Comment by Melissa — March 8, 2016 @ 11:42 am

  49. “If Eliza was raped, and did not engage in consensual sex, she indeed would have been considered a virgin….Virginity cannot be taken, it can only be given.”

    Don’t be absurd, Melissa. I don’t imagine you’re meaning to make light of the experiences of girls and women who have been raped, but virginity can indeed be taken by force. Virtue is a spiritual concept, and should be discussed separately from virginity, and not confused with it.

    Comment by Anon again today — March 8, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

  50. “I worried, even agonized over revealing this brutal part of her past, that those who cherish her memory would consider her identity somehow changed by this.”

    I am thankful that you agonized over this issue. It shows discretion on your part. Does this change my view of Eliza? Absolutely!!! However, not in the way that you fear. If anything this has elevated my opinion and love for this dear sister and the amazing things she accomplished in her life. However, I do not believe that dwelling on such topics is healthy. In other words, when you publish please do not allow this alleged rape to be what readers remember her by. We should remember her as a great woman who had overcome great evil and trial.

    Thank you for your insight.

    Comment by Don — March 8, 2016 @ 12:18 pm

  51. Where can I go to read more about this? Do you have it all written somewhere where I can read more, or is it written in some other format that you can share with others. I’d really like to learn more about this remarkable woman. I’ve always thought a lot of her, and would love to learn more. I find it inspiring, when I read about those I respect and admire, to hear or read about the trials they faced and overcame to become the amazing people we know today. Please let me know where I can learn more.

    Comment by Cambri Holden — March 8, 2016 @ 12:22 pm

  52. Thank you for your work on this, and for this followup post.

    Comment by Bro. Jones — March 8, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

  53. Wonderful article !
    With so much happening in the world today and so many victims, I am sure this article will assist in helping both male and female victims realize they are still whole and haven’t lost their divine self or potential.

    Comment by Deborah Levy — March 8, 2016 @ 1:23 pm

  54. Thank you for filling in a gap in our history.

    Comment by Larisa Schumann — March 8, 2016 @ 1:46 pm

  55. I’m not an historian in any sense. But, your research very logically comes to a horrific conclusion. Eliza Snow already seemed to scale great heights, but now she is an even greater example to me and how you can forge ahead even through awful circumstances. Thank you.

    Comment by Lisa MC — March 8, 2016 @ 1:48 pm

  56. I want to thank you for this insight. In trying to write my family history I have wondered whether it was right to include negative family stories. From this article I have decided to include all parts of family history, the good and the bad. I feel it is important for the truth to be told so future generations can see how ancestors have risen above adversity. This all makes sense to me. Thank you

    Comment by Deanna smart — March 8, 2016 @ 2:11 pm

  57. Even as a life long member of the Church, I had never heard any hint of this event. I have sometimes wondered if there were ever rapes among the violence against the early saints. Knowing this about Eliza R Snow just deepens my love and respect for her.

    Comment by Susan Call — March 8, 2016 @ 3:19 pm

  58. I saw a reference to your article in a fluff piece for the St George newspaper which compares Mormon women bloggers to Eliza. R. Snow. I am having a very difficult time making that thin connection. Anyway, that article led me to your research. Consequently, I have been thinking about your paper regarding Eliza R. Snow.

    First, I sincerely applaud you for putting yourself out there and for addressing women’s issues, specifically rape, and especially within the context of the early Mormonism. This is your wheelhouse. You have much to say and a lot of information to support your findings. My guess is your intent was to give a voice to this cause and I applaud your trying.

    Where I pushback, (And maybe I have missed something here. I sincerely hope I have), is that this is a scholarly paper not a literary, psychological or religious (belief) claim, for instance. You are making a historical claim. As such, I feel like your claim should be established in historical truth, not character references. For me, that is where your argument and authenticity claims fall apart. I think undermine the power of your conclusions by claiming them as fact (via your authenticity push-backs). You are thorough in your discussion of authenticity, presenting bullet points a. – f. to prove (defend) your argument. After reading your claims, I am finding many “good” character based claims, yet am still having trouble finding an authentic facts: “Horne’s account is not distant and vague; its language and tone are personal, intimate and familiar…”

    Additionally, you protect your argument/claim by discussing the tenuous nature of memory. I agree with you. Memory is tenuous. It is possible that through something such as the act of story-telling that the story could have changed, and I think that is ok. I think it is right to acknowledging these aspects upfront. Your audience can handle it. I think it is ok to make these same tenuous-styled claims about your finding. “I believe the story was told and recorded so it would stand to reason that this happened…” I also agree that within the context of men as the record-keepers it is nearly impossible to have an accurate account. Unfortunately, that was the context of Eliza R. Snow’s reality — a mans’ world, a world you have researched much more deeply than myself.

    In the end (or to respond to your request for pushback), I think you undermine your argument by claiming it as truth, or better, asserting the revealers of the truth you present are authentic sources, so therefore your claim must be true.

    (My analysis):Perhaps it is the nature of religious culture to “claim” truth, which enables us to bleed (merge) that sort of claim (speak) into a historical scholarly article. I am not sure… I do know that for myself that I feel your argument would hold much more weight and authenticity if you presented it as a belief, stating something such as, “I did the research. Here is what I found. I believe Eliza R. Snow was raped…”

    Comment by Beth — March 8, 2016 @ 5:40 pm

  59. As a licensed clinical social worker, I can hope this supposition will be helpful to victims who honor the memory of Eliza. As a niece of Alice Merrill Horne, I wish you had not imposed on her privacy nor Eliza’s.

    Comment by Nance Kohlert — March 8, 2016 @ 5:54 pm

  60. Thank you for this. I never really liked the stairs story. It was beneath both women. But this makes sense to me. It does not make Sister Snow a victim but a survivor. She could have become bitter and left the Church over what happened to her. Instead, she stayed crossed the plains, became a Relief Society president and is still inspiring women with her poetry even today. Yes, it was horrible that she experienced such violence. No woman should ever have that in her history. But what an example to those of us who do.

    Comment by Evelyn Harrington — March 8, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

  61. Hi Andrea,

    Thank you for bringing Alice Merrill Horne’s account to the fore.

    I agree that it is possible that Eliza R. Snow was raped as Alice reported. However if so, Eliza herself felt that was not the worst thing that could happen.

    As Eliza wrote in November 1842:

    To stand on virtue’s lofty pinnacle,
    Clad in the heav’nly robes of innocence,
    Amid that worse than every other blast–
    The blast that strikes at moral character
    With floods of falsehood foaming with abuse…–
    Thrown side by side and face to face with that
    Foul hearted spirit, blacker than the soul
    Of midnight’s darkest shade, the traitor,
    The vile wretch that feeds his sordid selfishness
    Upon the peace and blood of innocence–
    The faithless, rottenhearted wretch, whose tongue
    Speaks words of trust and fond fidelity,
    While treach’ry, like a viper, coils behind
    The smile that dances in his evil eye.–

    The man or men Eliza was calling vile wretch had not raped the innocent, but had seduced the innocent, for his “tongue speaks words of trust and fond fidelity…” This is not how one would describe a rapist.

    I am presuming the man Eliza characterizes as a “faithless, rotten hearted wretch” is amongst the men who seduced women in 1841-1842, as described in the 1842 victim testimonies of Catherine Laur Fuller, Margaret Nyman, Matilda Nyman, Sarah Searcy Miller, and Mary Clift. Mary’s testimony was recorded in the High Council Minutes. All the other victim testimonies were published, at least in part, in the newspaper in 1844, and the handwritten record of the 1842 testimonies is available for review.

    I see various possibilities for the stories Alice heard as a child.

    First, she understood correctly what the older women were whispering and hinting, and Eliza herself was raped by eight men in Missouri circa 1838.

    Second, she understood correctly that there had been a terrible rape but misunderstood when and where the rape occurred.

    Third, she correctly understood Eliza had been a victim of terrible perfidy, which violated women’s souls. This would have been co-mingled with stories of rapine. This could therefore be consistent with Eliza’s 1842 poetry and the reports that she was pregnant and fell, losing the unborn babe.

    Fourth, Alice could have incorrectly inferred Eliza was the victim of a rape that had actually been perpetrated against another woman. There are numerous possible victims, one of whom is Marietta Carter Holmes, who died in Nauvoo in August 1840 hours after being attacked by a band of men from Missouri. Eliza lived in the same households with Marietta’s widower from August 1842 through September 1843, suggesting why a rape of another woman might have been felt very closely. This last would be consistent with Eliza’s 1842 writings suggesting that seduction, rather than rape, was worse than every other blast.

    It is interesting to note that the death of Marietta Holmes is usually characterized as occurring during the flight from Missouri, though her death occurred in Nauvoo in 1840. Compton is one who perpetrated this error. In similar fashion, Alice would not have had a context for how vile abuse could have occurred outside of the Missouri troubles.

    Some day we shall know as we are known and will not have to look as through a glass darkly. I eagerly anticipate that day.

    Comment by Meg Stout — March 8, 2016 @ 7:34 pm

  62. I would point out that this snippet from Alice’s writings suggests something other than rape might have been convolved with rape:

    “There was a saint—a Prophetess, a Poet, an intellectual, seized by brutal mobbers—used by those eight demons and left not dead, but worse. The horror, the anguish, despair, hopelessness of the innocent victim was dwelt upon. [W]hat [sic] future was there for such a one?”

    At the risk of invoking the ire of all who dismiss me as a writer of fiction, let me lay out a possible conversation between Eliza Snow and Bathsheba Smith that could have resulted in Alice’s understanding and still remain consistent with the many writings from the 1840s, including Eliza’s own poetry. I think it is clear from this how a child could have believed she’d heard what Alice reports.

    [ERS refers to the attack that killed Marietta Holmes.]

    Bathsheba: “I never heard that men from Missouri attacked N A U V O O.” [Alice perhaps remembered the “U”]

    ERS: “There were eight men.”

    Bathsheba: “What happened?”

    ERS: [Motion conveying that the woman died]

    Bathsheba: “Oh my. That is the worst thing…”

    ERS: “No. There is something worse than death. You remember what took place.”

    [Nods as the women who were present during the initial Relief Society meetings reflected on Emma and Joseph pleading with the women to be virtuous, no matter who might attempt to persuade them otherwise. All the women in the room had read the newspaper reports in 1844, if not been privy to the secret confessions of women taken in by the seducers. Alice, on the other hand, might never have become aware of the events of 1842 Nauvoo, much less understood these things as a child.]

    ERS: “What I suffered was worse than death. I was without hope of salvation, knowing myself to be sullied. What future was there for such as I? I had been innocent. Then the vile wretch…” [Sobs]

    ERS: “Joseph knew everything that had happened. He had compassion on me. It was as though Christ Himself was lifting my burden, leaving me clean and pure. Joseph promised to champion me, no matter what friends and others might say or how they might reject me. Only Emma held a more tender spot in his heart than we, damaged, cast aside…”

    Bathsheba: “You… You were one of those…??”

    ERS: “Yes.”

    Bathsheba: “Did you become…?”

    [If looks could kill by their cold anger, I could imagine Eliza having such a face at this point in the exchange.]

    ERS: “I might have had children to dandle on my knee [pointing to Alice], had it not been for what was done to me. As it is…”

    [Conversation meanders to some less horrific subject.]

    Obviously I can’t know exactly what conversation passed between Bathsheba and Eliza. However neither can anyone else. What I have laid out here has benefit of matching documents from the 1840s. This doesn’t preclude the possibility that Eliza was savagely raped in Missouri, but the internal evidence in Alice’s writings hints of broader matters no one in the 1930s understood. The only reason I claim to be able to understand is because the Information Age (and Brian Hale) provides us with a wealth of documentation that no one in the 1930s could access.

    If we really want to know the history of women in the early Church, we must be open to learning of things they never wanted us to know. I only hope that we have learned to be as Joseph, overlooking what has been done to the innocent soul to see the precious child of God, worthy of all acceptation.

    Comment by Meg Stout — March 8, 2016 @ 9:53 pm

  63. What are my thoughts? My thought is that I admire Eliza as much as I do her modern-day equivalent, Elizabeth Smart, both of whom fully utilize the Atonement and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to heal and move forward, not held back or damaged by circumstances but propelled forward by and like Christ, to be messengers of His Gospel, servants to and beacons of hope for the wounded.

    Comment by Lex — March 8, 2016 @ 10:29 pm

  64. Did you ever think that it should have been left to be her decision as to whether or not the story should be told. I would believe that if Eliza would have wanted such a terrible experience to be known we would have a first hand account? It wasn’t your place or right to publish this questionable account.

    Comment by Matt — March 9, 2016 @ 7:48 am

  65. I appreciate your research and sharing this information. I have always admired Eliza Snow and her wonderful contributions to the restoration and early church history. Learning of her rape and inability to have children only endear her to me all the more. She was truly a remarkable woman that deserves our admiration!

    Comment by Patty Mickelsen — March 9, 2016 @ 10:54 am

  66. “The stairs story has largely been discounted […] as apocryphal, as motivated by anti-Emma sentiments in the 1870s, and as a way of sensationalizing the Nauvoo polygamy experience.”

    the whispered tale Horne overheard on her grandmother’s lap in the 1870s seems to be cut from the same cloth — a sensational, third-hand story which portrays Eliza as a brave victim and Joseph as her noble rescuer.

    Comment by palerobber — March 9, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

  67. “I worried, even agonized over revealing this brutal part of her past, that those who cherish her memory would consider her identity somehow changed by this.”

    It has. It showed that she did not let herself be defined by her trauma. She accomplished so much after Missouri. It put a specific face on a trauma that really did happen, but has been glossed over for many reasons. She is even now more of an example to women of the Church.

    Thank you.

    Comment by LMF Howard — March 9, 2016 @ 2:43 pm

  68. With respect to Eliza telling her own story, the poem I quoted is one she apparently inserted into her own autobiography.

    Thus she herself outed the “innocent” as a victim of seduction. I have a hard time imagining any objective individual trained in English literature failing to identify the “innocent” as the author of the poem.

    We who view Eliza as one of the greatest in the extensive quorum of Elite Mormon Women are not objective.

    Comment by Meg Stout — March 9, 2016 @ 3:15 pm

  69. Brava! I am stunned people think this should have been left unpublished.

    Comment by M Miles — March 9, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

  70. Doctor Radke- Moss, Thank you for sharing this story. Women need to hear this every day and knowing this only endears Eliza more to my heart. After reading this article I began to study her hymns and found this verse in, “Though Deepening Trails,” she writes…

    “What though our rights have been assailed?
    What though by foes we’ve been despoiled?
    Jehovah’s promise has not failed;
    Jehovah’s purpose is not foiled.
    Jehovah’s purpose is not foiled.”

    Her faith is an inspiration and this story only shows how wonderful the Atonement of Christ can be in a person’s life. Thank you for sharing your research it is appreciated.

    Comment by Caitlin — March 10, 2016 @ 12:21 am

  71. Count me among those who are stunned that there are those who think that this account should go unpublished.

    Comment by Old Man — March 11, 2016 @ 8:53 am

  72. […] well as on sexual violence in Mormon history generally. Many readers on social media such and in blog comments questioned Radke-Moss’s source—an account written decades later by a woman who heard it as a child—and […]

    Pingback by Mormon News, March 7–11 | Signature Books — March 11, 2016 @ 1:11 pm

  73. I, too, am confused as to why people would want this unpublished. I’m ok with people not being 100% sure that Eliza was one of the victims, but there WERE victims, and talking about that reality and the faith of these early pioneers in the face of so much trial, abuse, false accusation and more is an essential part of our history.

    In general, I think we do no favors when we hide from truth. Bad things happen to good people and that is why Jesus died. Having real people in our history who overcame real and hard things is an inspiration. Let us not wait to have names of the victims, which we may never have, to honor their courage and faith in the face of horrible things. At the very least, I’m glad the conversation is happening because there are a lot of women who have suffered this kind of abuse in our day who need to know that faith can triumph.

    God bless all those, past and present who have so suffered, and God bless them all to know that this does in no way define them. Their faith defines them!

    Comment by Michelle — March 11, 2016 @ 7:03 pm

  74. I thank you very much for sharing this source, and writing as you have done regarding both the source, and concerning Eliza R. Snow. I have long been admirer of Eliza and her poetry, and her leadership to the ladies of the Relief Society (I would say “the Church,” but the Relief Society was a separate organization, then. It was pre-correlation era).

    Upon reading of the delivery of your presentation at the conference in the SLTrib, I grabbed my hymnal, and re-read multiple times the words to these hymns: O My Father; How Great the Wisdom and the Love; and Though Deepening Trials. Yes, Eliza overcame the violent attack, and did not let one event define her life. At the same time, I am so glad to learn of her overcoming. I can say I saw three very familiar hymns through “new eyes” that day!

    Again, thank you.

    Comment by Richard Redick — March 18, 2016 @ 3:29 pm

  75. Thank you for sharing this information about Eliza. I have heard through many different people in my life from the time that I was young that Eliza was raped during the Missouri persecutions, but until now I have never seen or heard of any written account of it or have known of any of the details. I would very much like to get a copy of Sister Horne’s autobiography to read and to have for my own records.

    I feel that it is a good thing for the work to be done to shed light upon the fact that many women and young girls were sexually abused during those times of trials. People should know the truth about history.

    Comment by Les Boss — March 29, 2016 @ 9:45 pm


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