At a recent gathering in Cambridge, MA, Richard Bushman introduced Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to her hometown crowd as Mormonism’s most “distinguished and decorated scholar.” Her Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft Prize, and many other awards speak to her mastery of the historian’s craft in the broader academy. She is not only Mormonism’s most distinguished and decorated scholars, she is one of the most distinguished and decorated scholars alive today. Ulrich’s research and writing abilities made A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870 a natural choice for JI’s Third Annual Summer Book Club. Hundreds of readers have followed along with our book club in the past few years—we hope to read with even more of you this summer!
We chose Ulrich’s book for several reasons.[i] First, the past two book club selections have been biographies, Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling and Linda King Newell’s and Valeen Tippetts Avery’s Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith. While the Smiths factor into Ulrich’s narrative, A House Full of Females examines prominent, as well as lesser-known, characters in Mormon history and helps readers understand the ways that Latter-day Saints lived their religion.
Second, while both Rough Stone Rolling and Mormon Enigma deal with polygamy, Ulrich’s book is a major historiographical intervention in the history of plural marriage. Her access to the William Clayton journals certainly helped, but her careful examination of the emotional, spiritual, and liturgical confusion surrounding Nauvoo polygamy is second to none (for my money). Her examination of plural marriage after June 1844 also helps readers see the ways that plural marriage changed over a period of more than twenty-five years.
Third, we at JI want to highlight the important work that has already been done and is being done by women. The release of At the Pulpit and The First 50 Years of Relief Society are excellent additions to historiography and the availability of primary sources. We hope that A House Full of Females will help readers dive into these new primary source collections.
We are reading one chapter at a time this year—easy to stay on schedule or catch up if you miss a week. The first post will be posted on May 7, 2017.
Please “like” the JI Summer Book Club Facebook page for updates. We will answer questions on the Facebook page throughout the week.
- Week 1: Introduction: An Indignation Meeting [May 7]
- Week 2: Chapter One: “Wonder on wonder strikes my sense” [May 14]
- Week 3: Chapter Two: “There was many Sick among the Saints” [May 21]
- Week 4: Chapter Three: “I now turn the key to you [May 28]
- Week 5: Chapter Four: “a favor which I have long desired” [June 4]
- Week 6: Chapter Five: “Menny females was received in to the Holy Order” [June 11]
- Week 7: Chapter Six: “Mud aplenty” [June 18]
- Week 8: Chapter Seven: “Wrote some in my earley Biography” [June 25]
- Week 9: Chapter Eight: “All are busy preparing to go either East or west” [July 2]
- Week 10: Chapter Nine: “My pen is my only weapon” [July 9]
- Week 11: Chapter Ten: “the revelation on plurality of wives was read” [July 16]
- Week 12: Chapter Eleven: “Synopsis of my labors” [July 23]
- Week 13: Chapter Twelve: “we now must look after the poor” [July 30]
- Week 14: Chapter Thirteen: “What a life of wandering” [August 6]
- Week 15: Chapter Fourteen: “The house was full of females” [August 13]
- Week 16 Chapter Fifteen: “The records of this House” [August 20]
- Week 17: Interview with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich [August 27]
Go forth and purchase the book! We are looking forward to a great summer.
[i] We also recognize that there are many excellent books on polygamy—we believe that Ulrich’s book will be an excellent introduction to plural marriage in a broader context for non-Mormon readers. Also, many of us are/have been mentored by Laurel. It’s a fun way to show her a little love and appreciation.