Articles by

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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