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.
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.
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 Young 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]
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.? 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.? 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
By July 24, 2013
The 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. 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.
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. 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
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 as 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.?
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