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Women’s History

Pioneer Day Talks– Some Helpful Dos and Don’ts for a July Tradition

By July 22, 2016


It is that time of year again, when members all over the world are asked to give talks honoring July 24, 1847– the official date when a company of Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley via Emigration Canyon.  For Mormons, this is a significant date of historical and spiritual meaning: it marks the moment of relief after years of persecutions in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois; it represents finding formal safety in their exile, freedom from religious persecution, distance from the oppressors, and arrival and rebirth in a land of spiritual and physical  possibility. In Utah, Idaho, and other western states where members might be more likely to trace some ancestry back to the original pioneers, the third Sunday in July is usually set aside to honor the pioneer experience in a religious setting.

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GUEST POST: Hannah Jung on Holbrook and Bowman, Women and Mormonism

By June 22, 2016


[We are pleased to post this book review from Hannah Jung. Hannah lives and works in Boston and will be starting her PhD in History in the fall.]

WomenEds. Kate Holbrook and Matthew Bowman, Women and Mormonism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016.

During my undergrad there was a mature student who seemed to be in all of my classes about women and religion. This woman had a particular word for whenever we studied examples of women who seemed to be furthering patriarchy. She called them brainwashed. At the time, it was hard for me to articulate why I did not like the label ?brainwashed? for women who did not appear to be living life worthy of feminist praise. This task would be taken on by historians much more clever and experienced than I. Indeed, in 2011 Catherine Brekus rocked the Mormon Studies world with her Tanner Lecture ?Mormon Women and the Problem of Historical Agency?, which she delivered at the Mormon History Association. Brekus observed that,

Although historians of male leaders had never felt compelled to argue that men?s agency was politically subversive or liberating ? historians of overlooked groups – including women, Native Americans, African Americans, and Latina/os ? were searching for a ?usable past? and so they looked for evidence of individual or collective resistance to a white male hegemony. (p.23)

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Mormon Women’s Public Life and Activism pre-conference tour for MHA 2016

By June 7, 2016


Salt Lake City Cemetery

Speak ‘friend’ and enter.

Please join Juvenile Instructor’s Andrea R-M and tour co-director Janelle Higbee for the second round of fantastic Mormon women’s history on a bus, Thursday, June 9, leaving from Snowbird at 8:30 a.m. and returning after 5:00 p.m.. Tour spots are still available, and even those not registered for the conference may register for the tour.

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Gender and Recording the Names of the 1838 Mormon War Dead

By May 31, 2016


HaunsMassacreMillstoneOn November 29, 1838, Major General John B. Clark wrote his final report to Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs reviewing the state militia?s recent operations against the Latter-day Saints. ?The whole number of Mormons killed through the whole difficulty as far as I can ascertain are about forty and several wounded,? while one non-Mormon had been killed.[1] Verifying Clark?s figure presents a challenge. Although Clark, as the commanding officer overseeing the campaign, was interested in total casualties, neither he nor anyone else in the state government had an incentive to record the names of Mormons who died. It was therefore left to the Saints themselves to document their losses of human life.

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MWHIT Relief Society Bazaar and Silent Auction at MHA 2016

By May 27, 2016


The Mormon Women’s History Initiative Team (MWHIT) is pleased to announce its first annual Relief Society Bazaar and Silent Auction, to be held at the Mormon History Association Conference, June 9-12, 2016 at the Snowbird Resort. (For overall conference program and registration information, please see Mormon History Association 2016 conference registration.)  MWHIT encourages MHA attendees to visit our booth in the book exhibit space at the conference, where we welcome browsing, bidding, and purchase of our team members’ contributions.  Many of you know our members, from whom you can expect personal and detailed work:  Lisa T., Jenny R., Kate H., Sheree B., Taunalyn R., Andrea R.-M., Susanna M., Janelle H., Anna R., Barbara J. B., and Brittany N.

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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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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.

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BYU and Martin Luther King, Jr.

By January 18, 2016


Last weekend, while visiting Atlanta for the annual meetings of the American Historical Association, fellow JIer Ben P and I visited the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historical Site. That we approached the historic Ebeneezer Baptist Church just a few minutes before 11 am on a Sunday morning I can attribute to nothing other than perfect synchronicity.[1] It was my first time visiting the site, and I was moved by what I witnessed. I was unable to attend sacrament meeting that day, but the pilgrimage to the King site was worship enough. I resolved to post something here at JI in commemoration of King, but could think of nothing that would do justice to either King or my visit last weekend.

So today, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to highlight two posts from the Juvenile Instructor’s early years. Both were penned by former JI blogger, Ardis Smith, whose excellent original research on student responses to the Civil Rights Movement at BYU in the 1950s and 1960s deserves a much wider audience.[2] As part of her research, Ardis surveyed student responses to the April 1968 murder of the famed civil rights leader who we remember and whose legacy we celebrate today, in the student newspaper, the Daily Universe. Ardis examined the DU‘s coverage in the immediate aftermath of the murder, and the DU‘s discussion on the one year anniversary of King’s death. Much of the response from students is what you might expect (subtly and not-so-subtly racist condemnations of King’s civil disobedience, his Marxist views, and his rumored ties to Communist leaders, justified with citations to LDS teachings and scriptures), but Ardis also discovered and recovered the voices of those students who dared to speak up in support of King and the movement he led.

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