Invitation: Ladies? Tea and Book Discussion Group at Mormon History Association

By May 9, 2012

Today, I am going to be attending the Community of Scholars program, sponsored by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan.  Each year, the institute accepts a dozen or so students from across the university into a seminar to discuss the ways in which sexuality, gender, and race intersect in their work.  My friends and I sometimes refer to it as feminist boot camp.  The competition for acceptance into the seminar can be intense, especially for those students whose work is in fields that typically privilege gender as a category of analysis. A few months ago, Brittany Chapman and I were bemoaning the absence of a similar space for people interested in gender to discuss their work in Mormon Studies.  Although female historians like Claudia Bushman, Jill Mulvay Derr, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher began the process of unearthing a woman?s Mormon history decades ago, relatively little has been published in the field.  Knowledge about the everyday lives of Mormon women ? the rituals surrounding childbirth, the difficulty in securing food and shelter during their husbands? absences as missionaries, the development of bonds between sister wives and children, the inspection of homes through Retrenchment Societies, and the ways in which they maintained contact with their families in the East, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and the Pacific ? remains fragmentary at best.  In addition to the lack of female subjects, there is a corresponding lack of female models.  I have been lucky to have many female friends within Mormon history.  Rachel Cope, Brittany Chapman, Andrea Radke-Moss, and Elizabeth Pinborough, especially, have been excellent interlocutors and companions, but many women find it difficult to find female friends and mentors who can help them navigate the difficulties of being a woman in Mormon history. In order to facilitate research on gender and help women find companionship and mentoring within the field of Mormon history, Brittany and I have decided to start a reading group focused on women?s history at the Mormon History Association.  It will meet annually at the same time as the annual conference and should offer an informal, supportive space for the discussion of women and Mormon history.  To facilitate conversation, we will read a book each year ? this year will it will be The Salt Lake City 14th Ward Album Quilt, 1857 by Carol Holindrake Nielson along with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich?s fabulous companion article ?An American Album.?  Brittany and I will also bring along herbal tea, non-caffeinated soda, and cupcakes.  Although this group will be about privileging the voices of women, especially those who are at the beginning of their careers and have yet to develop an academic voice, we would like to encourage anyone interested in gender studies and women?s history to attend, just check your patriarchal privilege at the door.   Here?s the information for this year?s reading group:

Ladies? Tea and Book Discussion Group

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Location: TBD, 9 p.m.

  Book: Carol Holindrake Nielson, The Salt Lake City 14th Ward Album Quilt, 1857 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2004)   Article: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, ?An American Album,? AHA Presidential Address.  Available: If you are planning on attending, please e-mail us at, so that we can make sure to have enough food for everyone.

Note: The picture is of Mary Isabella Horne (1818 – 1905), President of the Retrenchment Society, Treasurer of the Relief Society, and Counselor of the Deseret Silk Association.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Really looking forward to this. Especially since there will be cupcakes.

    Comment by Ben P — May 9, 2012 @ 9:05 am

  2. I just RSVP’d and am looking forward to it. Thanks for getting this going, Amanda and Brittany.

    Comment by Christopher — May 9, 2012 @ 9:49 am

  3. Thanks! You can each have an extra cupcake for being our first official RSVPers.

    Comment by Amanda HK — May 9, 2012 @ 10:06 am

  4. This looks great. Thanks Amanda and Brittany for taking the initiative. Wish I could go.

    Comment by Jared T — May 9, 2012 @ 10:20 am

  5. I want in! But I won’t be at MHA. That is sad for me.

    Comment by Janelle — May 9, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  6. Amanda,

    You are so cool! I wish you mega amounts of success with this endeavour.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — May 9, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

  7. Amanda, I love both of the books you chose, and I would really like to be with you, but this is the first time in many years that I won’t be at MHA. Count me in for next y ear, though.

    Comment by Maurine — May 9, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

  8. Not sure if I’ll make it to MHA, but I think this is a fantastic development.

    Comment by David G. — May 10, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  9. Amanda– This is a great idea. I’m very curious how you and Brittany chose the reading selection, out of all of the many possibilities. What were your criteria?

    I think it might be a great experiment to someday morph this reading group into a kind of mentoring group (while not losing its original focus either), whereby more established scholars are matched up with a graduate students, and can read and critique their papers, essays, chapters, etc. (Or, just friends reading friends’ stuff, without all of the hierarchical baggage.)

    I hope you get great response!

    Comment by Andrea R-M — May 11, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

  10. Thanks Andrea! I wish we had had a criteria. It was more like “so… Brittany, what book do you want to read?” And then we came up with a list and neither of us had read this and we both thought it would be fun.

    The mentoring group is a great idea! If we get enough of a response, we could even set up something at this MHA. One of the things that I was talking about with a friend was that there are so few models of how to be a women of faith working on religious history. So many of the models are male. Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, Mark Noll, George Marsden, etc. There are some women but they are much fewer in number. The group might be a great way to foster relationships between women to provide younger scholars with models and mentors.

    Comment by Amanda HK — May 11, 2012 @ 7:58 pm


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