So in my ever-stewing never-ending revisions of my work on Mormonism in the Philadelphia area, I’ve decided that I need to say more about women. This is a challenge since my sources are overwhelmingly written by men. I do have some detailed journals that I can mine better than I have though.
Anyway, up at the archives the other day and I came across another letter from a woman in the area (making a total of 5 letters by women in all). However, when I started reading it, I didn’t know it was written by a woman (the name is listed as M A Jeffries) until the end. By that time, I had skipped over copying a number of lines that didn’t interest me, but when I realized the letter was written by a woman I copied the whole thing. It sort of hit on the problem I’ve had in attempting to write about women; that is, what they did in the area (that is recorded) often seemed mundane. Accompanying, mending clothing, giving hair cuts, giving moral support, as opposed the the traveling and preaching that the men did. Yet in taking another look at the stuff I originally passed over, it’s actually got a lot of fun stuff.
So here’s my first pass, followed by the second:
Letter of M A Jeffries to Heber C. Kimball 8 April 1845, Brigham Young Collection
First I skipped some stuff about how she wanted Heber to write and then copied,
“We have had a great deal of trouble in Philadelphia Mr Winchester has done all he could to injure Brother Smith and the cause, he has even tried to get him in Prison but has failed thank God I am as firm as ever and nothing can change me, we have had some strong preaching here against us but it has been of no avail.”
Pretty interesting, I thought. Benjamin Winchester and William Smith were in this big fight. Smith had accused Winchester of being a party to Joseph Smith’s death and Winchester sued William for slander and almost got him thrown in jail (that Jeffries refers to).
Then I skipped some more stuff and then wrote,
“Sister Haines still remains firm in the faith I have kept her up despite old Mrs Bezonet who had done her best to change her by telling outrageous falsehoods, she is an aiddecamp of old Winchester it keeps us all busy to keep things straight [skipped a line] I should like to know concerning brother Adams we have heard some unpleasant new[s] here concerning him it is reported he has turned traitor and joined the Rigdonites also Sister Emma please let us know the particulars”
Again, interesting stuff. I don’t know anything about the Haines or Bezonet she mentions but am interested in the wrangling going on. The Adams mentioned was George J.
Skipped some more stuff, then
“I have not seen Mr Jeffies for 4 month we have sepperated and I dont wish to live with him again he interferes with my religion” At this point, I’ve figured out that this is a woman. Also this is the only case I’ve found of anybody splitting up over Mormonism (before moving to Utah). “I am poor but perfectly happy and the thoughts of my church braces me up and gives me almost supernatural strength to bare my difficulties [skip a few lines] my best love to yourself and family and remain you affectionate sister.”
I went home that night and realized that I needed to go back and fill in the gaps. The material before I started writing was this:
“As brother Smith leaves tomorrow I embrace the favorable opportunity to address you, I have been very anxious to hear from you Sister McMinn also and think it strange you have not written, sister McMinn and Isabella have intended going out but were fearful of starting without hearing from you as we heard you were coming on to the East, we wish to know particularly whether you are or not.”
In the next gap
“it is impossible to express how anxious I am to see you, and hope you continue in the same mind you were when I last saw you, give my best love to your beloved wife and tell her I should be pleased to have a few lines from her and when either of you write let me know what she stands most in need of and I will send by the earliest opportunity, let me know the sized shoes what number she takes and I will send some on,”
I then missed the line I put in brackets above (I’ll come back to that later). In the next gap,
“it will be a satisfaction when you write please let me know everything concerning Nauvoo and what you think of my going out I have an idea of going to St. Louis and going in business what ever you think best I will do:”
And in the last bracket “Sister McMinn wishes to know why you have,nt answered her letter, I have many things to say but must conclude as time press.”
Again, on my second pass, I find this very interesting. What sort of relationship did she have with Heber? All I have is that he and Lyman White passed through the area in June of 1844. What does she mean by “hope you continue in the same mind you were when I last saw you” followed by offering his wife shoes? Not only her but sister McMinn really want to see Heber.
Anyway, I realized that I had missed one last line. Very mundane for a Mormon man to say, but for a woman, shocking!
“I don’t know but what I shall go out preaching soon.”
I have never heard of a early Mormon woman ever saying such a thing. Does anyone have any information?