Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair(s)

Charles S. Peterson


Charles S. Peterson


The purpose of this thesis is to identify and discuss various popular images of the Mormon women of Utah between 1852 and 1890, the period during which the Latter-day Saints openly practiced plural marriage. The phrase "in the toils" refers to the basic image present in the minds of many Americans--that the women of the church were an oppressed, unhappy, enslaved group of individuals. This image, expressed in different ways, is found in many published writings of the period examined.

After demonstrating the presence of this "in the toils" image, this study then attempts to analyze and evaluate its significance. Certainly this negative image had a bearing on anti-Mormon sentiment in general and opposition to the practice of polygamy. Moreover, the image seemed to generate more from nineteenth century values toward women and the family than it did from observable realities of the Mormon woman's condition. Several more realistic and historically valid images of the nineteenth century Mormon woman are suggested here. Another aspect of this subject is the manner in which the Mormon women themselves responded to their misrepresentation among non-Mormons. They identified themselves with an image of moving "onward for Zion," many of them, at least publicly, wholeheartedly endorsing their church and its teaching concerning plurality of wives.

This paper has been based on numerous types of primary sources published between 1852 and 1890, including periodical articles, novels, reformers' tracts, travel accounts, newspapers, and public documents. The Mormon perspective has been studied through sermons, public testimonials of Mormon women, the Woman's Exponent, and a number of secondary sources.



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