Charles M. Hatch and Todd M. Compton
Mormon culture has produced during its history an unusual number of historically valuable personal writings. Few such diaries, journals, and memoirs published have provided as rich and well rounded a window into their authors' lives and worlds as the diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. Because it provides a rare account of the widely experienced situations and problems faced by widows, her record has relevance far beyond Mormon history though. As a teenager Helen Kimball had been a polygamous wife of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. She subsequently married Horace Whitney. Her children included the noted Mormon author, religious authority, and politician Orson F. Whitney. She herself was a leading woman in her church and society and a writer known especially for her defense of plural marriage. Upon Horace's death, she began keeping a diary. In it, she recorded her economic, physical, and psychological struggles to meet the challenges of widowhood. Her writing was introspective and revelatory. She also commented on the changing society around her, as Salt Lake City in the last decades of the nineteenth century underwent rapid transformation, modernizing and opening up from its pioneer beginnings. She remained a well-connected member of an elite group of leading Latter-day Saint women, and prominent Utah and Mormon historical figures appear frequently in her daily entries. Above all, though, her diary is an unusual record of difficulties faced in many times and places by women, of all classes, whose husbands died and left them without sufficient means to carry on the types of lives to which they had been accustomed.
Melissa Lambert Milewski
Mary Lois Walker Morris was a Mormon woman who challenged both American ideas about marriage and the U.S. legal system. Before the Manifesto provides a glimpse into her world as the polygamous wife of a prominent Salt Lake City businessman, during a time of great transition in Utah. This account of her life as a convert, milliner, active community member, mother, and wife begins in England, where her family joined the Mormon church, details her journey across the plains, and describes life in Utah in the 1880s. Her experiences were unusual as, following her first husband's deathbed request, she married his brother as a plural wife in the Old Testament tradition of levirate marriage. Mary Morris's memoir frames her 1879 to 1887 diary with both reflections on earlier years and passages that parallel entries in the day book, giving readers a better understanding of how she retrospectively saw her life. The thoroughly annotated diary offers the daily experience of a woman who kept a largely self-sufficient household, had a wide social network, ran her own business, wrote poetry, and was intellectually curious. The years of "the Raid" (federal prosecution of polygamists) led Mary and Elias Morris to hide their marriage on "the underground," and her to perjury during Elias's trial for unlawful cohabitation. The book ends with Mary Lois's arrival at the Salt Lake Depot after three years in exile in Mexico with a polygamist colony.
After the 1872 publication of Exposé of Polygamy, Fanny Stenhouse became a celebrity in the cultural wars between Mormons and much of America. An English convert to Mormonism, she had grown disillusioned with the Mormon Church and with polygamy, which her husband practiced before associating with a circle of dissident Utah intellectua ls and merchants. Stenhouse's critique of plural marriage, Brigham Young, and Mormonism was also a sympathetic look at Utah's people and honest recounting of her life. Before long, she created a new edition, titled Tell It All, which ensured her notoriety in Utah and popularity elsewhere but turned her thoughtful memoir into a more polemical, true exposé. Since 1874, it has stayed in print, in multiple, varying editions. The original book, meanwhile, is less known, though more readable. Tracing the literary history of Stenhouse's important piece of Americana, Linda DeSimone rescues an important autobiographical and historical record from the baggage notoriety brought to it.
No Place to Call Home: The 1807-1857 Life Writings of Caroline Barnes Crosby, Chronicler of Outlying Mormon Communities
Edward Leo Lyman, Susan Ward Payne, and S. George Ellsworth
Caroline Crosby's life took a wandering course between her 1834 marriage to Jonathan Crosby and conversion to the infant Mormon Church and her departure for her final home, Utah, on New Year's Day, 1858. In the intervening years, she lived in many places but never long enough to set firm roots. Her adherence to a frontier religion on the move kept her moving, even after the church began to settle down in Utah. Despite the impermanence of her situation, perhaps even because of it, Caroline Crosby left a remarkably rich record of her life and travels, thereby telling us not only much about herself and her family but also about times and places of which her documentary record provides a virtually unparalleled view. A notable aspect of her memoirs and journals is what they convey of the character of their author, who, despite the many challenges of transience and poverty she faced, appears to have remained curious, dedicated, observant, and cheerful. From Caroline's home in Canada, she and Jonathan Crosby first went to the headquarters of Joseph Smith's new church in Kirtland, Ohio. She recounts, in a memoir, the early struggles of his followers there. As the church moved west, the Crosbys did as well, but as became characteristic, they did not move immediately with the main body to the center of the religion. For awhile they settled in Indiana, finally reaching the new Mormon center of Nauvoo in 1842. Fleeing Nauvoo with the last of the Mormons in 1846, they spent two years in Iowa and set out for Utah in 1848, the account of which journey is the first of Caroline Crosby's vivid trail journals. The Crosbys were able to rest in Salt Lake City for less than two years before Brigham Young sent them on a church mission to the Society and Austral Islands in the South Pacific. She recorded, in detail, their overland travel to San Francisco and then by sea to French Polynesia and their service on the islands. In late 1852 the Crosbys returned to California, beginning what is probably the most historically significant part of her writings, her diaries of life. First, in immediately post Gold Rush San Francisco and, second, in the new Mormon village of San Bernardino in southern California. There is no comparable record by a woman of 1850s life in these growing communities. The Crosbys responded in 1857 to Brigham Young's call for church members to gather in Utah and again abandoned a new home, this the nicest one they had built, one of the finest houses in San Bernardino. Such unquestioning loyalty was a characteristic Caroline and Jonathan displayed again and again.
Lu Ann Faylor Snyder and Phillip A. Snyder
These letters among two women and their husband offer a rare look into the personal dynamics of an LDS polygamous relationship. Abraham "Owen" Woodruff was a young polygamous Mormon apostle, and the son of LDS President Wilford Woodruff, who is remembered for the Woodruff Manifesto, a divinely-inspired call for the termination of plural marriage. The Woodruff Manifesto eased a systematic federal judicial assault on Mormons and made Utah statehood possible. It did not end polygamy in the church. Some leaders continued to encourage and perform such marriages. Owen Woodruff, himself married to Helen May Winters, contracted a secretive second marriage to Avery Clark. Pressure on the LDS church revived with hearings regarding Reed Smoot's seat in the U.S. Senate. After church president Joseph F. Smith issued the so-called Second Manifesto in 1904, polygamy and its more prominent advocates were mostly expunged from mainstream Mormonism. Owen Woodruff had often been "on the underground," moving frequently, traveling under secret identities, and using code names in his letters to his wives, while still carrying out his administrative duties, which, in particular, involved supervision of the nascent Mormon colonies in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming. He was never excommunicated, as some of his apostolic colleagues were. Both he and his first wife, Helen, while living with Avery in Mexico and preparing for a mission to Germany, contracted smallpox and died suddenly in 1904. Avery later returned to Utah with her children along with those of Helen and Owen.
Sandra Ailey Petree
For visitors to the Martin's Cove historic site in Wyoming, Patience Loader has become an icon of the disastrous winter entrapment of the Martin and Willie handcart companies. Her record of those events is important, but there is much else of interest in her autobiography. In fact, it is a bit unusual that someone such as her would have left such an engaging record of her life. The daughter of an English gardener, Patience Loader became a boarding house servant, domestic maid, and seamstress. Converted to Mormonism, she shipped with her parents to America. They joined the ill-fated Martin company, which because of poor planning and a late start west, was caught poorly prepared by severe high plains snowstorms in October and November 1856. The combined fatalities of the Martin and Willie companies made this the worst disaster in the history of overland travel. Patience = s father was one of those who died. After reaching Utah, Patience took the unusual step for a Mormon of marrying a soldier, John Rozsa, stationed at Camp Floyd. The troops there had made up the Utah Expedition, sent to ensure federal authority over the Mormons. Rozsa was a Hungarian immigrant and Mormon convert. When the Utah troops were recalled for the Civil War, Patience accompanied her husband, as an army laundress, to Washington, D.C., running a boarding house while Rozsa fought. After the war, he died at Fort Leavenworth of consumption, and Patience returned alone to Utah, where she became a cook at a mining camp in American Fork Canyon. Her autobiography ends there in 1872, though she lived till 1922.