History 101

In an effort to educate myself beyond the borders of the SS manual, I am putting together a series of posts on women and events in church history. Often as a newbie, I feel at a disadvantage when discussions turn to church history or historical figures outside of the first presidencies. There is too much I’m completely oblivious of, or of which I have only the barest inkling… and I’m going to do something about it.

There are some of you out there with vast stores of knowledge on our history- but I have this feeling there are many like me- folks who think “huh?” when a name or event is tossed in the ring. I’m tired of keeping quiet to hide my ignorance, and thus the nexus of this series.

It would be preposterously pompous for me try and educate anyone- much like teaching primary, the primary benefit is usually to the one “teaching” the lesson. I plan on learning a lot, and hopefully what I find might be interesting to you, too.

These posts are not intended to be exhaustive, doctorate level dissertations, but rather a Cliff’s Notes- a brief synopsis and overview to give a more well-rounded view, of our own place in our relatively young history as both a people and an organization.

A few of the people and events on my clipboard already: Emmeline Wells, Eliza Snow, Bathsheba Smith, Zina Young, Belle Spafford, Dialogue, FARMS, Sunstone and The Women’s Exponent. If you have anything you would like to contribute, or a name that needs to be Noted, please give a holler- either in the comments or via e-mail.

I’m really looking forward to not being quiet anymore.


  1. Thanks for asking this question. I’m sure we’ll all benefit from each other’s suggestions. Here’s my contribution: “Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society” by Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (historian), Jill Mulvay Derr (historian), and Janath Russell Cannon (former RS counsellor). There’s a chapter on each general RS president, and the five women you listed are all past presidents. The book also includes church and world events and how they influenced each presidency. It touches on basic RS events we’ve all heard about along with more obscure things like women doing pre-childbirth annointings, the E.R.A., the transition from RS BUILDINGS to RS ROOMS inside buildings. It ends with Elaine Jack.

  2. Ardis Parshall says:

    Marvelous idea, Tracy — sort of a “cultural literacy” for Mormons about those things we’ve all sorta heard of but couldn’t really describe with confidence. I’m cheering for you.

  3. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    Wonderful idea! I look forward to seeing what you find. Thank you for sharing this with us. :)

  4. Outstanding. Why not include Exponent II? Laurel Thatcher Ulrich? Whipple and the Giant Joshua?

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Emma Smith: Mormon Enigma would be a good resource if you wanted to talk about Emma.

  6. Also, if you want to talk about FARMS, then a little history of the CES and related teaching organizations within the church would probably be good. Oh, and as a side note maybe you could look at the history of the church welfare system and its development.

  7. I was thinking of that, Steve- looking into the formation of the DI and the Bishop’s storehouses- this may take me a long time!

  8. Steve Evans says:

    by the way, Tracy — kudos on a great post idea and a tough topic. I’ll be glad to help you (as I’m sure the rest of us will be, as well) as you start diving into these.

  9. I was thinking of that, Steve- looking into the formation of the DI and the Bishop’s storehouses- this may take me a long time!

    The book PURE RELIGION talks about this in some depth and is very readable. I believe it does talk about the hospital the Relief Society organized, etc.

    Two years ago when we studied D & C in Gospel Doctrine, only 44 lessons were provided, so we got to make up some. One of mine was the role of women in the church, and in particular the social services aspects.

  10. Naismith- feel free to e-mail me if you want to contrubute…

  11. The Mormons’ War on Poverty: A History of LDS Welfare 1830-1990 by Garth L. Mangum, Bruce D. Blumell is another reference.

  12. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    This is going to be great. Thanks for being brave enough to take this on. I often feel in the same boat when historical discussions come up and usually sit back quietly and listen. This is a much better approach. I really look forward to this series.

  13. One of my hero’s among Mormon women is Melissa Coray. She is more of a historical figure than a spiritual one in Church history but her strength is unbelivable and inspiring. Here is a short statement about her I a got from another website about the Mormon Battalion. See: http://www.kued.org/battalion/press.htm

    The Battalion’s great feats were not accomplished by men alone. Though most of the soldiers’ wives and children were left behind in Iowa, 20 women would accompany their husbands on much of the harrowing journey. One of those women, Melissa Coray, would see immense hardship and sorrow before the age of 21. After marching for several months while pregnant, Coray would lose her baby in childbirth in Monterey, California, and ultimately would lose her husband to tuberculosis upon their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. BATTALION weaves the personal story of the Coray family through the Battalion narrative to illustrate the individual hardships sustained along one of the longest continuous marches recorded in history. “I do not feel to complain,” says Melissa Coray, “Yet I think my trials are great for one so young.”

  14. This has the potential to become something really worthwhile. Good thinking, Tracy. I’ll try to contribute as I can.

  15. I’m really looking forward to this, Tracy. I’ve been a member all my life but have never even taken a sideways glance at the historical footnotes, let alone the amazing stories of these women. This is really going to be educational for me!

  16. Awesome, Tracy. I’m really looking forward to this.

  17. You need to go here:


    Do a subject search for women.

    This will bring up about two hundred books, articles, theses, and dissertations on women in Mormon history.

    On a related note: Has anyone ever produced a bibliography of the articles that appeared in the Relief Society Magazine between 1914 and 1970?

  18. Ardis Parshall says:

    Sterling — BYU has a partial online index to the RS magazine (1933-1970) at


    Even though it says it indexes notes and recipes and other minor features, the last time I actually tested the index it didn’t include those things — maybe more has been added recently. Anyway, it’s a place to start.

  19. What happened to the polygamy.byu.edu pages?

    They now seem to redirect to ldsfaq.byu.edu …

    Did anyone else notice this?

  20. Anyone else find that this link at left under Sideblog now redirects?

    BYU debuts a website devoted to Mormon polygamy

  21. Duh, I should’ve read under the LDS Headlines on the BCC site …

    BYU polygamy Web page dumped – Salt Lake Tribune

  22. Nice to see these two blogs have taken up the topic …



    Should we expect to see it addressed here anytime soon? Considering that BCC was a ‘player’ in this little ‘incident’ …

  23. Chino,

    The site was taken down. If you are interested in viewing the site do a windows live search for polygamy.byu.edu and you can view the cached pages or if you like I copied the site and can e-mail it to you if you wish.

    It probably will be addressed soon.


  24. Ben,

    Hey, those are nifty links to the cached pages. OK, I’ll chill and look forward to a post here about what went down, so to speak. Thanks for your speedy and kind reply.

  25. In the meantime, couldn’t this be cleaned up?


    “And thus the anti-sites retain” seems like a kinda weird bit of text to have in a URL that just points back to your own main page …

  26. Hey admins?! Any thought on Chinos questions about the link?

  27. Guys, we’ve disabled the link and put it in strikethrough text to show it is no longer functioning…. what more do you want?

  28. Uh, possibly removing the weird “And thus the anti-sites retain ‘mormon polygamy’ Google love” that pops up when I mouseover the now dead link …

  29. Too funny didn’t even see that.

    Not trying to pester. Just wanted to let chino know i’m not admin.

  30. Um, Chino, you wanna run this blog? Strange mouseovers are what makes these links worth it, my man.

  31. Beggars can’t be choosers, Chino.

  32. I sustain the strange mouseovers, especially the one for Br. Landrith’s initials.

  33. I’m cool with it, really. Just a friendly heads up … the Freepers are gonna be over here in droves in a bit, and thought you might want to clean up first …

  34. China (not chino?), the sidebar’s updated.

  35. Don’t forget the new book that came out of the recent BYU women’s history seminars, edited by Carol Cornwall Madsen and Cherry Silver… titled New Scholarship on Latter-day Saint Women in the 20th Century, from the Smith Institute (2005). Lots of good papers there (author plug disclaimer: including my own, on Belle Spafford) for digesting.