Especially For Glenson — Covered Wagon Feminism

Brother Lars Glenson is a good, though misguided and simple-minded soul who shows up hereabouts from time to time. He holds the study of Mormon history in special disdain and refers to it as Mormon Minutiae. Our Christian duty requires us to bear with Lars in his difficulties and to shed as much light as possible on his darkened path. It is in this spirit that BCC announces it will provide from time to time a new feature as a public service called Especially For Glenson. This service will be carried out in the form of short, inspirational posts, much like the format of Especially For Mormons. However, the BCC iteration will be better because the stories will actually be true. Please enjoy our first feature, which we will call Covered Wagon Feminism.

On June 6, 1846, the group of saints which Brigham Young called the camp of Israel had abandoned Nauvoo and were about one hundred miles west of the Mississippi.  The journal of Louisa Barnes Pratt records that the following incident took place:

Last evening the ladies met to organize.  Mrs. Isaac Chase was called to the chair.  She was also appointed President by unanimous vote.  Mrs. L. B. Pratt counsellor and scribe.  Several resolutions were adopted:….If the men wish to hold control over the women, let them be on the alert.  We believe in equal rights.  Meeting adjourned.  

I am very curious to know what incident or series of incidents caused the women of the camp to meet and adopt this resolution. On the other hand, we don’t need to read between the lines very much to be able to imagine a presider who enjoyed presiding a little too much and who is about to have his head handed to him.

The lesson for us is to realize that the uneasy tension between male priesthood and female empowerment has been with us since the very beginning. We speak of feminism as though it were invented by the scary ERA ladies in the 1970s, but we can see that as early as 1846 Louisa Pratt, faithful saint and wife of Addison Pratt, was ready to go apostate, abandon her family, stop shaving her legs and wearing a bra, join the paid workforce, and get a tattoo on her right gluteus maximus that said To Hell With Housework.

Perspective, Lars.  That’s what we need.  Those who do not understand Mormon Minutiae are condemned to repeat it.  Some of the issues we see before us have already been dealt with, albeit in a slightly different form.  An awareness of that fact allows us to approach our current challenges without hyperventilating.

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  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Good find, Mark. (I was going to say *awesome* find, but thought better of it…)

  2. Peter LLC says:

    a tattoo on her right gluteus maximus that said To Hell With Housework.

    Ha, that’s nothing.

  3. Peter clearly isn’t reading the BCC sidebar with enough faithfulness.

    Mark, I’m stenciling that LBP statement on my kitchen wall for all who have eye to see.

  4. This excerpt is made all the more fun by the fact that it is distributed by elderly missionaries in Nauvoo.

    Lousia’s journal is an invaluable record and one worth the price, for those interested in taking a dip into the waters of primary sources. It is easy to read and chock full of amazing details. It is available from USU Press.

    I think the other resolution of the June 6th meeting is as equally awesome:

    1st Resolved, that when the brethren call on us to attend prayers, get engaged in conversation and forget what they called us for, that the sisters retire to some convenient place, pray by themselves and go about their business.

  5. Mark,
    I don’t know that most people (aside from my lovely bloggernacle friends) really feel the tension between
    “between male priesthood and female empowerment.”

    Today at Fast and Testimony Meeting, a woman who just attended her women’s college reunion discussed how glad she was to be back home.
    She said that she missed the “men who hold the Priesthood because they are like a parachute to rescue us.” This longing for the priesthood was because some of her women’s college friends were getting drunk at the party.

    Anyway, I was disappointing to hear that the men and the priesthood are the parachute, and by default, it’s the women who need help from falling.
    Not all women feel this way, but her analogy was referenced by many speakers who followed her.

  6. Wait, Mark–I’m sure pioneers did not wear bras. And it wouldn’t have been a tattoo, but a “brand.” The anachronisms are really disturbing. Leg shaving? After their husbands stropped the blade?

  7. Mark Brown says:

    Margaret, see what I mean? Those pioneer women were pretty far off the deep end. Who knows what might have happened if the Priesthood hadn’t been there to reprove with sharpness as necessary.

  8. Mark Brown says:

    Readers should also know that Louisa’s husband was Addison Pratt who was serving a mission in the South Seas at the time of the exodus to the Great Basin. She managed to get herself and her four children to the Salt Lake valley safely, with very little help from the parachutes.

  9. Kristine says:

    A woman without a man is like a wagon without a parachute?

  10. J. Stapley–

    I laughed out loud when I read the other resolution that you cited. Whenever my husband calls our family to prayer, we all drop what we are doing and join together in our family room. Then we wait for him. When he finally comes in to join us–he starts up conversations with different family members about various family business or other issues. The rest of us who are left out of the conversation are now impatiently tapping our feet–hoping to get on with prayer so we can get back to the other things we poilitely dropped to answer the call. The teenagers get annoyed the most “Dad, are we going to have prayer or what?”

  11. StillConfused says:

    Nice to see some pioneer sass!

  12. That looks like a great journal.

    Sass, humor and faith

  13. belledame2 says:

    Keep this up! I love reading stuff like this!

  14. I would have loved to hang with Louisa. She sounds like my kind of girl.

    So if they didn’t wear bras, how did they strap those babies in?

    j stapley, some things never change, huh!

  15. Whalebone and stays.

  16. L.B. Pratt and Addison are, without doubt, my most inspirational ancestors — in large part due to their phenomenal journal-keeping. Good find.

  17. Lars Glenson says:

    Nice try, BROWN. (I would call you Br. Brown, but I see little brotherhood between us. Unless we take Jesus and Lucifer as a model. Hupage opiso mou, SATANA.)

    So, your point? That Mormon women have always been uppity? MAN-STARBUCKS the lot of them.

  18. The difference then and now seems to be that the women then felt just fine about flexing their collective muscle openly, while women in the church today seem to cower quickly.

  19. I loved this!!! My husband and I laughed and laughed last night. Tracy M has the right idea!!!

  20. StillConfused says:

    Too bad they didn’t have female only wagon trains and male only wagon trains. The famle only wagon trains would stop to pick flowers and plant roses. But they still would beat the men across who wouldn’t stop for directions.

  21. laurenlou says:

    love this, mark!! “mrs. isaac chase” (aka phoebe) is my great great great etc grandmother. i can’t wait to show my very conservative, wince at the mention of feminism, parents that i’m just trying to emulate my pioneer ancestry :-)