Conference Sunday and Suffrage

A sleepy Sunday morning. It’s LDS Conference, so that means rain. I don’t know why that is, but ever since I moved to Utah, in 1978, it always seems to rain on conference weekend. I remember working on the Hotel Utah, watching all of the people flock to Temple Square–this was well before the Assembly building–clutching umbrellas, holding programs above their heads, but still getting drenched. It was as if God wasn’t ready to let them have it too easy. He wanted them to endure one more challenge, reminding them that life on earth will never be perfect.

Last night Mom and I attended Plan B Theatre’s production of Suffrage, a two-woman play about sister wives negotiating the shifting terrain of marriage and politics in Utah Territory in the late-19th century. Powerful stuff. I never appreciated the effect that President Woodruff’s declaration had on the families who practiced polygamy. In the play, Francis and Ruth’s husband, Benjamin, must choose which wife to claim as his “real” wife. He chooses May. The resulting disruptions are heart-breaking. Why have I never considered the perspective of these women/former wives who suddenly found themselves without family, without husband, without economic support? I read Annie Clark Tanner’s A Mormon Mother and marveled at the actualities of life in a plural marriage. But I never thought about what happened to all of the families torn apart by the dissolution of this institution.

I need to re-read Tanner’s autobiography. Perhaps I need to pursue a new research project: exploring the journals and diaries of women who negotiated this rupture.

About BJ

living the dream in northern Utah
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