In April 2000 I got a call from Sister Evans, asking me to present a profile of an historical Mormon woman during Relief Society. When she read off a list of candidates, I recognized the name of an ancestor and jumped at the chance to talk about her.
Sister Evan's dropped off a xeroxed summary biography for Elvira Cowles, but I also accessed my own family histories and genealogical charts. By 4 a.m. I had not only prepared my 5 minute summary on Elvira, I had come to a conviction that I had to tell the story of Elvira, her daughters, and her grand-daughters. At a rational level, I worried that the stories of these three generations of plural wives would be controversial. But I felt I had been called, a sensation that recurred over time.
I expanded my study beyond Elvira to my other female ancestors. Initially I hoped that this would dilute the controversy of Elvira's experience. But as I dug deeper, I discovered intriguing tales that began to clarify the female Mormon experience over time in many dimensions. And all this in just my family.
So - I certainly have a viewpoint in writing the stories of my lady ancestors. But I have not gone cherry-picking through history to find the stuff that supports my worldview. Rather, I have thrown myself against these true stories and allowed them to lead me to understanding.
My primary audience for this is my own daughters and descendants, that they may know their mothers. But I don't mind if these stories also build understanding among others. I have yet to discover anyone for whom all these stories are comfortable. But I hope that these stories will expand your understanding of what it means and has meant to be a Mormon woman.
- ► 2007 (43)