My husband, Bryan, loves to research on detailed topics. For example, a recent passion has been the solar satellites beyond Neptune such as "planet X" and the kuiper belt. Since we live near GMU and since I am a GMU alumna, we get an annual library card which he can use to check out books on arcane topics, to supplement what he can find at the county library and the web. (He doesn't yet spend entire days at the Library of Congress - perhaps after the children are grown.)
In his pile of books borrowed from the library I found "Mormons and the Bible," an interesting but self-consciously scholarly work by Philip Barlow. Therein (p. viii) I found the following comment by A. Leland Jamison, "The historical evolution of the Mormons furnishes the most thrilling chapter in the whole chrinicle of American religion. By comparison, the adventures of the settlers in New England seem tame." [Smith, James Ward and A. Leland Jamison, eds., The Shaping of American Religion, p. 213, 1961]
So, in this thrilling chapter, where are the women? Surely, more women explicitly populate the Mormon historical landscape (proportionally) than do the pages of the Book of Mormon. (I look forward some day to finding out from Mormon why that is.) But there is not a well-developed ethnography of Mormon womanhood that spans the decades from 1930 to today. There are delightful efforts here and there. "Women of Covenant," an history of Relief Society, covers much ground in the 3 inches of papes between the covers. But despite intriguing footnotes, it is a tad too scholarly and hagiographic for my tastes.
I set about putting my ladies' stories on paper the first time in 2001 before the planes hit in September. Their stories, even green and naive as my understanding was, gave me perspective and hope in a world suddenly transformed by grief and horror. In the years since that time, I have been able to put more meat on the bones of their stories and have had time to contemplate what undocumented events could account for the extant record. I have had the satisfaction I have often experienced in my profession (I'm a physicist) of putting forward a theory and then finding the validation (in this case, documents) that showed I was right.
During this time I've also had the privilege of being the Gospel Doctrine teacher in my congregation. This has given me the opportunity to be forced to research key dates and happenings. So many things have illuminated my understanding - things it might never have occurred to me would relate to my own family history.
So - time to start writing, neh?
- ► 2007 (43)