Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism
Utah women today might be surprised to learn their grandmothers' views on feminist issues, according to Maxine Hanks. LDS Relief Society co-founder Sarah Kimball referred to herself as "a woman's rights woman, " while Bathsheba Smith was called on Relief Society mission in 1870 to preach equal rights for women.
The society editorialized that females belonged not only "in the nursery" but also "in the library, the laboratory, the observatory." Sisters sent east to study medicine were assured that "when men see that women can exist without them, it will perhaps take a little of the conceit out of some of them." Temple officiators were called "priestesses, " Eliza R. Snow the "prophetess, " and women were discouraged from confessing to bishops on grounds that personal matters "should be referred to the Relief Society president and her counselors." Women were set apart as healers "with power to rebuke diseases."
In addition, Mormon theology spoke reassuringly of a Mother God of the divinity of Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Eve. No wonder Relief Society president Emmeline B. Wells could write with confidence: "Let woman speak for herself; she has the right of freedom of speech. Women are too slow in moving forward, afraid of criticism, of being called unwomanly, of being thought masculine."
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Sarah M. Kimball, Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes, 1868- 73, "Duty of
Officers F. R. Society written by S. M. Kimball revised by E. R. Snow," 1868, LDS
archives. 23. JD 21:367-68. 24. Zina Diantha Huntington Smith Young, Diaries, ...
The Relief Society Magazine maintained some diversity from 1914 until the World
War II era, after which it published narrowing perceptions of Mormon women. The
first regular publication of women's church discourse appeared when the ...
However, Joseph Smith made a statement to the Nauvoo Relief Society on 1 7
March 1 842 which could have been misremembered by Utah leaders of the
Relief Society. "If any officers are wanted to carry out the designs of the [Relief
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