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The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women

The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women

by Paula Kelly Harline


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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced the practice of plural marriage in 1890. In the mid- to late nineteenth century, however—the heyday of Mormon polygamy—as many as three out of every ten Mormon women became polygamous wives. Paula Kelly Harline delves deep into the diaries and autobiographies of twenty-nine such women, providing a rare window into the lives they led and revealing their views and experiences of polygamy, including their well-founded belief that their domestic contributions would help to build a foundation for generations of future Mormons.

Polygamous wives were participants in a controversial and very public religious practice that violated most nineteenth-century social and religious rules of a monogamous America. Harline considers the questions: Were these women content with their sacrifice? Did the benefits of polygamous marriage for the Mormons outweigh the human toll it required and the embarrassment it continues to bring? Polygamous wives faced daunting challenges not only imposed by the wider society but within the home, yet those whose writings Harline explores give voice to far more than unhappiness and discontent.

The personal writings of these women, all married to different husbands, are the heart of this remarkable book—they paint a vivid and sometimes disturbing picture of an all but vanished and still controversial way of life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199346509
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 06/16/2014
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 901,968
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Paula Kelly Harline has been teaching college writing for over 20 years for the University of Idaho, Brigham Young University, and Utah Valley University. She has also worked as a freelance writer and artist. She currently lives with her husband, Craig, in Provo, Utah.

Table of Contents


I. Settling Utah Territory: Polygamous Yet Still Monogamous
1 I was perfectly willing...but still it was hard
2 I had admired his conduct on the plains
3 Interlude: Justifying Polygamy
4 It is a heart history

II. Making Sense of "Sisterhood": First Wives and Younger Wives
5 the drudge and tail of such women
6 Interlude: Sometimes Sisterhood
7 many nights my pillow would be wet with grief
8 I could not say that I loved the man as lovers love

III. Abandoning Polygamy: Weariness
9 word came the marshalls were coming, so I skipped out
10 Interlude: The 1890 Manifesto Transition
11 I grew rebellious
12 I heard a voice say you are away from Mr Chestnut



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