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Publisher's Summary

A stunning and sure to be controversial book that pieces together, through more than two dozen 19th-century diaries, letters, albums, minute books, and quilts left by first-generation Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, the never before told story of the earliest days of the women of Mormon "plural marriage", whose right to vote in the state of Utah was given to them by a Mormon-dominated legislature as an outgrowth of polygamy in 1870, 50 years ahead of the vote nationally ratified by Congress, and who became political actors in spite of, or because of, their marital arrangements. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, writing of this small group of Mormon women who've previously been seen as mere names and dates, has brilliantly reconstructed these textured, complex lives to gives us a fulsome portrait of who these women were and of their "sex radicalism" - the idea that a woman should choose when and with whom to bear children.

©2017 Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (P)2017 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 01-13-17

Well-behaved women seldom write in diaries

"Well-behaved women seldom make history"
- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

My wife and I named our only daughter Emmeline after Emmeline B. Wells, the 5th president of the Mormon Church's relief society. The reason we felt strongly about using that name was Emmeline B. Wells was both a strong Mormon, a writer, and an early feminist and suffragette. She advocated for a woman's right to vote and edited the Women's Exponent in 1872. She was also the 7th wife of Daniel H. Wells, a Mormon apostle and later mayor of Salt Lake City.

That conflict, or apparent conflict, between early Mormon feminism and polygamy is a rich and fascinating territory. It is complex, fluid, and sometimes appears contradictory. However, in the hands of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, this absorbing aspect of women, faith, family, suffrage, and the early Mormon church becomes a tapestry sewn together by various voices through Ulrich's well-honed skill at analyzing early diaries, notes, letters, poems, etc., of members of the LDS faith (primarily women) from the beginning of the LDS church through 1870 (the year women's suffrage passed in the territory of Utah*).

For those who are unfamiliar with Ulrich, she was the one who penned the phrase: "well-behaved women seldom make history". She also wrote the landmark book, A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. This landmark book was (and is) very influential for subverting many ideas of pre-industrial labor, gender roles, and HIStory. She is Harvard's 300th Anniversary University Professor, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Bancroft Prize, former President of the American Historical Association, and is a Guggenheim and MacArthur fellow. She is just a bad ass. If we ever have another daughter, we might just name her Laurel.

* It was later repealed under the Edmunds–Tucker Act and was eventual returned in 1896 when Utah became a state, but that will probably need to wait until Professor Ulrich writes A House Full of Females, Part 2: 1870 to present.

18 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Worth Your Time

Interesting and worth reading. The story tends to wander from time-to-time, though, and might have benefited with more thorough editing to straighten out some of the timelines, characters, and storytelling. There are several discussions of pioneer quilts that are far too long and detailed to maintain my interest. The author also has several long sections which refer to key characters only by pronouns—he or she—so that it becomes a challenge to remember who is actually speaking (a challenge which is possibly exacerbated by the audio format). The narration by Susan Ericksen is sometimes grating. The number of Mormon vocabulary and other words that she mispronounces are numerous and repeated — Moroni, Lamanites, Kirtland, Amasa, prophesied, and Nephi, for example. All things considered, though, it is certainly worth your time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Great History

This was a cool book, no question. While I disagree with some of the author's interpretations, most often as they relate to the feelings, motivations, or intelligence of various historical figures, her research, compilation and synergy of documents is outstanding. I walk away with a broader, deeper, more nuanced view of Mormon polygamy and the political/social/religious environment where it took place. As far as the recording, I'd have appreciated more effort going into the cultural/correct pronunciation of Mormon nouns. Over all, a great read! Great buy!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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A bit too slow and directionless

I was hoping for an in depth exploration of the doctrine and history of the early days of the church, when plural marriage was established. There was some of that, but the book relied on journals, mostly of women, and this constraint left much to be desired. There wasn't enough historical context to make the book interesting. Chapters didn't seem to have much focus. There was a lot of jumping around between characters, which made it harder to follow in an audio book. And too much time was spent on one concept, which made it drag a bit.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Pronunciation Counts

Interesting, however reader mispronounced the Book of Mormon names throughout the reading. Nephi is not Neff - ee.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good information, a lot of mispronunciation.

There were many times in which the reader said the wrong word, and many more times that she just mispronounced words. I did not catalog them all, but some examples are 'prophecy' vs 'prophesy' and 'exalt' vs 'exult'. There were many more that I can't recall right now.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • AFear
  • CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA United States
  • 10-15-18

Enjoyed

I found this book educational, and enjoyed listening to the stories of these brave women's lives.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Compelling history of pioneer women

Narrative, and narrator combined to relate a compelling account of the physical and spiritual struggle of Mormonism in the early American Republic. Informative and insightful for non-Mormon readers, such as I was. As a historian of gender and settlement frontiers, the tale centered on meticulously mined sources, showed how intimacy in the everyday life and experiences of women and men created a sometimes fraught, but flourishing communities in Navoo, IL and the Great Salt Lake valley.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great Research, Good History

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich has done another amazing job. her research and prose are great, the reading was great, but there could have been a little research done by Erickson to pronounce names from the BoM correctly (i.e. nephi, Moroni, Abinadi, etc.)
great read.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Pronunciation

This is an awesome book and the narration is good EXCEPT for the pronunciations. She gets a lot wrong and I can only assume that it was due to lazy direction that they didn’t double check with the author .