Historian and Harvard professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was recently on the USU campus to give a talk presented by the USU History Department and sponsored by the Tanner Talks Series in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellowship recipient Laurel Thatcher Ulrich argues that the Mormon system of polygamy was both complicated and empowering for the women in these relationships. In her new book, “A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870,” Ulrich pieces together, through more than two dozen nineteenth-century diaries, letters, albums, minute-books, and quilts left by first-generation Latter-day Saints, the story of the earliest days of the women of Mormon "plural marriage." Ulrich says the right to vote in the state of Utah was given to them by a Mormon-dominated legislature as an outgrowth of polygamy in 1870, fifty years ahead of the vote nationally ratified by Congress, and that these women became political actors in spite of, or because of, their marital arrangements. Ulrich, writing of this small group of Mormon women who've previously been seen as mere names and dates, attempts to reconstruct these textured, complex lives to give us a 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.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was born in Sugar City, Idaho. She holds degrees from the University of New Hampshire, University of Utah, and Simmons College. She is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University and past president of the American Historical Association. As a MacArthur Fellow, Ulrich worked on the PBS documentary based on “A Midwife’s Tale,” the book for which she received the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is also featured on www.dohistory.org. Ulrich is also author of “Good Wives” and “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” She is a past president of the Mormon History Association. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.