More Than Faith : Latter-Day Saint Women as Politically Aware and Active Americans, 1830-1860
Western Washington University
I explore the political ideology and activity of female members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 1830 to 1860. Looking at personal sources such as diaries, letters, and poetry, this study posits Mormon women as intellectually active, politically engaged, and culturally aware in addition to religiously devout. This thesis first examines the ways in which early LDS women exhibited Democratic political ideology in the ways in which they viewed themselves and the ways in which they viewed the world around them. Looking at concepts such as “common woman” ideology, producerism, freedom rhetoric, Mormon-American exceptionalism, and Manifest Destiny within Mormon women’s personal writings, I demonstrate that many of these women joined countless other antebellum Americans in their embrace of Jacksonian political ideology. Finally, I explore early Mormon women’s political activity through Relief Society meetings, petitions, and patriotic celebrations, demonstrating that these women often prized democratic rhetoric while endorsing cultural and intellectual conformism to broader LDS policies and norms. By proposing that the Latter-Day Saint foremothers engaged in political thought and action in similar ways as LDS men and non-LDS Democrats, this thesis challenges historical views of Mormon women and the early LDS Church.