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And to those of us who have survived, that we might bear witness In doing so, it became apparent to me that Mormon women found that the intensity of female homosociality  available in Mormon structures created a vital space in which they could explore passionate, romantic relationships with each other.
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At the same time I have uncovered some of the problematics of male homosociality - its power to arbitrarily defend or exile men accused of entering into erotic relationships with other men. As Mormon bishop T. Eugene Shoemaker recently posited: Smith explained that God was an exalted [heterosexual] man and that mortal existence was a testing ground for men to begin to progress toward exalted godhood.
This separatism, which the sexual deviance of polygamy created, was a highly effective means for the Mormons to gain social and political power amongst their own members. However, while practicing their own sexual perversion i. For Rich, this Lesbianism easily encompasses many more forms of emotional "intensity between and among women, including the sharing of a rich inner life, the bonding against male tyranny, the giving and receiving of practical and political support.
While some critics see polygamy as a form of male tyranny over women, I find that many Mormon women subversively reconstructed polygamy as a means of escaping male domination on many other levels, in what I call heroic acts of Lesbian resistance. The potential for female homosocial relationships is found among the polygamous "sister- wives" of Milford Shipp. This was possible only because her sister-wives cared for her three children in Utah while she was studying back east, pooling their resources to pay her tuition.
Her sister-wives also wrote her encouraging letters, while she described those of her husband as "harsh", "bitter and sharp". Shipp returned to Salt Lake City, she set up a thriving medical practice and made enough money to send her other sister-wives through medical college or midwifery training.
He gave them important marital status and fathered their children. Otherwise, "in polygamy the wives and children learned to fend for themselves". Shipp recorded in her private journal, "How beautiful to contemplate the picture of a family where each one works for the interest, advancement, and well-being of all. Despite the fact that Joseph Smith deified, eternalized, and pluralized heterosexuality through polygamy and temple ritual, early Mormon women found that their bodies, sensuality, and desires were neither tamed nor contained by obedience to the institution of polygamy.
I believe that many women found creative, unique, and intensely meaningful ways to confess and express their desire for other women.
Carol Lasser, has documented that Victorian women in America, in order to formalize "Romantic Friendships" with other women, sometimes married brothers, becoming sisters-in-law and sharing a surname. She theorizes that marrying brothers "deepened their intimacy, extending it in new directions, further complicating the intricate balance of emotional and material ties, and perhaps offering a symbolic consummation of their passion" for each other.
The "David and Jonathan" of the Primary: Felt and May Anderson Indeed at least one Mormon woman went so far as to request that her husband marry polygamously after she fell in love with another woman, so that the two women could openly live together.
Sarah Louisa Bouton married Joseph Felt in as his first wife but according to a biography, around , Louie the masculinized nickname she used met and "fell in love with" a young woman in her local LDS congregation named Alma Elizabeth Lizzie Mineer. Thus Louie "opened her home and shared her love" with this second Lizzie. This time, however, May did not marry Joseph Felt.
In May moved in with Louie, and Joseph permanently moved out of the house Louie had built and bought on her own. Those who watched their devotion to each other declare that there never were more ardent lovers than these two". The same biography also calls the beginning of their relationship a "time of love feasting", and makes it clear that the two women shared the same bed. For centuries, the biblical characters David and Jonathan have been classic signifiers of male-male desire and homoeroticism, because in the Hebrew scriptures, it was written in 2 Samuel 1: May Anderson and Louie Felt "David and Jonathan of the Primary" While polygamy was instigated by Mormon men but subsequently appropriated by their wives as a powerful source for homosociality , the women themselves created structures and discourses of sorority which allowed Lesbian expression.
The poem, written by Sarah E. Pearson and entitled "Sister to Sister", beautifully describes the intensity of homosocial sorority that Pearson encountered "in the sunlight of the Gospel of Christ".
Felt and May Anderson of the Primary apparently had no troubles reconciling their passionate relationship and their religion, other early Mormon women found it more difficult.
For example, Kate Thomas , a prolific, turn-of-the-century Mormon playwright and poet, withdrew somewhat from Mormonism while exploring her attraction to other women. However, some of her poetry of that same period reflects a growing disaffection with Mormonism. Her father, Richard Kendall Thomas was avidly theatrical, acting as choreographer for the Salt Lake Theater in its early days and then turning the family barn into a professional theater called the Barnacle. At the age of nineteen Thomas began keeping a private journal of what she called her "love poetry" while attending courses in Salt Lake City at the LDS Business College.
This journal consists almost entirely of love poems written to other women.
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Thomas also became an outspoken peace activist, anarchist, supporter of the very controversial League of Nations, and practitioner of Yoga. The following short poem is an example: A scarlet West; An East merged into eventide. A brown plain And by my side The one - the one in all the world I love the best! The outward wildness and the inward ache I cast off forever; from her lips I take joy never-ceasing.
Brown plain and her kiss Are all I ask. That it meant homosexual desire to her is supported by the fact that the only time she used the word "gay" outside of poems written to other women, was in a poem about "Gay Narcissus", who has traditionally signified same-sex especially male desire.
The following is a brief passage: She raised her eyes. There looking I beheld The Sound of Music through the eyes of love. She also worked for 17 years as the publications editor for the Family Service Association of America, authored a number of books on social work, and in was honored by the National Conference on Social Welfare for her leadership role in social work.
In the late s Kasius moved to Grammercy Park where she remained until her death in June Her family still lovingly remembers Cora for her intellect, humor, warmth, and generosity. Thus it comes as no surprise that the most radical discourse of Mormon sorority, that of early Mormon feminism, also created vital space in which women could desire other women romantically and sexually.
Historian of Mormon feminism, Maxine Hanks, has recovered one of the most important documents relating to Lesbianism in Victorian America: The 15 April issue reprinted from a New York paper an article by the pseudonymous "Fanny Fern", tellingly entitled "Women Lovers".
To clarify the possibly confusing wording of the document, I should explain that two kinds of "women lovers" are being described: The complete text of this brief but remarkable article follows: Women Lovers Perhaps you do not know it, but there are women who fall in love with each other. Woe be to the unfortunate she, who does the courting! All the cursedness of ingenuity peculiar to the sex is employed by "the other party" in tormenting her.
She will flirt with women by the score who are brighter and handsomer than her victim. She will call on them oftener. She will praise their best bonnets and go into ecstasies over their dresses. But then, women must keep their hand in. As Gay Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn explains, Louise L. The author merely warns women to be careful when loving other women - not to be victimized by exploitive and destructive women.
The closing statement "practice makes perfect" indicates that Lesbian desire is complete and perfect in and of itself, and is not a precursor to heterosexuality. Some cartoonists could not resist titillating the public with quasi-Lesbian images of multiple women sharing one bed with their lone husband.
As the 15 or so wives clamor to get into one large bed, their husband claps his hands in glee and says, "O let us be joyful" not legible in the image below.
While Mormon leaders were generally viewed as firmly in control of the Church, some humorists took the opposite view. Smith flanked by five "formidable" wives, who look like robust men in drag. Smith says, "There Are Influences Greater Than the Government in Utah"; reprinted in the Salt Lake Tribune Another, similar cartoon from shows a well-dressed Mormon dandy being chased by four angry, masculinized polygamous wives who sport "Feminism" sashes.
The humorist observes that thus "Mormonism Is on the Wane in Utah". Visual Images of Mormon Women to ", which contains the information on and reprints of these cartoons.
Chapman herself had been raised Episcopalian, although her mother had been a member of the ill-fated Martin Handcart Company of Mormon immigrants. The young, orphaned Sarah Ann was married off polygamously at the age of 14 to the 42 year old George Handley.
Sarah Ann was pregnant within a week of her marriage and at the age of 23 found herself the widowed mother of four small children. Embittered by her experiences in Mormonism especially church-sanctioned pedogamy - adults marrying children , she left the church and joined the Anglican Communion, belying the common Mormon belief that all Martin Company survivors remained faithful to the Mormon religion. A year later, Chapman met Mildred "Barry" Berryman , another Episcopalian Lesbian from Salt Lake who had converted to Mormonism briefly in her youth, at least long enough to receive a Patriarchal Blessing, as documented by Michael Quinn.
The relationship of Berryman and Anderson lasted until about While their romantic relationship only lasted a short time, Barry continued living in the Lesbian boarding house until After Grace Nickerson moved out of the house, Dorothy Graham replaced her. Dorothy was the Lesbian manager of the Coon Chicken Inn in Salt Lake a well-known restaurant owned by her family, which featured male drag performers, such as Julian Eltinge, during the s and 30s.
Around this time, Carline Monson joined the women, as a live-in cook at the boarding house. This aunt of Apostle Thomas S. Monson never married, although she reffered to herself as "Mrs.
In the mids, Edith Chapman closed the boarding house, leaving the home to Carline Monson, and moved to Berekely, California. Wehner had just spent one year traveling through Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East with his lover, and upon return to the United States had reconnected wtih his longtime patrons, Teresa "Tessy" Phebe Kimball Werner, her sister Winifred Kimball Hudnut, and Mrs.
The extremely wealthy Winifred Kimball Hudnut, famous throughout the United States and France as a spiritualist and theosophist, had been introduced to Wehner through her daughter, Natacha Rambova. These messages and her memoirs of their life together were published in a year after their divorce and just months after his death as Rudy: This was then reprinted in abbreviated form a year later as Rudolph Valentino, Recollections.
In , George Wehner published his own memoirs of his life as a clairvoyant and stage performer. The very last page of his autobiography tells of his visit with the Kimball family consistently misspelled by Wehner in Salt Lake City a year earlier.
While in the Tabernacle, Wehner had extraordinary visions of and received "intimate" messages from Heber C.
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Here, on one never-to-be-forgotten day, the Tabernacle was closed to visitors for a while, and Edward P. Kimbal [sic], the grandson of Heber C. As the noble tones of this great instrument swelled and reverberated about us in the lofty Tabernacle, I became clairvoyant and was aware of the presence of numerous spirits.
For there I sat with Aunt Tessy, Mrs.