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46 Pages

The Making of Polygamous Suffragists

Contemporaries of the Mormons were prompt to notice the anomaly of Mormon women defending polygamy in the name of women's rights. This was pointedly expressed in 1882 by a visitor to Utah, who observed: "But even more staggering is the fact that Mormon women base their indignation against their persecuting saviours on woman 's rights, the very ground upon which those saviours have based their crusade!"2 To understand the elements that went into creating polygamous women's rights activists requires taking their position seriously, understanding the role prescribed for women within Brigham Young's kingdom, and analyzing the religious framework which supported polygamy. This chapter explores the nature of Mormon polygamy, the support for women's rights within Brigham Young's world, the elements of the Mormon women's defense of polygamy, and lastly, the unexpected feminist implications of the institution of polygamy.