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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2013 Abstracts

Women in Utah, Shattering Patriarchy during Second Wave Feminism

Kimberly Williamson, Utah Valley University


“There is nothing particularly interesting about one’s life story,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “unless people can say as they read it, Why, this is like what I have been through. Perhaps, after all, there is a way to work it out.” Humans throughout time have recognized the need for storytelling and have been preserving oral histories. Narratives supplement our historical memory and offer an in-depth account of personal experience and reflections, which allows another to feel a commonality that often dissolves the barriers of race, class, gender, and even time. During the 19th century, the fight for enfranchisement united Utah’s early settlers with national suffragists. Feminists such as newspaper editor, Emmiline B. Wells and “presidentes” of the women’s organization within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Eliza R. Snow, were in the forefront of this movement. Wells, Snow, along with other women were actively involved in their family responsibilities. However, they also held public and political positions within their communities that were not typical for women of that period. The women’s movement of the seventies recognized that literature wasn’t acknowledging women’s prominent role in society. Not only was there a lack of sources by and about women, but the historiography in general was male dominated. Hence, the LDS church initiated a crusade to collect women’s journals, letters, and other writings of Utah’s pioneers. These sources increased scholarship of Utah’s suffragists, which caused national recognition of the role they played during First Wave Feminism. Nevertheless, there is a trivial amount written about the women in Utah during Second Wave Feminism from the 1970’s to late 1980’s. My research focuses on stories of women in Utah during Second Wave Feminism. I interviewed four women within higher education where they expressed personal experiences that are similar in spirit to Utah’s early settlers. Inadvertently each woman had some connection with the LDS church. My thesis will argue that by extrapolation there were many women, particularly at Utah Valley University who transcended patriarchy to achieve positions of leadership and notoriety. Their personal narratives challenge the feminist theory of patriarchal suppression, which seems paradoxical considering the fact that Utah’s dominant religion, the LDS church, functions as a male governed society.