Emmeline, Emma Lou, and Me

As a Young Woman, I didn’t know that some might consider being a Mormon feminist to be a contradiction. I grew up with so many models of Mormon feminism. My mom, my dad’s mom, and those authors of the essays in Exponent II helped me know I was never alone with my questions about equality.

I grew up loving Judy Dushku’s Sister Speak. Today, we have Facebook groups like Feminist Mormon Housewives Society, Feminist Women of Color, Young Mormon Feminists, and Exponent II where people can ask questions that they can’t ask in Relief Society, like how is the temple *really* for you? Or how do I leave the Church and maintain relationships with believing family members? In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I watched women from all over the country lovingly answer those questions once a quarter when the Exponent II newspaper arrived.

I read Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s and Emma Lou Thayne’s East/West column and thrived on their sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreakingly familiar thoughts about faith and feminism. I read stories about women surviving sexual abuse, choosing to work, infertility, being single, and so many other experiences that helped me to gain empathy in way that I don’t think would have been possible without reading the stories of women who were brave to be so vulnerable.

While in high school, I knew a new family in the ward, the Curtises, must be amazing because their mom had a subscription to Exponent II and called herself a feminist, like my mom! (One of those Curtises became my soulmate in Young Womens, another one, I married.)

When I got into Harvard Divinity School, I was just as excited to live in the birthplace of Exponent II and get more involved with this organization as I was that I got into Harvard.

During my time as an editor of Exponent II, I had the privilege of working with my co-editor, Aimee Hickman, to compile the stories of the LGBTQ Mormons. It blew my world wide open to intersectional feminism. As a feminist, I could not only work for equality for women. It needs to happen for those who are queer, for all people of color, for those differently abled…for anyone who is marginalized. That is both the radical message of feminism (when we do it right) and of Jesus Christ.

Exponent II still works at intersectionality. While I am heartened by the progress we are making, I know we need to do more. I believe that by raising this money, we can put the obstinate technological issues that take up time and emotional energy to rest and focus on the real work: expanding our community and being more inclusive of all marginalized members of our church.

As I learned more of the history of Exponent II while on the board in Boston, I also learned about the Woman’s Exponent and one of its editors, Emmeline B. Wells. I read Carol Cornwall Madsen’s book about her and knew that if I had a daughter, her name would be Emmeline (even though it is tricky to live in a household with an Emmeline and an Emily). Later, I got to know Emma Lou Thayne and knew that Emmeline would also need the nickname of Emma Lou.

My Emmeline is so sweet and spunky, just like I imagine Emmeline B. Wells was and know Emma Lou Thayne to be. I like to imagine that my Emmeline gets some of her best characteristics simply by sharing their names, and I hope she’ll be among the 4th generation of Exponent II readers.

Exponent II is a volunteer organization with some hefty technical needs to secure the site from recent hacker attempts—and you can help this second. We’re running a fundraiser this week to preserve this space for a variety of women’s voices.

Spread the word and DONATE NOW!  Click here for more information and a list of prizes for those who donate!


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EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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3 Responses

  1. Violadiva says:

    Best. Just the best. Got my eye on that girl of yours to arrange the marriage to my son!!

  2. Emily U says:

    I love reading your history, and even though we’re about the same age, you are an EXII mentor to me. Thank you!

  3. Ziff says:

    I love your reflections, Emily. I think it’s especially cool that you felt connected to your to-be husband’s family by the Exponent subscriptions you had in common. That’s so cool! And I love the picture of you and Emmeline! 🙂

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