Mormon Women Write
Approximately three months ago, I packed my bags and my baby and hopped on a plane to California to say a few words about the book, Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, and what coediting it with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright has meant to me. Many of my words are about writing, and legacies, and memorials. Others are about baby nap-times, and gratitude, and resolution. I quote authors, philosophers, and women I love, and I get teary. It is hard not to be moved by the intertwined, brave, lived history of Mormon feminism.
Thanks to the magic of technology (and the good folks at my Claremont Graduate University), you can watch my remarks here. If you listen especially carefully, you may even hear my babe pronounce, “Mama.” (A shoutout to my kind classmate and colleague who cared for her in the back.)
For those who are more readers than video watchers, I offer the ending:
Here I wish that I could say what this book has meant to me, but it feels too difficult, so I can just say this: I am grateful for the privilege of participating in this project, and the forced recollection it has been. It felt holy to sit with the last 40 years of Mormon feminists, to learn from them, and be inspired by them. In gratitude and love, I gave my heart, my mind, my late nights, and almost all of my daughter’s nap-times.
There are moments of great indignation, but it is not an angry book. There are many more moments of sorrow, but it is not a sad book. It is a heart turning toward our mothers. It is a collective tale, collected with the help of many. It is women’s stories, told in women’s words. In it they ask their big and small questions and speak their big and small truths. It is an opportunity to remember. I acknowledge that some indignation and sorrow might come in recollection, and that reading it makes me cry, no matter how many times I have read it before. Remembering makes me feel a rawness for my sisters in their earnest endeavors to reach God. Thankfully, the writings contain their own balm in Gilead, their own hope, their own peace, their own resolution, and their own power, built upon what Claudia once called the “dual platforms” of Mormonism and feminism.
My coeditors and I offer it for posterity: we offer it as a record kept. I am confident that this shared story will tie generations together, in part because it will tell readers that their questions about gender in the church are not new questions, and that they are not alone.
All of these words are on my mind again, because Hannah and I are finishing up the work of indexing, which for me feels like the most careful and intent act of remembering and recording. I have been spending time with nearly every name in Mormon Feminism, in alphabetical order, and making note of their page numbers. Hannah has been doing the same for nearly every topic.
There are tiny moments of tedium, but even more of thanks, to pause on the names of women and men I admire–names (just in the “A’s”!) like Janice Merrill Allred, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Lynn Matthews Anderson, Susan B. Anthony, Leonard Arrington, and Valeen Tippets Avery. I smile so often.
I’m also mindful of one more list of names, those women and men who are not in the book, but could be, if we had all of the pages this movement requires. Thank you for being a part of it.