Christmas Series: Give the Gift of Exponent II

Gift of EXII logoAre you looking for that special gift for your favorite Mormon woman? Consider getting a subscription to Exponent II, and your gift recipient’s first issue will be a double issue packed with so much of the best stuff of Exponent II over the past 40 years.

Our editor-in-chief, Aimee Hickman, has been working on this issue for over a year, and it will be such a treasure, including past editors’ favorite essays published during their tenure with a few paragraphs describing the events surrounding the choosing, editing, and publishing of their chosen essay.

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Guest Post: No More Fear-Driven Faith for Me!

Judy profileWe’re delighted to showcase some of Exponent II’s founding mothers and long-time contributors in the upcoming days and weeks. We look to them, those who have seen and weathered periods of apostasy accusations and members facing Church discipline, for their thoughts on the events that are taking place as a new generation of progressive Mormons search for our place in the Church.

No More Fear-Driven Faith for Me!
by Judy Dushku

After Sonia Johnson was excommunicated from my church in 1979, the women in Exponent II invited her to meet with us and discuss her views. Since we were also Mormon feminists and supported the ERA as she did, we thought it appropriate and indicative of our solidarity with many of her ideas. She came to Boston for a media event, and then came to my home for a warm and lively discussion. Laurel Ulrich later commented that Sonia seemed brittle and fearful; we were sympathetic and felt compassion.

As was the practice with Exponent II, our Board decided that we would publish an issue about Sonia Johnson’s ordeal and her views where we would invite a number of women to write their thoughts concerning this pivotal and highly volatile event. We were long-committed to that approach to controversial subjects: identify the issue, then invite many LDS women to share their points of view in our paper. We solicited opinions and soon had a paper ready to paste up for publication. On the night before we went to press, four (as best I can recall) of our number decided to have their names taken off our masthead. They did not want to be associated with an issue of Exponent II that might appear to endorse Sonia’s positions or behavior, lest we get excommunicated, too. They did not resign in protest, they said, but in fear.

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Guest Post: The Future of Mormon Feminism

DSC_0023 - Copy (2)by Aimee Hickman

This past Saturday night, I was delighted to speak alongside one of my idols, Claudia Bushman, at the Exponent II 40th Anniversary Speakers Series outside of Washington, DC. I was asked to speak on the future of Mormon feminism and what follows is an abbreviated version of my remarks. I would be very glad to hear from Exponent readers about what the future of Mormon feminism looks like to you. I hope you’ll leave a comment below.

In the Winter 2014 issue of Exponent II, Helen Claire Sievers contributed an essay titled “What Mormon Women Have Lost in My Lifetime.” Reflecting on her 70 years as a Church-member, Helen Claire catalogued the opportunities Mormon women experienced pre-correlation that she argues have diminished over time. Here are just a few of her examples: an expansive international Relief Society General Board which provided more opportunities for direct access to Church leadership; control over assets, money and travel; direct access between the General Relief Society Presidency and First Presidency; control over the content of Relief Society, Young Women’s and Primary manuals; innovation and experimentation with Primary, Youth and Relief Society organizations; the Relief Society Magazine and more.

Though nostalgia may leave a rose-colored tinge (freedom from fundraising, in particular seems like a valuable gain earned through correlation), the losses Helen Claire outlines have come as shocking revelations to two generations of post-correlation Mormon women who have never heard of or experienced the dynamism and ambition of pre-correlated women’s work in the Church. In our correspondence as we edited her essay, Helen Claire noted that she “tell[s] people I missed the entire women’s movement because it was so exciting to work in the Church back then.” This statement made me gasp in front of my computer screen.

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Birth/Rebirth: Mother and Model, The Birth of The Exponent II by Claudia Bushman

ExIIcropped                Sherrie (Spunky) invited me to write a blog about motherhood and birthing for her series.  When I asked what she had in mind, she suggested something about the birth of Exponent II, the remarkable journal now celebrating its fortieth anniversary. 

                People over the years have asked why our little coven of LDS feminists in Boston was invited to edit a volume of Dialogue and why we felt called, worthy, able to write a book and begin a newspaper.  Surely we must have had some secret license, some mystical call.  Otherwise, how did we have the nerve to set ourselves up like that.

                I love those questions which accord us an authority we never had and a position of some importance.  Nobody asked us.  Nobody invited us.  Nobody really encouraged us.  We just did things.  We didt worry about permission from the far off Rockies.  We thought we were pretty much invisible out there by Plymouth Rock.  We originally met to talk about our lives as Mormon women.  We were church members, mostly wives of students or young professionals.  It was a time when women were rising, expressing some discontents, and we certainly had some, although I think those issues would seem pretty tame today.  Mostly, though, we just wanted to talk, to share our ideas and our grievances.  Much sturm and drang attended those sessions and many anxious tears were shed.

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