The Facebook of the 19th Century
If you check the sidebar, you will see links to the Exponent II group on flickr, a photo sharing group, and on Facebook, a social networking site. If you use either of these applications, I hope you will join our groups. While I believe that blogging is still the best way for us to interact online, I want us to continue to expand our influence through various new forums. I’ve observed that most younger folks are more active on Facebook than on the blogs, so I want to make sure that we have a presence in both places.
This weekend I’ve been thinking a lot about the history of Exponent–both in its earliest incarnation in the 19th century and as it was revived by Boston women a few decades ago. The Exponent has ridden the front waves of many significant social movements, and it’s my hope that it will continue to do so–that it can adapt in form and content to continue its relevance with contemporary Mormon women.
I recently came across this passage about the original Exponent:*
“First published in 1872, the Woman’s Exponent was truly the voice of Mormon women, linking them to other women nationwide. Purporting to offer an ‘almost complete history of woman’s work in Utah and matters pertaining thereunto’ the Exponent also connected the efforts of Utah women in the areas of suffrage, for example, with those of their sisters in other parts of the United States. The newspaper itself was a symbol of the independence and productiveness of Mormon women; in 1893 an article on women journalists in the Exponent claimed that it was one of only three papers west of the Mississippi River that was ‘edited and published entirely by women,’ including women typesetters.”
Reading about the early publication’s significance made me feel a surge of pride in keeping the Exponent moving forward into the 21st century. At the same time, though, I reflected on how small a corner of the Mormon world we touch through this blog and I wish our impact could be greater. I’d like the ExponentBlog to represent and reflect the experience of a far larger swath of LDS women. From the passage above it seems that the original Woman’s Exponent was the Facebook for LDS women in the nineteenth century. Perhaps as our organization continues to expand into new forums we will continue to draw a larger net of Mormon women into our community.
*From Margaret Brady’s book Mormon healer and folk poet: Mary Susannah Fowler’s life of ‘unselfish usefulness’
Do you have any thoughts on the historical significance of the Exponent? How did you first encounter the publication? In what ways does the ExponentBlog reflect your experience as an LDS woman? Do you have any suggestions for ways we could reach out to more Mormon women?