To Hold In Their Hands

Last fall, I sat in a room on Yale University’s campus, and listened to Terry Tempest William read aloud from her book, When Women Were Birds. There were so many beautiful, meaningful thoughts, but the one that made my heart beat most wildly was this: “Mormon women write. This is what we do, we write for posterity, noting the daily happening of our lives. Keeping a journal is keeping a record.” I knew instinctively, that she was right, because of myself, and those who came before me.

My mind was flooded with their names: Eliza R. Snow, Louisa Green Richards, Emmaline B. Wells, and other early leaders who wrote in both their private journals and their published journal, The Woman’s Exponent; Claudia Bushman, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Judith Dushku, and other Boston area women who found their words in Harvard’s Widener Library, and carried their torch by starting the Exponent II; a myriad of other Mormon women writers and bloggers here and elsewhere.

The February before that, I sat in a room on Claremont Graduate University’s campus, and listened to Joanna Brooks affirm that Mormon women need a book. There were so many beautiful, meaningful thoughts, but the one that made my heart beat most wildly, was this:

The public conversations swirl onward and online as sometimes sort of directionless with nothing like the great orienteering tool of a book, for there is nothing like a book to hold in one’s hand and locate oneself in a tradition… Mormon women coming of age need to hold in their hands the wealth of perspective and knowledge of these last four decades of Mormon feminism… This work has value, and something about a book conveys value, so, I’m setting to work compiling a volume of essential Mormon feminist writings from 1970 to the present.

There was no way I could have known it then, but Joanna would later ask Hannah Wheelwright and I to help her co-edit the volume. It was a massive undertaking of love, and work, and patience, and community. (We ourselves asked for lots, and lots of help from our sisters, and received it.) The book is here now, and Mormon feminists are holding it in their hands. It is among the happiest, most beautiful sights.

The very first picture is of my daughter, who brought me my copy, in between Saturday’s General Conference sessions, while I was half asleep from a much needed nap. Snuggling up beside me, she implored, “Read it please, Mama.” And then once again. I opened my eyes, and saw her holding it. Saw her hugging it, like this. Now when she sees pictures of it, she says, “Mommy’s book.” I tell her that it is, but that it is more than that: it is our whole communities. We are Mo Fem.

(This same just-turned-two-year-old was six months in my belly when I first told Joanna, “Yes, of course I will help. It is an honor.”)

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Mo Fem, Kaci

Mo Fem, Katie S.

Mo Fem, Naomi

Mo Fem, Sarah

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Mo Fem, Jodi

Mo Fem, Melody

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Mo Fem, Amanda

Mo Fem, Nicki

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MoFem,Cherie

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Mo Fem, Sara

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To see more images, or to add your own, check out Joanna’s twitter or fbook feeds. Tag her. Tag me. Tag Hannah. #wearemofem #mormonfeminism

So much love, to our inspiring community.

Rachel

Rachel is a PhD student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University. She co-edited _Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings_ with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She is also a lover of all things books and bikes.

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13 Responses

  1. Suzanne says:

    This. I’m so grateful for an online community. You are right; a tangible book is powerful. Unexpectedly the tears started to flow as I scrolled thru the beautiful faces, each holding their book. I don’t know you personally (though one of the contributors to it is in my ward) but we are somehow bound together. I am looking forward to reading mine.

  2. Ziff says:

    I love that you all did this! I am so happy about the existence of this book, and I am excited to read it! And the pictures make me smile so much!

  3. Liz says:

    This book is such a gift to our community. Thank you, Rachel, Joanna, and Hannah.

  4. Sandra says:

    Congrats. This is huge.

  5. Moss says:

    I am thoroughly enjoying this book. I am very grateful for the opportunity to read the words of my sisters. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

  6. Suzette says:

    Love love love the photos. Will be sending my own soon.

  1. December 1, 2015

    […] Essential Writings, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright. Rachel, has already written about this book, but it gets its own review in this series […]

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