Essential Reading For Mormon Feminists

by Caroline

One of our readers recently emailed and asked what the most important books were for Mormon feminists to read. Here is my list, but please, readers, contribute your own ideas.

I have ranked these books. Three stars means most important, one star means less important.

Readings on Mormon Feminism

1. Women and Authority: Reemerging Mormon Feminism by Maxine Hanks. *** This is a collection of essays that addresses just about every topic you ever thought about as a Mormon feminist. I highly recommend the first chapter about Mother in Heaven, and I also love the excerpts from Exponent II.  This book is completely online, but I recommend buying your own copy.

2. All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir by Ulrich and Thayne. *** This is a gentle, thoughtful collection of essays and poems from a couple of our best thinkers in the Church. Whatever you do, make sure you read the essay, “Lusterware.”  If you’re ever feeling discouraged and wonder if there’s a place for you in the church, read it. You’ll be renewed with fresh hope.

3. Sisters in Spirit by Beecher and Anderson. ***A great collection of essays. I remember particularly liking Newell’s one on gifts of the spirit.

4. Strangers in Paradox by the Toscanos*** Fascinating ideas about women and Mormonism.

5. Mormon Enigma by Newell and Avery. **If you’re interested in Emma Smith, this will blow you away. What an amazing woman. And how messed up polygamy was.

6. The pink Dialogue issue from 1971. **The first women’s issue, put together by the wonderful ladies of Exponent II.

7. Mormon Sisters by Claudia Bushman. **Who knew those early women of Utah could be so empowered?

8. From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson * You’ll learn details here about the Church’s underground work against the ERA that will blow you away. She’s a powerful writer. But you might find her over the top anti-patriarchal rhetoric a bit tiring.

9.) The Exponent II publication. **Started in the 70’s to explore the intersections of faith and feminism, this publication has been publishing wonderful essays and articles for over 30 years.

10. God the Mother and other Theological Essays by Allred. ** Here she proposes that the Holy Ghost may be God the Mother.

Books on Feminism and Religion

1. When Women Were Priests *** by Torjesen. A powerful argument that women held priesthood in the early Christian church.

2. Womanspirit Rising by Christ *** A collection of seminal articles on feminism and religion, from a variety of traditions.

3. Sexism and God-Talk by Reuther *** The best book I know about patriarchy, feminism and Christianity.

Please add to my list!


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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26 Responses

  1. June says:

    How about the Book of Mormon.

    I know it sounds trite, but you really have to read these things in the middle of reading what the Lord has asked us to read. There needs to be balance.

  2. Keri Brooks says:

    Wow, thanks! This is a great-looking list. I’ll have to read some of them when I get a chance.

  3. sylvia says:

    Mormon Enigma by Tippets and Avery
    LDS Women’s Treasure (not kidding here – lots of GA quotes on Heavenly Mother)

  4. Kimarie says:

    I am intrigued by “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir”. My son received a children’s book with this title a while back and I really loved it.

  5. Caroline says:

    June, could you say more about what a Mormon feminist (or any woman, for that matter) might find of interest regarding women in the Book of Mormon? I myself have always found it slim pickings for people interested in women. Of course, there are tons of other good things in there — not the least of which, for me, is the way one can see liberation theology in it.

    Keri, I hope you’ll love some of these books as much as I do.

    Sylvia, thanks for the tip on the LDS Women’s Treasure. I’m going to have to go online and order one tonight.

  6. Madam Curie says:

    Ooooh, a list! I love lists!

  7. CatherineWO says:

    Thanks for the list, Caroline. I would add:
    Pedestals & Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority & Equal Rights
    by Martha Sonntag Bradley
    Dance of the Dissident Daughter
    by Sue Monk Kidd (not LDS, but very applicable)

  8. rachel says:

    thanks, caroline!!!

    much appreciated. this will keep me busy for awhile.

  9. birch says:

    Regarding June’s comment above…I have to say, there are some people, myself included, who might simply not be interested in the Book of Mormon at a given time. It’s important to respect that and to realize that the title “Mormon feminist” can encompass people who still attend church, do visiting teaching, go to the temple, etc; but it also encompasses people who identify as “Mormon” in a much broader context. I will always be culturally Mormon, rooted in Mormonism, part of a large Mormon family, no matter what I do. So in a sense I will always be a “Mormon feminist,” whether or not I go to the temple or read the Book of Mormon. I feel like right now there’s really not enough visible, compassionate space for people like me who are not interested in being 100% Mormon, which just results in more personal anguish, I think.

    Sorry to get a bit off topic; thanks for the reading list. It’s nice to have recommendations for works written by people who have thoughtfully wrestled with many of the same questions I have.

  10. Kelly Ann says:

    Wow, you just gave me an awesome list to tackle, although I am pretty sure a lot of it will challenge me. As for the Book of Mormon, with only three named women, I think it serves an entirely different purpose.

  11. Deborah says:

    The “official” history of the Relief Society is a extraordinary.

    Women of Covenant: The History of the Relief Society.

  12. Abella says:

    These are just a few more, powerful, powerful books. Love the list above.

    Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler
    Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd
    The Woman With the Alabaster Jar, Margaret Starbird
    Goddess in the Gospels, Margaret Starbird

  13. mb says:

    What Paul Really Said About Women: The Apostle’s Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love
    by John Temple Bristow

  14. Davis says:

    There are six named women in the BOM

  15. Loved the list! I think we could actually include Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s The Midwife’s Tale as a feminist book because it demonstrates the economic importance of women to their families in early New England life.

  16. Madame Curie says:

    Caroline, I am really excited about this list. I can’t say how happy this makes me! I am a feminist “by experience, but not by training”, so I am always happy to have starting places for knowing where to go to learn about feminist theory and Mormon feminism.

    The only of these books I have read is Maxine Hanks, although I have read a number of Dialogue articles related to feminism and Mormonism, and of course the internet discussions.

    You have just made my day very happy indeed!

  17. Paula says:

    I’d add Quicksand and cactus: A memoir of the southern Mormon frontier., Juanita Brooks’ autobiography, along with the biography by Levi Peterson, Juanita Brooks: Mormon Woman Historian.Every mormon feminist ought to know about her. (And read some of her history books.)

    I’d also recommend the very recent When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, by Gail Collins.

  18. Kaimi says:

    Great list, Car.

    We had a fun discussion at T&S about this topic a few years ago, at .

    I’m largely in agreement with your choices, and the commenter suggestions. I also like Godfrey & Derr’s _Women’s Voices_, Carol Lynn Pearson’s _Daughters of Light_, and Terry Tempest Williams’ _Refuge_.

    The Smith Institute fellows under Claudia Bushman produced a very good volume, which you can get from BYU at .

    Also, don’t miss Heather P’s list at

  19. Kaimi says:

    Also, a number of these, including Women & Authority and Strangers in Paradox, are available for free online through Signature. (See ).

  20. If you’re interested in an overview of the arguments being used by your egalitarian evangelical Christian cousins, I highly recommend Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy edited by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Ronald W. Pierce and Gordon D. Fee [2005].

    For some really intelligent conservative Christian feminist scholarship on early Christianity, I recommend Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity Volume 1 & 2 edited by Carroll D. Osburn. It may change the way you look a the things that the Bible says about women.

  21. Jessawhy says:

    This is a great list. Brilliant, in fact.

    I haven’t read enough of these books, but I will.
    The ones I will second are Strangers in Paradox and Mormon Enigma.

    I’m almost afraid to read Women and Authority b/c I think it might push me over the edge of how much patriarchy I can tolerate (luckily for me I spend 2 hrs in nursery every week). Hmm, I’ll have to think about that.

  22. Caroline says:

    Great suggestions, everyone! I’m excited to hear about these books you’ve recommended.

    CatherineWO, I love both of those.

    birch, thank you for so thoughtfully expressing where you are right now in your faith journey. Many of us here understand exactly what you are talking about. And I’m a big advocate of making space in the church for people who are not willing to buy in 100%.

    Deborah, Women of Covenant is an impressive work. It’s actually pretty amazing in its frankness considering it was published by Deseret.

    And Kaimi, Doh!! I can’t believe I forgot Refuge. And Daughters of Light is a good suggestion. I was just thinking about how to get some Carol Lynn Pearson on here. Perhaps an alternative would be her play about Heavenly Mother, “Mother Wove the Morning”

    Abella, thanks! Those are ones I’m not familiar with.

    mb, that Paul book sounds like an interesting read.

    Course correction, that’s a good suggestion.

    Madame Curie, Kelly Ann, Rachel, thanks! I do hope you’ll find some of this worthwhile.

    Paula, great additions. Speaking of Juanita Brooks, I’d also recommend Faithful Transgressions by Laura Bush. She analyzes Brooks’ memoir, as well as Barber’s one.

    Ms. Jack, thank you! I would love to check those out.

    Jessawhy, I don’t think the Hanks book pushed me over the edge. Instead it made me dizzy with excitement over the possibilities. The breadth of what Mormon women think and experience was exciting to me. At least that’s what I remember. Maybe I also had some rage that I don’t remember right now. 🙂

  23. Paula says:

    Oh, and Mormon Mother: An Autobiography by Annie Clark Tanner by Annie C Tanner — autobiography of a polygamist wife, who was also the mother of O. C. Tanner.

  24. Anna_Banana says:

    “The Flight and the Nest” by Carol Lyn Pearson – a really good book about the early Exponent magazine.

  1. September 27, 2011

    […] in my assigned passage.Want more excellent suggestions? Check out these posts (and the comments): Caroline at The Exponent Kaimi at Times and Seasons Heather P at ExplorationsTags: feminist texts, Maxine Hanks, The […]

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