Listen to feminist women at church! Sing one of these official LDS hymns by feminist lyricists.
Carol Lynn Pearson
Carol Lynn Pearson is an advocate for LGBTQ rights (see her book Goodbye, I Love You) and feminist theology (see her book, The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy) and a regular contributor to Exponent II. (Her poem, A Fascinating Study in Highs and Lows, was published in its first volume.) In harmony with her other work, her children’s song, I’ll walk with you, has a message of inclusion.
Emma Lou Thayne
Emma Lou Thayne had a recurring column at the Exponent II and was a mentor for younger feminists in the Exponent II organization. She wrote the hymn, Where can I turn for peace?, as part of her service on the Young Women General Board of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The lyrics were inspired by her own experiences supporting her daughter with mental illness and coping with an emergency that temporarily disrupted her career as a university professor. (Emma Lou and her daughter Becky wrote about those struggles in their book, Hope and Recovery.)
Ruth May Fox
Ruth May Fox was a suffragist who helped craft the wording guaranteeing votes for women in the Utah state constitution. It’s no wonder her hymn, Carry On, has the sound of a suffragette anthem. It was originally written for the youth of the church while she was serving as president of the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association (the equivalent of modern general Young Women President).
Ellis Reynolds Shipp
Ellis Shipp was one of the first credentialed female medical doctors to set up practice west of the Mississippi. She founded a school of obstetrics for women where she trained 500 other women to be healthcare providers. Her role as a healer is reflected in the lyrics of her hymn, Father, cheer our souls tonight.
Emmeline B. Wells
Emmeline B. Wells was editor of the nineteenth century feminist newspaper, the Exponent, for which Exponent II is named. She was a suffrage movement leader, working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and president of the Relief Society, where she led relief efforts following disasters such as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Eliza R. Snow
Eliza R. Snow was a powerful spiritual leader with the titles of “prophetess” and “priestess.” She was also known as “Zion’s poetess” and is the author of many hymns. Her hymn, O My Father (which was previously called by the less patriarchal title, Invocation, or The Eternal Father and Mother), is the only hymn in the current hymnal that celebrates Heavenly Mother. (Let’s hope there will be more in the upcoming new hymnal.) While that may be our most feminist hymn, I chose to include a video of another hymn by Snow, In Our Lovely Deseret, because of its popularity outside the United States. (A more multicultural hymnal is one of the stated goals of LDS church officials revising the hymnal, so I hope that future renditions of this list will include feminist lyricists of a wider variety of ethnicities, races and nationalities.)
Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe’s Civil War anthem, Battle Hymn of the Republic, is included in the hymnals of many faith communities, including the LDS Church. Writing the hymn made Howe famous, providing her with a platform to promote the causes important to her, such as feminism and—ironically for a woman best known for writing a song called Battle Hymn—pacifism. (I wrote about Julia Ward Howe’s feminist awakening and her experience writing this hymn in my book, Ask a Suffragist, Stories and Wisdom from America’s First Feminists. Get the audiobook to hear me sing the original lyrics!)