It was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich who originally said that “well-behaved women seldom make history,” a quote that has taken on a life of its own in American culture. The statement appeared in a 1976 article by her about Puritan funeral services, but she expounded on it in a 2008 book titled with that quote, in which she bemoaned the fact that people often misinterpreted it to mean that women should misbehave in order to be memorable. “She wrote those words,” says Kim Z. Dale on Chicago Now, “lamenting…the fact that so many women who made positive impacts on society are overlooked by history.” Ulrich, in various publications since then, has noted that some of those impacts took place because of the early polygamist practices of the LDS Church. In an upcoming BYU event, in fact, she will expound on how women in polygamist marriages benefited from and in fact brought benefit to the entire then-territory of Utah.
On March 14 in the Hinckley Center at 7pm, BYU Women’s Studies and the History Department will host Ulrich as she speaks on rethinking the position of women in early Mormonism. Of plural marriage, she said in her recently-published book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870: “it could…have been described as an experiment in cooperative housekeeping and an incubator of female activism.” Indeed, Ulrich defended the practice by reminding people that Utah, a primarily female state, had given women voting rights, fifty years before it was federally mandated.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Ulrich won the Pulitzer Prize for writing A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812. She has also written books on polygamy and women’s rights in the Church as well as notable female historical figures.