Halloween Costumes Based on Your Majors and Minors

It’s that time of year again, where we get to dress up as our favorite characters, monsters, or people. There are so many options that it can be hard to pick your costume. To remedy that, here are costume ideas based on your FHSS major or minor.

History or Women’s Studies

Last year, History professor Ed Stratford hosted two “dead debates,” which were fun events in which various professors acted as “resuscitated” dead U.S. presidents and queens and debated modern political and gender issues. Watch this “Between Two Ferns” parody trailers for the Dead Queens Debate for costume ideas:

 

Geography

Embrace your inner explorer and dress up as Christopher Columbus! To dress like him, you would need:

  • baggy pants, tucked into
  • white knee socks
  • floppy hat
  • long sleeved shirt
  • Long, plain vest

For some ideas on how to create simple spyglasses out of paper cups, check out this post. To see some of the maps the geography department has made of the nation, click here.

Adobe Spark (16)

Anthropology

Dressing up like an anthropology major would be very easy, if this post is any indication.

Political Science

Abraham Lincoln or any current or past American president are just a few of the options available for political science students. Here are instructions for creating President Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat.

For updates on the political science department, check out their blog.

Halloween doesn’t have to be hard; there are a plethora of people you can dress up as. So why not show some academic pride and dress up as someone from your major or minor?

Photo credits: Christopher Columbus.

95 Things You Didn’t Know about Martin Luther, From A World Ablaze

Five hundred years ago, almost to the day, Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses. Even though five centuries divide us from the famous Reformer, historians, religious scholars, and even laypeople still talk about the impact his ideas had on Christian Europe. Unfortunately, few people know the whole story. In a new book, A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation, BYU history professor Craig Harline tells the story of the man who shook Christianity to its core. Harline’s book, published just recently, is refreshingly readable; he dives into the story and makes it interesting to non-historians. A must for anyone who likes a good storyline, the book’s pacing and suspense make it read like fiction.

FHSS commemorates the anniversary of the day Luther sent out his theses—October 31st—by sharing 95 interesting facts about his life and personality.

Luther’s Theses

  1. Nailing or gluing theses to church doors was a common practice in the early 1500s, but there’s no historical record indicating whether Luther actually posted his own 95 theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.
  2. We do know that Luther sent his theses (written in Latin) to two local bishops and an archbishop. A few days later, he began sending copies to his friends, asking for their opinions.
  3. Luther’s theses spread as clergymen forwarded copies to each other. There were no laws against reprinting another person’s work, so someone eventually arranged to print more copies, and those made their way around the Holy Roman Empire.
  4. Printers began publishing German translations of Luther’s theses in early 1518. That allowed laypeople, not just scholars, to access his ideas.
  5. What exactly is a thesis? It’s a claim supporting a larger idea, often defended or attacked in a debate-like setting known as a disputation.
  6. Luther’s bishop discouraged him from holding a disputation, so Luther didn’t have the chance to defend his theses in the usual forum in 1517 or 1518.
  7. The topic of Luther’s theses? The practice of the Catholic church offering “indulgences,” or forgiveness of sins a person had committed in exchange for certain actions, such as a specified prayer, the visiting of a particular place, the performance of specific good works, or the giving of alms.
  8. In  particular, he opposed the funding of the construction of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and the paying-off of the debts of the Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz by alms gathered from indulgences.
  9. Luther wrote his 95 theses carefully, but many people interpreted them as attacks on the pope himself.
  10. Pope Leo X read Luther’s theses in early 1518. He sent word that Luther should keep silent on the subject of indulgences, but he didn’t do anything else… at first.
  11. Luther published an eight-page pamphlet, A Sermon on Indulgences and Grace, in March 1518 to clarify and expound on his ideas about indulgences.
  12. Luther’s Sermon, written in German, was even more popular than his theses. The pamphlet went through 14 printings in 1518.
  13. Luther spent much of 1518 writing papers to defend his theses, to refute his critics’ arguments, and to preach on other subjects. He was on his way to becoming one of the most prolific writers of his century.
  14. Luther also wrote a 170-page document called Explanations, which he sent to the pope to elaborate on his 95 theses.
  15. Luther rewrote some of his theses in Explanations, using stronger language against indulgences and saying that “the pope [was] only human and [could] err in matters of faith and morals.”
Ninety-five_Theses_(Basel)
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, as printed in a pamphlet in Basel.

Luther’s Trial

  1.  After reading Explanations, the pope ordered Luther to come to Rome for a trial. Luther feared that a Roman trial would condemn him and keep him from ever returning to Germany.
  2. Prince Frederick, who ruled most of Saxony (including Wittenberg) and carried lots of political clout, intervened and changed the trial’s location from Rome to Augsburg, Germany.
  3. On the first day of the trial, Luther got into a yelling match with Cardinal Tomasso Cajetan, who led the trial.
  4. Johann von Staupitz, Luther’s superior in the Augustinian order of monks where he served, rushed to Augsburg after hearing about the disastrous first day. He convinced Luther to prepare a statement for the following days in court.
  5. In Luther’s written statement, he explained his position and included many scriptures, but Cajetan dismissed everything as “mere words.”
  6. The trial ended with Cajetan threatening Luther with excommunication and telling him not to return unless he was ready to recant.
  7. Rumors spread around Augsburg that Cajetan was going to order Luther’s arrest.
  8. As the highest-ranking Augustinian in Augsburg, Staupitz knew that he could be ordered to arrest Luther, so Staupitz absolved Luther of his vow of obedience. This effectively divorced Luther from the Augustinian order.
  9. Staupitz then fled Augsburg before Cajetan could take further action.
  10. Luther remained in the city until October 20. He posted an appeal to the pope on the church door, then rode out of Augsburg on an unsaddled horse.
  11. Luther rode back into Wittenberg on October 31, 1518. It was the first anniversary of the fateful day he sent out his theses.
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Wittenberg, 1536 (during Luther’s lifetime). Public domain.

Luther’s Tenuous Status in Saxony

  1. Even though Luther was no longer an Augustinian friar, he was still a preacher and a professor at Prince Frederick’s university in Wittenberg. He spent most of the fall of 1518 worrying that he would have to suddenly flee the city to avoid arrest.
  2. Knowing that Luther relied on Prince Frederick’s protection, Cajetan wrote to the prince to say that Luther should be arrested, or at least thrown out of Saxony.
  3. Two months after receiving Cajetan’s letter, Prince Frederick wrote back to say that Luther wasn’t a heretic because he still hadn’t had a real trial and no one had actually forced him to recant.
  4. Enrollment at Prince Frederick’s university increased sharply (from about 400 to 552) in 1518, mainly because students wanted to be taught by the famous Luther. The spike in enrollment is one reason behind the prince’s protection.
  5. The prince might have privately agreed with Luther’s concerns. He was intelligent, and he usually believed expert opinions when he heard them.
  6. But for political reasons, Prince Frederick couldn’t show obvious support of Luther. Frederick feared attack from other German princes (who could use Luther’s “heresy” as a pretext to attack Frederick), the taking of his lands by his own family members, excommunication, and subsequent loss of political power.
  7. Luther’s next big publication hit the press in December 1518: Acta Augustana, his account of the Augsburg trial and his assertion that Cajetan had labelled him as a heretic before the trial even began.
  8.  Pope Leo sent Karel von Miltitz, a Saxon nobleman who ran in the papal circles, to bargain with Prince Frederick over Luther’s fate. Miltitz, an inexperienced delegate, couldn’t convince the prince to arrest Luther, but he did secure a meeting with Luther himself.
  9. Miltitz and Luther met and reached a compromise, but Emperor Maximilian, of the Holy Roman Empire, died just days later. The pope wanted a particular person installed as the next emperor, and Prince Frederick was an elector who got to help choose the emperor, so the two parties shelved their discussion on Luther’s fate until the new emperor had been elected.
  10. Even with the conversation paused, the pope wrote to Luther and said that Miltitz had told him that Luther was willing to recant. Luther replied that Miltitz was mistaken and that he’d only recant if someone could prove he was wrong.
  11. In the meantime, Luther was appointed dean of Prince Frederick’s university.
Rose_Martin_Luther_1530_couleur.svg
Luther’s rose, which he personally designed as a letter seal. It symbolizes his ideology and religious beliefs.

Luther’s Long-Awaited Disputation

  1. In early 1519, a scholar named Johann Eck began preparing for a disputation that seemed to target Luther’s ideas, even though Eck only invited Luther’s friend and ally Karlstadt to participate. Luther wasn’t sure if he’d be invited to debate Eck or not, but he prepared just in case.
  2. The disputation was important to all of Christian Europe, and Luther knew how influential its outcome would be. That’s why he put so much effort into preparing, without even knowing if he could participate.
  3. While Luther was preparing for the disputation, his ideas became even more radical. He studied the topic of the pope’s authority and said he wasn’t sure “whether the pope is the Antichrist himself or whether he is his apostle.”
  4. In May 1519, Luther published a thesis hinting that the pope’s authority wasn’t supreme. Luther wrote that scriptures and church history and the church’s fathers all proved that the pope didn’t actually have as much authority as he claimed.
  5. Luther’s friends asked him to drop the subject of the pope’s authority, but Luther said he knew Christ was with him, or else he already would have been burned at the stake.
  6. With less than a week to go before the disputation, Eck still hadn’t invited Luther to participate, but Luther made the 50-mile trip to Leipzig (the disputation’s setting) anyway. About 200 Wittenberg students followed his wagon.
  7. Just three days before the disputation, a fight broke out between the students who supported Luther and the students who supported Eck. Luther’s side took the heat for the encounter, so Leipzig officials stationed 34 guards near the Wittenberg group’s lodgings.
  8. On June 27, the first day of the disputation, Eck finally asked Luther to debate him after he’d finished his disputation with Karlstadt. Luther agreed.
  9. The first round of the disputation (between Eck and Karlstadt) lasted days, but Luther called it “wretched.” The two men only debated free will, not indulgences, papal authority, or any of Luther’s other favorite subjects.
  10. Luther kept a couple of good-luck charms nearby during his own portion of the disputation: roses and a silver ring that probably contained an amulet in a capsule.
  11. During the disputation, Luther argued that scriptures—not church fathers—were the most authoritative source of doctrine. He also explained that scriptures like Matthew 16 (“you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”) had always been misinterpreted.
  12. Eck discredited Luther by comparing him to notorious and widely-feared heretic Jan Hus. Luther fell into the trap and responded that some of Hus’s teachings weren’t so bad, so Eck immediately attacked him for that. From then on, Luther’s critics often compared him to Hus.
  13. Luther left Leipzig as soon as the disputation was over, leaving before he could even find out who would judge the winner, let alone who would be declared winner of the disputation.
  14. It took months to declare the winner; the university scholars appointed to judge the disputation didn’t want to touch such a controversial topic. Eventually, other scholars from the Universities of Cologne and Leuven condemned Luther’s writing.
Statue of Martin Luther outside the Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany.

Luther’s Excommunication

    1. The pope finally put a commission together to draft a bull, or decree, threatening Luther with excommunication. Shortly afterward, the pope invited Luther’s rival, Eck, to join the commission.
    2. The bull named forty-one of Luther’s teachings as evidence against him. It said he had sixty days, from the time the bull was posted in Wittenberg, to recant, or else he’d be officially labelled as a notorious heretic.
    3. Two men, Eck and a church official named Aleandro took the bull into German lands. Aleandro met the brand-new emperor in the Netherlands and convinced him to proclaim the bull, as well as order burnings of Luther’s books.
    4. Eck had a much harder time convincing Germans to post the bull in their cities, and he feared for his safety as he did so. In the end, he paid militiamen from Leipzig to take the bull into several Saxon cities, including Wittenberg.
    5. The university rector in Wittenberg refused to post the bull, but he showed it to Luther right away, marking the beginning of the 60-day grace period.
    6. Wittenberg University’s enrollment immediately dropped. A quarter of the students left, fearing that they would be condemned alongside Luther if they didn’t get out right away.
    7. Even after reading the bull, Luther remained firm. He wrote to a friend that he would never be reconciled to Rome and that he’d burn their books if they were burning his.
    8. Throughout 1520, Luther called for drastic reform within the church, even before he read the bull against him. He published a book calling on German nobles to lead the church, which many Germans viewed as a call for greater independence from Rome.
    9. In early October, Luther published a book that criticized the church’s sacraments and openly called the pope the Antichrist.
    10. On the day that Luther’s 60-day grace period expired, he organized a book burning, in which he personally threw the pope’s bull into the fire.
    11. Luther was excommunicated in another bull dated January 3, 1521. But Aleandro feared certain political consequences and didn’t publish it until October, so no one knew about it until then.
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The papal bull that excommunicated Luther on January 3, 1521. Public domain.

Luther’s Writings

  1. Luther was a prolific writer whose books and pamphlets brought good business to printers. Publishing exploded in German lands during the 1520s, in large part thanks to Luther.
  2. Between 1520 and 1526, Luther’s writings accounted for 20 percent of the pamphlets published in German lands.
  3. Most scholars refused to write at a level that laypeople could understand, but Luther didn’t mind doing so. He had always preached simply, and he adopted the same style in his writing.
  4. Luther didn’t just publish works that attacked the pope or church practices. He also wrote pastoral works for laypeople on topics like prayer, good works, and the Ten Commandments.
  5. Luther’s writings were popular because he seemed to give answers to real-world problems, including political, social and economic issues.
  6. Luther was meticulous about the way his books and pamphlets looked: he insisted that his printers use good fonts, and he preferred interesting cover designs.
  7. With an overall literacy rate of 5 percent in German lands (30 percent in towns), most people didn’t learn about Luther’s ideas by reading them. Instead, preachers read Luther’s books aloud, or people heard Luther’s ideas through word of mouth.
  8. Luther’s writings made good money for printers, but the author himself never took a cent of the money.
633px-Lutherbibel
Luther’s translation of the Bible, published in 1534.

The End of Luther’s Story

    1. In spring 1521, Luther finally had a hearing in front of the emperor. He apologized for the tone of some of his writings, but he refused to recant.
    2. On May 5, 1521, Luther was on his way back to Wittenberg when two horsemen kidnapped him and took him to Wartburg.
    3. The catch? Prince Frederick owned a remote, little-used castle in Wartburg. Knowing he needed to protect his citizen from harm, Frederick cooked up the plan and let Luther in on the secret before he set out for Wittenberg.
    4. Luther remained in hiding at Wartburg Castle for months. He went by “Knight George” during his sojourn there, and barely anyone was even aware that someone was staying there. Only five men knew his true identity.
    5. Luther continued to write during his time at Wartburg. He sent his manuscripts to print through the men who knew his real identity.
    6. During that time, Luther wrote out against monastic vows, and the response was immediate: many monks and friars quit their offices for good.
    7. While hiding at Wartburg Castle, Luther translated the New Testament into German. It wasn’t the first German translation to hit the press, but Luther translated it into everyday, idiomatic German.
    8. Quiet Wittenberg became a hotspot of religious reform during Luther’s absence. Preachers made major changes to the Mass, even though Prince Frederick asked them to keep their reforms in check.
    9. Prince Frederick wanted Luther to remain in hiding, but Luther returned to Wittenberg on his own, determined to be the shepherd the city needed.
    10. Although Luther advocated for reform, he wanted change to take place slowly and peacefully. He wanted to make sure that his followers’ hearts changed before their religious practices did.
    11. Luther quickly restored order to Wittenberg, then gradually reformed Mass and other religious practices.
    12. Throughout Luther’s career as a preacher, he gave 4,000 sermons (more than 100 per year). Today, we have records of about 2,300 of them.
    13. Luther wrote and published an average of 1,800 pages per year.
    14. Luther also translated the Old Testament into understandable German, and his translation was eventually published in the same volume as his earlier translation of the New Testament.
    15. He married a former nun in 1525 and had six children with her (four of whom survived to adulthood).
    16. He died in 1546 after years of suffering from bad health.
1529MartinLuther
Martin Luther; 1529 painting from the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder.

 Luther’s Character and Personality

    1. Luther originally planned to study law, but he dropped out to become a friar because, as he told everyone, “God gave him no choice.”
    2. He was highly critical of himself, especially in his early years as a friar. He often punished himself for sinning.
    3. Luther was fairly timid and humble when he first sent out his famous 95 theses, telling Archbishop Albrecht that he knew he was just a “speck of dust.”
    4. Luther became bolder as he wrote and spoke against church practices. He wrote what he thought and didn’t care about the consequences, believing that he was doing God’s will and that nothing else mattered.
    5. He was stubborn and often ignored Prince Frederick’s advice, even knowing that he needed Frederick’s protection.
    6. Luther was a highly-skilled preacher and writer, always teaching people on a level they could understand.
    7. Luther said he married his wife for three reasons: to please his father, to spite the pope, and to practice what he preached about marriage. It was not a romantic union.
    8. Luther’s temper had never been good, but it worsened toward the end of his life. He wrote out caustically against Catholics and Jews; even if he didn’t believe in killing Jews, like many of his contemporaries did, he thought they should be deported and their synagogues burned.
    9. The last words Luther ever wrote were, “We are beggars. That is true.” Those simple phrases characterized his religious beliefs and attitudes well.

We’ve done our best to share Luther’s story concisely, but the truth is that it’s almost impossible to do it justice in 95 bullet points. (And given his love for writing and commitment to churning out dozens of publications a year, Luther himself would probably agree.)

We highly recommend A World Ablaze; in fact, we guarantee that it’ll be the best nonfiction you read this year.

The book is available from Oxford University Press, on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, Christianbook.com, and eBay.

 

Celebrate Reformers at the Dead Reformers’ Debate

Five hundred years after Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of a church, he is known as the leader of the Reformation. John Calvin was a Protestant reformer whose doctrines gave birth to Calvinism.  St. Teresa of Ávila was a Spanish nun who pushed for Carmelite reform and eventually founded and oversaw seventeen convents in her native country. All three have taken their places in history as reformers who changed the direction of their societies, the ripple effects of which are still felt today. On October 30, our History Department will feature their “reincarnations,” as well as that of William Tyndale, in its third annual Debate of the Dead: the Dead Reformers’ Debate.

We hope that people will gain a sense of the historical Reformation, some doctrine, but also have some laughs,” said Professor Ed Stratford, who will serve as moderator of the debate. The event will celebrate the Reformation, and take place on the day before Luther put his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church. Though the particular day was far less dramatic than it has come to be remembered, we’ll have some fun with it.”

The Reformers

For Martin Luther’s role in the Protestant Reformation, he was dubbed “one of the most influential figures in the history of Christianity” by Britannica Academic. In 1517, he wrote the Ninety-Five Theses, which proposed a debate on certain religious practices. The theses were disseminated throughout Germany, resulting in a massive religious upheaval and reformation. Professor Stratford called him “an obvious choice” for inclusion in the debate.

william Tyndale
William Tyndale

William Tyndale was an English scholar who, in 1525, completed an English language translation of the New Testament. He was executed before he could finish translating the Old Testament. John Calvin was highly esteemed by the puritans of his time, who brought his teachings with them to America. St. Teresa of Ávila was the author of many spiritual works in the late 1500’s. She was elevated to the position of Doctor of the Church and considered to be a powerful Roman Catholic mystic. She pushed for Carmelite reform and eventually founded and oversaw seventeen convents in her native country. 

Previous Debates

calvin
John Calvin

The previous debates—the Dead Presidents and the Dead Queensfocused on modern political and gender issues respectively. In the former, which took place prior to the 2016 presidential election, Presidents Jackson, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, and Lincoln debated Trump’s and Clinton’s stances regarding foreign and immigration policies, what their strengths were, and whether or not Trump was justified in having hurt feelings.

teresa
St. Teresa of Ávila

The queens at the latter debate were Joan of Arc, Empress Cixi, Martha Ballard, and Hurrem Sultan. They discussed women’s role in the politics, the workforce, and whether or not women were better off in modern society. At the conclusion of the debate, the women offered advice: “Joan admonished that it is ‘important to listen to what God wants you to do.’ Hurrem said to overcome obstacles and ‘believe in yourself.’ Martha encouraged women to keep journals, and Cixi offered sage advice about addiction: “[It] is bad. Pursue your education.’”

The Dead Reformers’ Debate will be held on October 30th in the Varsity Theater at 4pm.

Photo credits: Martin Luther, St. Teresa of Ávila, William Tyndale, and John Calvin.

Stanford Professor to Present on the Legacies of Laura Bassi and Galileo

If ever there were an interesting story to be told, it would probably be that of Laura Bassi, an Italian woman in the early 1700s who became the second woman ever to receive a university degree and the first to be offered an official teaching position at any university in Europe. She was also a wife, and mother to twelve children, five of whom survived. Paula Findlen, who has written about Laura’s work, will tell some of her story at an upcoming lecture on the BYU campus.

Dr. Findlen will deliver a presentation titled: “The Scientist and the Saint: Laura Bassi’s Enlightened Catholicism and Galileo’s Legacy” on Thursday, October 5, at 11 a.m. in B190 JFSB. Students, faculty, and members of the general public are invited to this event, conducted as part of our History department’s annual De Lamar Jensen lecture.

Dr. Findlen hails from Stanford University. “I have taught the early history of science and medicine for many years,” she says, “on the premise that one of the most important ways to understand how science, medicine and technology have become so central to contemporary society comes from examining the process by which scientific knowledge emerged. More generally, I am profoundly attracted to individuals in the past who aspired to know everything. It still seems like a worthy goal.” She is the author of three books, including Gusto for Things, in which she creatively uses account books, inventories, wills, and other records to examine early modern attitudes toward possessions, asking what people did with their things, why they wrote about them, and how they passed objects on to their heirs.

JensenLecturePoster_V2The De Lamar Jensen lecture seeks to help students understand global history. The lecture is named after Dr. De Lamar Jensen, a former faculty member in the Department of History, who was an expert on early modern Europe. Dr. Jensen began teaching at BYU in 1957, served as chair of the History Department and dean of the Honors Program, and in 1979 received a Guggenheim fellowship. He retired in 1992, but found another passion: painting murals in his backyard, which allows the nonagenarian to continue “traveling” to places he visited as a professor.

BYU History Professor Awarded Department’s First Endowed Professorship

BYU’s History Department is making its own history this year. The department will be awarding its first endowed professorship to Dr. Craig Harline, a historian specializing in Reformation Europe. The formal announcement of the professorship will take place next Thursday, October 5th, at 11 a.m. in B190 JFSB. It will precede a lecture by Paula Findlen, the Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History at Stanford University, who will be presenting the De Lamar Jensen Lecture, entitled “The Scientist and the Saint:  Laura Bassi’s Enlightened Catholicism and Galileo’s Legacy.”

Dr. Craig Harline
Photo by Bella Torgerson/BYU/BYU
Copyright BYU Photo 2013
All Rights Reserved
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(801)422-7322

The De Lamar Jensen Professorship of Early Modern History was established after more than a decade of fundraising effort. The professorship is named after Dr. De Lamar Jensen, a former faculty member in the Department of History, who was an expert on early modern Europe. Dr. Jensen began teaching at BYU in 1957, served as chair of the History Department and dean of the Honors Program, and in 1979 received a Guggenheim fellowship. He retired in 1992, but found another passion: painting murals in his backyard, which allows the nonagenarian to continue “traveling” to places he visited as a professor.

According to department chair Dr. Eric Dursteler, the new professorship is named after Dr. Jensen “to honor one of the founding fathers of BYU’s history program. [He]…was both an excellent scholar and an inspiring teacher.”

Dr. Harline, the first recipient of the professorship, studies religious life in western Europe during the Reformation. He received his undergraduate degree from BYU in 1980. He earned his master’s degree in 1984 and his doctoral degree in 1986, both from Rutgers University. He has taught at BYU since 1992, where he offers courses on Reformation Europe and the history of Christianity, among others. A prolific author, his latest book, A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation, was just published to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 theses.

 

 

 

California: A Sum of its Parts

“Just as in the human body, where no atom or cell can act individually without affecting its surrounding elements, the history of nations has been written and shaped both by the most incongruous farmer and the exceptionally boisterous politician,” said Dr. Sam Otterstrom in his new book From California’s Gold Fields to the Mendocino Coast. In it, he examines the growth of the Golden State, it’s migration and settlement patterns, and the people who forged it.

The Basics

To understand California at its most basic level, one has to start with the individual in the context of the following groups:

  • Family
  • Neighborhoods and communities
  • Counties/cities
  • Regional system

gold-ingots-golden-treasure-47047 The way that individuals acted in these settings determined how and where the state grew. For example, families would move to California in search of gold, forming rough mining communities. These were often short-lived however, as miners were continually on the move: looking for better opportunities or ways to escape their harsh lifestyle. Cities were formed around the mining industry, particularly Sacramento and San Francisco. “In this way, all of northern California was intertwined and interrelated in the nearly living regional organism that matured into and economically innovative and increasingly dynamic spatial system,” says Dr. Otterstrom.

 Individual People

“Amidst this mass of historical data is an intricately woven tapestry of interrelated people and events that literally created this dynamic state,” said Dr. Otterstrom. Who are these individuals? They included: 

  • people-vintage-photo-memories Samuel Brannon, a high-profile business man and leader of the Brooklyn, a ship sailing from Eastern America to California, and
  • John Augustus Sutter, whose 40,000+ acre ranch “became a key center throughout the 1840’s for Alta California and the focal point of the gold rush form 1848 on.” 

More often than not however, these trailblazers went unknown. In California, people had the opportunity to find gold and become wealthy; an ordinary man could transform his life almost overnight. Such seekers forever altered the land and forged California into the Golden State. 

Connection to Christ

One may find connections between the examination of California as a unique entity that is part of a greater whole and Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians regarding their particular value as part of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12: 12 reads: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body.”

Migration

This concept is further exemplified by California’s migration and settlement patterns. They can be broken down into four interdependent categories that mesh in a number of ways, as illustrated by the following venn diagram:

cali gold venn

While some mining towns faded from maps and memories, others developed into cities that still thrive today, despite constant and rapid in- and out-migrations. “The towns that survived and that have sizeable populations today were the ones that, very early on, fulfilled a variety of economic functions and thus were less dependent on mining,” said Otterstrom. Their resilience was due, in part, to their economic diversity, but also, he found to the number of post offices each town contained. Again, this demonstrates that, no matter where individuals found themselves geographically, they sought connection and viewed themselves, at least subconsciously as part of a greater whole.

The Sum of its Parts

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference,” said Jane Goodall. Nowhere is exemplified better than in Dr. Otterstrom’s From California’s Gold Fields to the Mendocino Coast.  In it, one comes to understand the vital role of the individual in molding California into a singular state, one that is truly a sum of its parts.

 

The Gulag and its Relationship to Us

gulag
Photo courtesy of goodreads

 BYU History professor Jeff Hardy recently published a book on a penal system of the former Soviet Union. Called The Gulag After Stalin, the book explains how punishment was meted out from the 1920’s to the mid-1950s in the Gulag, which was “…the system of…labour camps and accompanying detention and transit camps and prisons that…housed the political prisoners and criminals of the Soviet Union.” At the height of its existence, the Gulag housed 10 million people who felled timber, laboured on general construction projects (such as the building of canals and railroads), or worked in mines under the threat of starvation or execution if they refused. It is estimated that the combination of very long working hours, harsh climatic and other working conditions, inadequate food, and summary executions killed off at least 10 percent of the Gulag’s total prisoner population each year.

But why should this matter to us? How does a defunct Russian prison system from the mid 1900’s relate to our lives in 2017? Hardy points out that no one can decry the Gulag because, like them, we have never been able to eliminate incarceration as our primary form of punishment. When one examines the Soviet Union’s penal system, similarities within our own prison system become apparent.

Gulag American Penal System
Prisoners- with a few exceptions- were incarcerated. Prisoners are incarcerated and, in some cases, are locked in solitary confinement
Prisoners labored to industrialize their country. Prisoners labor, ex: chain gangs
Human rights abuses occurred, ex: work days exceeding 8 hours Human rights abuses occur, Ex: perp walks

Are there ways in which we can improve our own penal system? According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, we should institute various reforms regarding prison management and social integration. They recommend improving communication between the prisons and courts, creating new training curriculums for prison managers, instituting corrective measures inside prison communities, and formulating a health plan within the prisons, to name only a few. pexels-photo-143580

There is one issue, however, that the Gulag handled far better than we do: solitary confinement. According to Dr. Hardy, the Russian system valued communalism: “Whereas cellular confinement with one or two inmates per cell was typical of prison systems in the West…the Soviet Union preferred barracks that housed dozens of prisoners in common quarters. Inmates worked together, ate together, and generally moved freely within the confines of the camps, they were also organized into communal work brigades…This communal life in the Gulag was both a function of ideology and exigency.”

This is not how the U.S. penal system functions. Prisoners are typically two to a cell and solitary confinement is utilized as a punishment for acting out in prison. A recent Frontline piece relates the story of former inmate Kenny More, who ripped the hair out of his body, heard voices, and wrote messages on the wall of his cell with his own blood while spending five-and-a-half years in solitary confinement and nearly 20 years in and out of prison. In 2006, former Harvard Medical School faculty member Stuart Grassian conducted a study on the effects of solitary confinement. According to his report: “Of the forty-nine inmates I evaluated, at least seventeen were actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal and urgently in need of acute hospital treatment, and twenty-three others suffered serious psychopathological reactions to solitary confinement, including (in several cases) periods of psychotic disorganization.” pexels-photo-27967

Moreover, prisoners who were in solitary confinement were more likely to commit crimes once they were released. Former University of Washington professor David Lowell conducted a 2007 study that looked at recidivism rates for inmates held in supermax prisons– facilities where all inmates are in solitary confinement. He learned that “these offenders committed new felonies sooner and at higher rates than otherwise comparable nonsupermax offenders. Furthermore, they re-offended more quickly than otherwise comparable supermax offenders who weren’t released to the community directly from supermax.”

The Gulag was disbanded in 1957; evidence,  perhaps, of its ineffectiveness. Evidence shows that solitary confinement may not be the most effective option for the American penal system. While the Gulag was in need of critical reforms and is no longer present in our modern society we can still learn from it: how to better our own penal system and the lives of those in it.

Have you read Doctor Hardy’s book?

Huddling Together: Women in Polygamy Making a History of Their Own

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who coined the phrase “well-behaved women seldom make history,” recently discussed how well-behaved women in polygamist marriages in mid-1800s Utah benefited from and in fact brought benefit to the entire then-territory of Utah, making a niche in Mormon history all their own. At an event on campus in March, she spoke to many women and a handful of curious men about her exploration of the role women played in the early days of the Church. Through her research, she said that she found that she, like other modern women, “…could be a woman of faith,…activism and scholarship.”

In the early days of the LDS church, men and women worked together, she said. Early diaries affirmed that women spoke in the earliest LDS gatherings, and they testified. Other events took place in homes under the joint-leadership of men and women. When the saints moved to Nauvoo, the Relief Society was established. “Relief Society began as an individual initiative within a community of women,” Ulrich said. “Prophecies,” “prophetess,” “authority,” and “keys” were all words used in Joseph Smith’s establishment of the organization. Some of those words, such as “authority” and “keys” are more typically associated with men in modern LDS practice. But the Relief Society became an opportunity for women to have authority and to lead. Ulrich said it was a godly community where everyone had a place. In a painting of Joseph and Emma Smith, both held symbols of mastery and authority. Ulrich interpreted this as depicting their equality to each other.

When polygamy was first introduced, Ulrich said there were dissenters who claimed the Relief Society was where Joseph Smith found “harlots.” The Relief Society pushed back at these claims, and defended the prophet and the church, according to Ulrich. The women unified, “huddling” closer together. “There is so little known about early Mormon polygamy,” Ulrich said. But what is know is that there was not cohabitation around 1843 and it was not yet publicly announced, but there were plural temple sealings. About these, Emma was upset. Ulrich said that there is no biological or DNA evidence that Joseph Smith ever fathered a child, except with Emma.

There was a rumor that Mormon women were promiscuous, so Emma asked for a reformation of both men and women in their duty to uphold the moral values in the law. Ulrich said Emma met with the Relief Society twice a day. After Joseph’s martyrdom, there was tension between Emma and Brigham Young, second president of the Church, who had embraced polygamy. Because Emma was the leader of the Relief Society, Brigham Young was upset with the Relief Society, and said “damning” things about it and women. Ulrich said that this was probably a time where Brigham Young wished he could take back his words.

“What I think is very, very clear from her behavior first in her rallying of Relief Society in defense of the church…[is that] she cared about the church, and she cared about the survival of the church,” Ulrich said. Ulrich suggests that Emma was “terrified” of Joseph Smith’s behavior because she had to learn if it was adulterous or visionary, and Emma was terrified of what would happen. Despite these difficulties and the general lack of information, Ulrich noted, there is evidence that women were seen as equals during plural marriage. In an announcement of the plural sealing of Mary Ann to Brigham Young, Mary Ann was referred to as “presidentess.” In Ulrich’s recently-published book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism (1835-1870), she said: it could…have been described as an experiment in cooperative housekeeping and an incubator of female activism.”

Indeed, though many of the Mormon pioneer women indicated in their diaries that “they had not a clue what they were getting into,” they entered into the practice of plural marriage in faith and figured it out across the plains. When they arrived in Salt Lake City, the women gathered every other day. They were in constant contact. Men and women were still learning who should preside in a religious gathering in the home. Here again, was evidence that men and women were equals, Ulrich said. “Women sometimes stepped in when men failed in their duties,” Ulrich said. When the male leader decided to not come to a meeting, he would usually delegate the authority to the woman of the household to preside and conduct the meeting.

The Relief Society, which had been disbanded soon after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, was not fully functional again for about 20 years. “The reorganization came from individual initiative of women,” Ulrich said. When it was reestablished, the minutes from the original Relief Society were used as guides to address the women in society. The women at the time moved into the women’s rights movements. Ulrich said the women said this of Relief Society: “They believed there was something more Joseph was offering.” And indeed, perhaps because of that unification and activism, Ulrich said that Utah, which was then a primarily female state, gave women voting rights fifty years before it was federally mandated by the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “These women felt the Spirit of God in each other’s company. They were able to carry on because they were huddling together.”

Ulrich, an American historian and professor at Harvard University, said Mormon women’s history during this time is an “uplifting” and a “really sad” story, but that is shows something about the resilience of these interesting women. That resiliency is still something that modern women can take to heart.

 

Dead Queens Discuss Modern Women’s Issues

What is the role of women in society? This is a hotly debated topic that no one seems able to reach a consensus on. Recently, BYU’s History Department thoughtfully resuscitated four dead queens to teach us more about the topic: Empress Cixi of the Ching Dynasty; Hurrem Sultan; Joan of Arc; and Martha Ballard, queen of colonial midwifery. For an hour on March 1, these women debated various questions surrounding women’s involvement in politics, the work force, and life in general. Like the Dead Presidents’ Debate of last fall, it was an engaging and humorous look at history and its bearing on matters of importance today.

Women in the Workforce

The moderator asked in what capacity should women be involved in the workforce? The queens agreed that females were essential. Martha, who, as we mentioned here, was an 18th century midwife who is primarily known from Laura Thatcher Ulrich’s Pulitzer-prize winning book A Midwife’s Tale, said that women had always worke,d while Joan declared women to be an “absolutely important economic force.” Hurrem had worked as her husband, Suleiman the Magnificent’s advisor, and Cixi, who ruled China on behalf of her son during the Qing Dynasty, termed herself “a professional politician.”

Women in Politics

Her proclamation perfectly segued into the moderator’s next query, which was: “What role should women play in politics?” On this question, the queens were divided. Both Hurrem and Joan supported the idea of females participating in politics. The latter said that women could be inspiring leaders, and Hurrem stated that women needed to be more involved.

Martha and Cixi, however, favored a more restrained role for females in politics. The midwife declared policy-making to be a man’s role and maintained that that was the natural order of things. Similar to this natural order was the “Mandate of Heaven” advocated for by Cixi. Even though lots of women are smarter than men, she said, women in politics violated the divine order. 

The Women’s March and whether not women’s involvement in politics was good or bad were the topics of the third question. As with the last query, the queens differed in their responses. Hurrem declared that while it was ok to protest officials, it was not ok to protest rulers. Cixi took this a step further by adding that “no one should have the right to demonstrate…Nobody should march- wrong.” She advocated that God appointed rulers, therefore, people should obey them. “You don’t have to think about it,” she said. “Just obey.” According to Martha, however, marching is a “good way for people to show support, not to protest.” Joan believed the opposite, saying that people need to “make their voices heard.”

Modern Women

 Next, the queens were asked if they thought modern women were better off than those in previous generations. Joan and Cixi asserted that they were, the former praising the fact that women could wear pants. Martha acknowledged that while modern times were better in terms of medical care, people spent too much time on their phones. “The old ways are the good ways.” Hurrem, however, pointed out the “big inequality in the world today,” of medical care.

Advice

Lastly, the queens were asked if they had any advice to women as they began their lives as BYU students. Joan admonished that it is “important to listen to what God wants you to do.” Hurrem said to overcome obstacles and that “you have to believe in yourself.” Martha encouraged women to keep journals, and Cixi offered sage advice: “Addiction is bad. Pursue your education.”

Hurrem, Martha, Cixi, and Joan debated many pertinent issues facing contemporary women. While they often disagreed, their varying answers provided perspective on the issues that could inform current students and modern women. All in all, the debate served as a fun way to learn more about women’s issues.

Each of the “queens” was interviewed by the professor in separate videos leading up to the debate, in parodies of Zach Galifianakis interview of Hillary Clinton: Joan of Arc here, Empress Dowager Cixi here, Hurrem Sultan here, and Martha Ballard here. We look forward to more fun history debates!

Did you attend the debate? What did you think?

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to Present on Early LDS Women and Polygamy

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-Digital-Signage

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.