Wednesday, March 25, 2009

there was a time....

There was a time not too long ago when I wanted to get my masters' degree in this:

For my focus that would eventually lead to my thesis, I wanted to compare the social history of the women's realm in 19th century Britain, America, and among Mormon Pioneer Women, specifically with interest in how the social and cultural influences on the women before they joined the church affected them and their experiences as pioneer women, and what echoes we find in the mormon women's culture today.

My basic assumption was that the 'drawing room-to-handcart' experience of Victorian women who joined the church made them different from average pioneer and immigrant women of the time, especially since their reasons for immigrating and for moving west were NOT the financial reasons cited by most scholars as the motivating factors in most people's decisions to leave Europe to come to America and then to travel west. They were not gold diggers and hussies. And they weren't necessarily poor street urchins or subsistence farmers, either (or were they? That's what I want to know).

In more intimate detail, I'd like to know how they modified/abandoned/clung to their cultures (what recipes did they bring and how did they modify them? What clothing styles did they wear before they left and then when they had to resort to making their own clothes in Utah? What education level did they have?).

Most people never think much about this: Those women we decry for wearing corsets and ostrich feathers and going to the opera to see and be seen? THOSE became the Mormon pioneers. Those beautiful Southern Belles with their enormous crinoline skirts? THOSE became the Mormon pioneers. The people who inhabit Mark Twain's books (the Aunt Polly's and Becky Thatchers of the world)? THOSE became the Mormon pioneers. The audiences for (and women lampooned in) Gilbert and Sullivan? THOSE became the Mormon pioneers.

We so often hold the church history on a different timeline than the world history that we forget that women like Christine, from Phantom of the Opera, were the ones who ended up trekking across the plains and trying to fight off the crickets and cultivate the desert. And I suspect many more than just my ancestors were originally well-bred women who worked hard to keep their milky complexions and spent their mornings 'paying visits'.

I am so glad I found that website.

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