by Martha Sonntag Bradley
and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward
Zina Diantha’s Transition from
Domestic to Public Spheres, 1860-80
“… among the great heroes and heroines of Zion.”
—Emmeline B. Wells
[p.214] After turning forty in January 1861, Zina Diantha began to shift her focus outward from the intimate world of the Young household with its domestic duties, her children, and small gatherings of spiritually inclined women. From this world she stepped into a larger public sphere that, because of its ministry to Mormon women, was a natural extension of it. Particularly during the 1860s, she largely completed a mother’s most labor-intensive period of rearing her children. Intertwined with these domestic activities were two major public projects that grew naturally from her private activities: health care and Utah’s silk industry.
Zina Diantha had found her place in Brigham’s family and in the hearts of members who respected her diligence and service, her spiritual gifts, and the aura that clung to her as one of Joseph Smith’s first plural wives, as an early member of the Relief Society, and as a wife of Brigham Young. She associated easily with Mormonism’s most impressive women but had her own style. It was not the austere and dignified presence of “Zion’s Poetess,” Eliza R. Snow, nor with the regal and resolute zeal of [p.215] Mary Fielding Smith, widow of the martyred Hyrum Smith. Rather Zina’s hallmark was intimate care: nursing, midwifery, attendance at the sickbed, radiance in the blessing circle, and powerful spirituality as she spoke in or interpreted tongues. According to Emmeline B. Wells, Zina “was as greatly beloved perhaps, as any woman who has stood in high places, among the great heroes and heroines of Zion.”1 Trusted and respected by her prophet-husband, she moved easily and with competence into a larger public arena.
During these decades, even though Zina Diantha maintained close ties to Eliza R. Snow, Presendia, her friends from Nauvoo and Winter Quarters, and her sister wives, and obviously enjoyed Brigham Young’s trust in her public roles, she moved out of the Lion House into a home that Brigham deeded to her on 1 January 1870. Zina Presendia was twenty years old, herself married and a mother. This house stood on the southeast corner of State Street and Third South. Although she often walked the few blocks north to the Lion house for dinner and family gatherings, she lived on her own for the rest of her life. According to her series of diaries, she rarely went a day without spending time with her friends or family members—sharing meals, visiting, walking.
Zina Diantha lived in this house for more than a decade, and it provided a pied à terre for the next two decades. She moved some ninety miles north to Logan in May 1884 after the dedication of the Logan temple so that she, Presendia, and Zina Presendia, all widows of polygamous marriages, could work in the temple. Her daughter married into polygamy a second time and moved to Canada in the spring of 1884 to avoid federal prosecution, and Zina Diantha returned to Salt Lake City. By October 1888, Zina Diantha had purchased and was furnishing a home at 146 Fourth Avenue, northeast of the Lion House. She and Zina Presendia exchanged photographs of their new houses, and Zina Presendia offered her mother her own furniture: “How nice your house is going to be,” she wrote. “Thank God mother has a nice little home of her own, do not spare the means to make it comfortable. take all the means you choose and all my things you like for I believe I shall remain here.”2 Zina Diantha died in this home in 1901.
We have fourteen diaries, in whole or in part, kept during the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s. They vary dramatically in physical quality—some are [p.216] severely damaged; others are in excellent shape and easy to read. They provide us with fleeting glimpses into Zina’s daily life. For the most part, they detail a period of months, do not include daily entries but focus on key experiences, and sometimes are just simply a few pages jotted down on letter paper. Nevertheless, they are an invaluable source of information about Zina’s and Zina Presendia’s world.3
Emmeline B. Wells paid tribute to Zina’s motherhood at the celebration of her seventy-fifth birthday: “I remember many years ago, when I was quite young, of saying, ‘Aunt Zina has a real Madona [sic] face,’” she said. “To me Aunt Zina was the embodiment of all that was loveliest in Motherhood, and I speak the word Motherhood with the utmost reverence possible to a nature that holds this condition of woman eminently superior.”4
Zebulon and Chariton grew up as members of a family network filled with powerful personalities. Doctrinally and socially they were in the center of the church, their status as Brigham Young’s stepsons overriding Henry Jacobs’s occasional disaffection with the church. Both were committed Mormons throughout their lives.
In 1859 seventeen-year-old Zebulon began working for Brigham Young, Jr., as a freighter and farmhand. He also worked for a while at Brigham Jr.’s mill in Salt Lake City:
I worked there that summer  and fall till about the last of November I then went home to live that is with my Mother. That winter went to school, till the 5th of March 1860 when I went to work again for Brigham Young jr. I was gardening a great deal the first year and some the second but my principle work was teaming and taking care of the stock. The mill is just 2 3/4 miles from the president’s house it is a very nice situation in the summer it has a beautiful garden surrounding it.5
Zebulon began teaming while his family was in Provo during the Utah War. In the spring of 1861 he traveled with Joseph A. Young, George A. Smith, and John Taylor to the southern settlements as the teamster.
Then, beginning in 1862 and for the next three years, Zebulon traveled to the Missouri River every summer with Utah stock and wagons to meet emigrant parties and escort them to Utah, “to help in gathering the poor saints who could not gather themselves.”6 At age twenty-four, he [p.217] married Frances Wood Carrington. Nine months later, Frances delivered Zina’s first grandchild—Zebulon Henry Jacobs, born 26 December 1866. During the Black Hawk War of 1865-68, Zebulon served as a cavalry sergeant in Sanpete County with his uncle Dimick Huntington. In 1869, a year after the war ended, Zebulon served a mission in England. Chariton was already in England on a mission, and although he did not record it in his autobiography, they must have had a joyful reunion. During the 1870s, Zebulon worked as a conductor for the Utah Central Railway Company, then in 1887 he got a job as a guard in the Utah State Penitentiary in Sugarhouse.
Like Zebulon, Chariton benefitted from his association with his stepfather, even though he was one of more than fifty children in the Young household. According to one account, Brigham’s influence “stamped” on Chariton the “lessons of breadth of mind, honor, self-reliance, thrift and devotion to God.”7 From Brigham Young, Chariton also learned to love adventure and travel. He often accompanied his stepfather on trips as his personal attendant, like his brother becoming an expert teamster.
When Chariton decided to marry Susan Stringham, he visited Susan’s father, Briant Stringham, to ask for her hand. Stringham replied that Chariton could have his pick of any of his other daughters, but that Susan was already engaged. Chariton wanted only Susan, and asked if he could have her if he could win her. Stringham answered, “Yes.” Within three months, Chariton and Susan were engaged, and on 23 April 1871 they married. Together, they had seven children. Chariton served a mission to Great Britain between 1867-70, farmed in Sevier County during the late 1870s, and helped pioneer the Salmon River Colony. In the 1880s he managed a kiln for the Utah Lime and Cement Company, ranched in Bear River, and worked at the Boyle Furniture Company until 1894. He spent the last years of his life as bishop of the Ogden Fifth Ward. He died in 1915.8
Zina corresponded with her sons, daughter, and foster children, advising them on the best way to live their lives. They were frequent recipients of the prayers and blessings for which Zina was so famous. On 4 July 1857, Zina gave fifteen-year-old Zebulon a blessing just before he left on a journey for the East:
[p.218] Go on my son until wickedness shall not bare sway and the man of sin cease to reign and dost thou aspire to become a son of the living God, a full heir to the blessings of the just listen to the monitor my son, listen to the sweet inclinations of the holy spirit and all is yours—glory power thrones principalities and dominions and eternal lives in the kingdom of God which is the greatest of all gifts.
Be thou like the sun which is now beaming from the east to my soul a comforter in my old age, a way mark for thy younger brother, a shield to thy sister and honour in the kingdom of God now set uppon the earth.9
Zina helped them develop an awareness of the work in which they were engaged, never letting them forget that she and the Lord were counting on them to do what was right. When his mother died in 1901, Chariton paid her this tribute: “I am now fifty-four years old and never in my life heard my mother say a word against any one, or never heard her say aught against the Holy Priesthood, and never did she utter one word of complaint.”10
Zina Diantha’s love for her two sons was steadfast and profound, but it was her only daughter, Zina Presendia, who became the most important focus of her life. Zina gave her daughter her own name, the name of her own mother, and the name of her beloved sister—a gift and an inheritance. She was called “little Zina” most frequently while growing up, an appellation that stressed the identification of mother and daughter. Zina Presendia was Zina Diantha’s tangible tie to Brigham’s family. Unlike Zebulon, who nearly always lived in another household after age eleven and even Chariton, Zina Presendia was a true insider. She knew only life at the Lion House. Brigham Young’s children were as close to royalty as Mormon society permitted.
Years later Zina Presendia described herself as a girl as “shy and cross.”11 However, her half-sister Susa Young, daughter of Lucy Bigelow Young, portrayed her as a favorite of the family because she was bright and talented and had an engaging personality. “Who that remembers the childhood and youth of this gifted girl will fail to recall the restless, dancing feet, the quaint questions forever bubbling on the laughing lips, the sweet voice, always her greatest charm, trilling and caroling for very joy of living?”12
Even as a child, Zina Presendia exhibited her artistic talent, teaching [p.219] sisters and brothers how to fashion clay and paints into objects of beauty. “It was Zina who taught us how to fashion clay dishes, wonderful in their variety and lack of utility,” continued Susa.
She first made whole armies of paper dolls with wardrobes of bright colored dresses; who but Zina planned and executed the magnificent pageants with which some hapless rag baby was consigned to stepmother earth? And whose hands but hers designed the delightful grass homes by the brook for the tiny china dolls which were such a rarity that they were usually owned by a small syndicate? Who did not feel grandly elated when chosen to be “Zina’s girl?”13
The daughters of the household, all sharing the upper sleeping porch-dormitory open to the sky on summer nights (Brigham was a strong believer in fresh air for children), conducted what amounted to protracted slumber parties, weaving fantasies long into the night. According to Susa’s affectionate memory,
Zina’s princes were always dark-eyed and curly haired. Was there a general stampede for our inner bed-chambers? You may be assured it was, with a thunder shower which drove us indoors or it was the tale of the crying panther, and the yellow-eyed, fierce wild-cat. Told by whom, these stories? By that arch-magician, Zina. God bless her. No one ever caught her in a mean or ill-natured trick. Whose ghost stories was it that peopled the long, dark old garret with a thousand hobgoblins, and made every flower of the field a retreat and a chariot for the tiniest of beautiful spirits? The first buttercup that peeped its dainty cup over the brown lips of the cold March earth was always Zina’s prize.14
Zina Presendia and Susa were two of ten daughters born to Brigham Young within a six-year period, from April 1850 to March 1856, and were typically referred to as the “big ten.” Another five sisters had been born in 1849, most likely conceived either in Winter Quarters or in the old fort.15 These women moved through childhood and adolescence a bright and merry bunch of sister-friends. Zina Presendia, age ten in 1860, spent her teen years during Mormonism’s most peaceful era in Utah. The threat of Johnston’s Army was past, as was the “starving time” of poverty and privation. The completion of the transcontinental railroad with its [p.220] influx of new arrivals and new ideas in 1869 lay in the future as did the intense federal pressure against polygamy that would dominate Zina Presendia’s life as an adult. Salt Lake City was Utah’s heart, not its frontier, and Brigham’s daughters had access to the best it could offer.
Brigham was well aware that his complex family was an object of intense curiosity, not only to journalists and non-Mormon visitors, but also to the Saints. If plural marriage could not work in his household, then where could it be expected to work? Thus he took an active role in ordering the household and overseeing the activities of his twenty-five sons and thirty-one daughters.16
Young resided, not in the Lion House, but next door in the Beehive House, and spent much of his time in his main floor bedroom/office. Two large windows on the west side brought light and fresh air into the simply furnished room. A door to the south connected his private room to the public activities of the church. After leaving his bedroom, one would pass through the clerk’s office where a door to the east led to his private office. His commodious desk, safe, sofas, chairs, and tables provided a respectable face to those who came curious about the church and its kingdom-building efforts. Here, over the years, Brigham welcomed a steady stream of visitors—Mark Twain, Jules Remy, Sir Richard Burton—most of whom left with unique impressions of the leader of the Mormon people.
The children were wakened at 7:00 a.m. daily. The family ate breakfast at 8:00 a.m. through the summer months and at 8:30 a.m. in the winter, with everyone eating together at long tables in the ground-level room (basement) adjoining the kitchen. A warning bell five minutes before prayer was heeded seriously. Latecomers missed the meal. Dinner was served at 12:30 p.m., supper at 5:00 p.m.
Brigham was a proponent of a simple diet that included the best possible quality foods available. Orchards and gardens to the north and east provided fruit and vegetables. The family also raised its own chickens and pigs, gathered eggs, and milked its own cows. Typical breakfasts included eggs, toast, milk, fruit (fresh or preserved), and buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup. Dinner (the largest meal) and supper might include corn-meal mush or hominy, beef, mutton or chicken, trout or some other fish when available, plenty of bread, cheese, fresh fruit or baked apples, and [p.221] always vegetables. Portions were carefully regulated so that all would have plenty to eat but there would be no waste.17
Feeding such a large family was a huge undertaking and required strict order. “The time set for meals had to be observed exactly, and servings had, to some extent, to be systematically measured,” Susa remembered. “Fifty or more persons can hardly be fed without confusion and waste without some such restrictions.”18 Although Brigham was generous in providing plenty of ice cream for his children, he restricted the amount of white sugar they consumed. “This was because we had an abundance of natural sweets, such as real molasses, real brown sugar, real maple-sugar syrup imported by father from his native state, Vermont and honey,” according to Susa.
Namah Twiss Young, a childless plural wife, was in charge of a kitchen staff that included two hired cooks and two dishwashers. Twiss was a master baker, famous for her salt-rising bread, pies, and cakes. Homemade ice cream, frozen in hand-turned freezers, was a holiday treat.19
Housekeeping required cooperation and attention to specifically assigned responsibilities. Although certain wives headed up some work efforts, most helped as needed. Zina often recounted doing laundry, ironing, weaving, and cooking. In reality, need directed the organization as much as any preconceived system.
Family prayer, with Young presiding and offering the prayer personally, was held nightly in the parlor at 5:30 p.m. Zina Presendia remembered her father summoning his children for prayer by ringing an old hand-bell. “Oh those prayers!” she said. “It seemed as if he talked face to face with God. They have been a tie that bound the family with a sacredness and devotion that is rarely found anywhere as just one family life, assembled as they were night after night while their father would instruct them and teach them the principles of justice and right.”20
Lamps were extinguished in the children’s rooms by 10:00 p.m. The exterior gates were locked as well at 10:00 p.m, and if the girls attended the theater or went to a party they had to enter through the office entrance where they were questioned by the night watchman. Questionable company or behavior was sure to be reported to their father. During [p.222] the summers, the girls slept on the upper porch, the boys on the lower. During the winters, Brigham insisted that their windows be left open.
Young felt his children should be models of physical and spiritual health, well-rounded and well-educated. He carefully studied diet, sanitation, and exercise, experimenting with his own family. A large room was reserved in the basement of the Lion House for gymnastic classes, where the girls would wave wands, roll hoops, check their posture with backboards, swing from horizontal bars, climb poles and trapezes, throw sand bags, and lift weights. “They gave us as straight backs as I have ever seen in a family of men and women anywhere,” remembered Susa; “and I am satisfied that having straight backs tended to produce a corresponding effect on our minds. Persons who acquire a correct carriage acquire a mental attitude that goes with it. It works both ways.”21
Brigham felt that dancing was not only a pleasant social activity but physically beneficial. According to Susa, he “believed that it touched the springs of health.”22 He not only sponsored dances for the whole city and encouraged dancing in the ward meetinghouses, but also liked to see family dances in the Lion House and welcomed dancing parties hosted by his children. Zina and some of her sisters also took “fairy dancing” (interpretive dance) from Sara Alexander, a local performer, and danced in Salt Lake Theater performances on numerous occasions.
Zina Presendia’s first school was in the basement of the Lion House along the northwest side in the long hall, until Brigham built a school for his family across the street to the east of the Beehive House. This simple rectangular structure with a gabled roof and bell tower had a tall central chamber and windows running along both sides. This simple building included size-graded benches and desks, beginning with the smallest and ascending in size to the rear of the room. School began promptly at 9:00 a.m. The day’s schedule included breaks for recreation between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., lunch at 12:00, and a second recess at 2:00 p.m. School lasted until 4:00 p.m. Children from all grades met together here until 1868 when the University of Deseret opened.
Recreation was simple and energetic. As weather permitted, the children played out of doors for long hours, hiking in the nearby foothills, going on outings in wagons and buggies, picnicking and visiting with groups of their peers or family members. Brigham dug a swimming [p.223] pool near the schoolhouse where the children regularly plunged into the chilly water of City Creek. During the winters, they took sleigh rides and skated on the pond. They also enjoyed visiting Warm Springs Bath House, built in 1850 around two sulphur springs about three miles outside the city. The resort included an outdoor pool for men and boys, and one inside, lined with lumber, for women and girls. There were as well special wooden bath tubs. Brigham liked the hot springs so much he went weekly during the winters.23
In the Lion House the children entertained friends, pulled taffy, popped corn over a “step-stove,” and stirred molasses candy. Zina’s sister Dora, daughter of Lucy Bigelow, wrote and produced Love and Prejudice, with her sisters and brothers as the actors, wearing costumes borrowed from the Salt Lake Theatre, for an appreciative audience of their father and his wives. In their teens, some of the girls took minor roles in productions at the Salt Lake Theatre. For example, Zina had appeared in her first role at age sixteen. According to the author of one biographical account, “What a pretty, simple maiden she looked” in The Youth Who Never Saw a Woman, wearing a “white swiss muslin frock modestly down to her shoe tops, and her long, fine, perfectly straight hair braided in two glossy braids upon her shoulders.” In The Lost Child, she kept calm when the toddler she carried onto the stage caught sight of its mother in the audience and screamed, “Mamma, mamma!”24
Naturally, given Brigham’s emphasis on home manufacture, the children’s clothing was largely “homespun.” The wives and Zina Diantha produced much of the cloth themselves on looms set up in the Lion House basement. Zina Presendia and her sisters learned how to plait straw to make their own hats, knit their own stockings, and sew their own dresses. Brigham wore fine broadcloth himself, but approved of simple, modest styles and plain fabrics for others. He was opposed on aesthetic, hygienic, and economic grounds to heavy hoop-skirted dresses that dragged on the ground and to overdecorated styles. Zina Presendia, asked about these styles, loyally commented as an adult, “We followed his counsel and never had cause to regret it.”25
At the center of Salt Lake City’s ecclesiastical and cultural life, Zina and her sisters were exposed to an unusually wide variety of activities. Susa Gates wrote nostalgically about the parades in which the Nauvoo [p.224] Legion cavalry (territorial militia) would ride in full uniform, impressing the crowds with their skillful horsemanship and fancy maneuvers “down Main Street, up State Street and finally the long, long line with the Goddess of Liberty, the figures of the States in costumes and the young men in uniforms and cockades. All are finally seated out of the glare of the sun under the green shades of the fragrant bowery.”26
Dress standards were a significant part of Brigham Young’s motivation in creating the youth-oriented Retrenchment Association among his teenaged daughters that later became the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association (later Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association and now Young Women). On the evening of 28 November 1869, he summoned his twenty-seven daughters, several of whom, including nineteen-year-old Zina Presendia, were young married women, to the parlor of the Lion House. Flanked by counselors Daniel H. Wells and George A. Smith, he encouraged them to be simple and sensible in their dress. “We do not want to look like Quakers but we want to look neat and respectable, and not appear as dowdie.”27 He told them: “It is not right that they should spend so much time in the preparation of their food and the adornment of their bodies, and neglect their spiritual education.”28 As Zina Presendia remembered, he said it was time to organize the young women of the church “for their advancement and improvement, that they might not follow the foolish fashions of the world, but be sensible and not carried away with these worldly temptations. … I do not want to go into the Kingdom of Heaven alone. I want my family with me.”29 The transcontinental railroad had been completed just six months earlier, and Brigham was also concerned about gentile influences, worldly distractions, and public opinion that was steadily solidifying against polygamy.
Both Zinas attended the first organizational meeting of the retrenchment movement held at Mary Isabella Horne’s Salt Lake City residence on 10 February 1870 along with twelve branch presidents of the Relief Society and other important female leaders. A committee composed of Eliza R. Snow, Margaret Thompson Smoot, and Sarah M. Kimball prepared these resolutions:
Resolved, That we, realizing the many evils growing out of the excess and extravagance which our present customs require in the great vari-[p.225]eties of dishes demanded in table entertainments, do mutually agree to unite our efforts in sustaining by our examples Table Retrenchment in all our visiting associations and social parties.
Resolved, That, as health is the main-spring of happiness, and economy the way-mark to prosperity, we recommend a careful consideration of the results of our present mode of fashionable table serving.
Resolved, That by carrying out the principles of retrenchment, the time, strength and means redeemed from useless labor and waste, shall be devoted to noble purposes—such as instructing each other and the rising generation in the principles of physical and intellectual improvement, dietetics, &c.
Resolved, That inasmuch as many of our good and worthy citizens are deterred from inviting company by the consideration that they cannot compete with their more affluent neighbors, and are thereby deprived of many rich and profitable interviews, we say that henceforth any table neatly spread, with no matter how plain, but wholesome, food, shall be considered fashionable.
Resolved, That, as women of God, we feel it a duty incumbent on us, not only to manifest our “diligence in all good works,” but to unitedly exert all our power and influence to annihilate degenerating habits and customs, and in establishing such as will benefit future generations.30
They called all “good women” to join them, and Zina Diantha closed with prayer. At the meeting the First Presidency asked Brigham’s daughter Jeanette, daughter of Clara Decker, to preside over the organization but she was unable to accept. Instead they appointed Ella Young Empey, daughter of Emmeline Free, as president and Zina Presendia as secretary. (Ella was twenty-two and had married Nelson Empey.) They announced their intentions: “not to give way to much luxury in living and following after the pleasures of the world, but to live the plain upright principles of the Gospel.”31
According to Zina Diantha, the objective of the retrenchment movement was “to lighten the labors of the women and give them more time to devote to mental and spiritual culture.”32 Zina Diantha took up the work enthusiastically, drawing Zina Presendia with her. She spoke at endless meetings and taught simplicity to those around her by her example. At one meeting she “referred to the community being in a state of bankruptcy, and that it was in consequence of importing and not export-[p.226]ing; said it was the same in other places upon the same principles; spoke of young people being flattered and led away by those who did not believe in our faith, and the responsibility of mothers.”33 It was the first formally organized project that mother and daughter collaborated in, but it would not be their last.
Stories of the relationship between Brigham Young and his daughter Zina Presendia have been passed down in Zina’s family. Once, for example, Brigham paid a surprise visit to young Zina shortly after her marriage to Thomas Williams. Zina had not yet cleared the table of lunch’s dishes and was so flustered she hurriedly removed the dishes and stuffed the table cloth into a nearby drawer. Brigham walked to the buffet, opened the drawer, removed the cloth, and carefully folded it before returning it to the drawer. He said nothing to Zina, who, according to her children, learned her lesson.
Zina Presendia loved and revered her famous father; and nothing in her life suggests that she would have disagreed with her half-sister Susa Young Gates, who called Brigham a “great man, whose gentleness, strength, and goodness made me love and respect him with all my childish strength.”34 In later years Zina Presendia told with relish of being in her father’s office as a young woman when three men and two women, strangers to Young, called unexpectedly. Brigham welcomed them cordially. When Zina was showing them out after the visit, she overheard one woman comment, “I don’t blame Brigham Young’s wives for falling in love with him. I could fall in love with him myself.”35
Zina Presendia reciprocated Zina Diantha’s affection and attachment. Her earliest memory was of being rocked in her mother’s arms in the wooden rocking chair in her room when she was ill and hearing her singing hymns. She recalls the move south as a sort of pleasure trip because of her mother’s cheerful attitude until the weight of the situation began to bear down on her. From observing her mother, Zina Presendia learned energy in private and public service, sacrifice for the kingdom, and devotion to family. Like her mother, Zina Presendia was raised on religion. Mormonism filled their days with meaning and guided them through even the most trivial of life’s problems. It was to religion that Zina Presendia must have turned when Zina Diantha began raising the four motherless children of her dead sister wife Clarissa Ross Young, leaving [p.227] little Zina’s centrality in her mother’s life temporarily usurped. Years later Zina Presendia confided to her own daughter Zina that the night she relinquished her place in her mother’s bed to baby Phoebe was the most painful night of her young life.
Zina learned about polygamy first-hand from a devoted, selfless mother and a kind, generous father. This training for life in plurality came from examples of how to make the difficult principle work. If judged by its success among its second generation, polygamy could have found no better exemplar than Zina Presendia.
Also significant is the fact that polygamy expressed the experience of female networks beginning in Nauvoo—connections based on spiritual insights and phenomena, relationships with eternal significance and dimension, and commitment to community above self. As individuals, polygamous women had experiences both formative and transformative, to which their responses initiated them into new ways of life. Experienced collectively, these incidents became a shared social drama or story which helped to define them. Victor Turner suggests that members of groups want to share what they have learned from such a drama with each other in searching for greater meaning. This shared story becomes a powerful agent of reconciliation and normalcy,36 the retelling of which creates a new identity. Polygamy helped Mormon women take stock of their situation: they had tested the strength of their social ties, the power of their symbols, the sacredness of their religious tradition, and their commitment to each other.
The spiritual network which had sustained Relief Society had been carried with the women from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters, exercised in countless prayer meetings and informal gatherings in drafty, chinked log cabins around hearths, rocking and nursing babies, knitting stockings for their men and children, exercising the gift of tongues and interpretation, and in the gift of prophecy. In these meetings, the line between women’s work, friendshipping, and the work of the Lord blurred and became one and the same. Distinctions would have been artificial. This type of spiritual affirmation, including the closeness and shared intimacy with sister wives and fellow female Saints, gave Zina Diantha and her sister Presendia “Courage in the darkest hours of … lonel[iness].” For Presendia, when “her cup seemed to be running over with bitterness, she could [p.228] recall to mind what had been shown her in vision, and the promises made to her if she proved faithful and true.”37
Clusters of women who valued this connection encouraged the organization of Relief Societies in some Mormon wards in the 1850s. Despite progress in settlement efforts, widespread poverty caused significant problems which some bishops felt might best be addressed by the sisters. Relief Society work became an important part of ward activity in many parts of Mormon territory.
While discussing the temporal kingdom with the Twelve, Brigham Young raised the issue of female Relief Societies and, according to Wilford Woodruff, encouraged the men to “use their influence to get the sisters to make their own bonnets and make and wear their own home made clothing it would do much good.”38 During the next few years, Young often raised the issue of Relief Society in meetings throughout the church. “Now, Bishops, you have smart women for wives, many of you,” he said. “Let them organize Female Relief Societies in the various wards. We have many talented women among us. … You will find that the sisters will be the mainspring of the [retrenchment] movement.” He continued with an enthusiastic statement about the talents women would bring to the work. “There is an immense amount of talent, and I may say of real sound statesmanship within a community of ladies; and if they would only train their minds, and exercise the rights and privileges that are legitimately theirs, and would contemplate subjects that they now pass over and never think about, they would find that they have an immense amount of influence in guiding, directing and controlling human affairs.”39
It was natural that the reorganization of the Relief Society would extend from Brigham’s own family. Many of his wives were among the most talented, intelligent, and efficient organizers among the women of the church. Eliza R. Snow was a key player in the Nauvoo Relief Society, and carried her commitment with her across the plains to Utah. Late in the summer of 1867, Eliza and her two counselors, Zina Diantha and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, began to visit wards and settlements, at the invitation of bishops, to organize Relief Society units. Carrying with her the “Record of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo,” she encouraged women to be “orderly” in their efforts. “Observe order so that the Spirit of God will [p.229] be with you and learn to do business as orderly and as dignified as men.”40 The First Presidency told her to promise women that the “Holy Spirit” would be with them in the efforts but to “discourage all enthusiasm.”41 It was already assumed that spiritual gifts were sacred and should not be lightly used. The “Pentecostal gifts of speaking in tongues, prophesying, and interpreting tongues were not to be encouraged in the meetings.”42
Zina joined Eliza on many of these visits, establishing a partnership in Relief Society work which continued for the next two decades. Both caught the vision of female potential for good. Both, perhaps just as importantly, saw the potential power of female networks. Eliza said, “President Young has turned the key to a wide and extensive sphere of action and usefulness … If any of the daughters and mothers in Israel are feeling in the least circumscribed in their present spheres, they will now find ample scope for every power and capability for doing good with which they are most liberally endowed.”43 She later wrote, “To me it was quite a mission, and I took much pleasure in its performance. I felt quite honored and much at home in my associations with the Bishops, and they appreciated my assistance.”44
Apart from the immediate demand for relief among the poor of the church, the Relief Society provided an organizational response to the anti-polygamy efforts of the United States Congress. It is no accident that Relief Societies were organized throughout the territory during the same time that the Cullom Bill passed on 4 January 1870 in the House of Representatives. First introduced into Congress during the winter of 1869-70, the Cullom Bill sought to give legal credence to the fight against polygamy. Female reaction to the bill marked the entrance of Mormon women into the wider world of commerce, education, professional life, and certainly politics. The meetings they staged that winter, protesting the proposed bill, attest to the passion of their opposition. Finally, in protest, their voice was heard and became increasingly articulate and active.
Two days after the bill’s passage in January, many sisters of the Relief Society staged a planning meeting at the 15th Ward Society Hall in Salt Lake City. Two proposals voiced toward the end of the meeting were of particular importance, but would have perhaps raised some eyebrows at the time. Bathsheba Smith moved “that we demand of the Gov[ernor] the right of Franchise.” Lucy Kimball, plural wife of Heber C. Kimball, [p.230] proposed that “women be represented at Washington.” Both motions passed. As a result, Eliza R. Snow and Sarah Kimball were elected representatives of the Mormon Relief Society.
Two weeks later, on a stormy Thursday evening, more than 3,000 Mormon women gathered in the Tabernacle on Temple Square for what they called a “Great Indignation” meeting. The speeches of the thirteen women who spoke were directed at the media and contained a specific message—they were not down-trodden, disadvantaged, or abused, but blessed by an association with righteous men. Newspapers across the country ran the story—the New York Times called it “A Remarkable Meeting,” The Herald said that “in logic and rhetoric the so called degraded ladies of Mormondom are quite equal to woman’s rights women of the East.” The Journal of Commerce compared the Mormon speakers to “the most articulate suffragists of the day.”45 Three weeks later, on 9 February 1870, the territorial legislature passed a bill granting female suffrage.46
Zina Diantha’s public espousal of health care came directly from her domestic experiences with family and friends. She brought a distinctive combination of intimate nurturing, practical and effective nursing, and spiritual refreshment to the sick room. This combination of compassion and competence was her hallmark as a healer. From her Nauvoo journal, it is apparent that Zina, as a bride in her teens, had always cared for the sick. On 26 November 1844, for example, she notes: “went on a walk to visit the sick.” Visiting those she knew were ailing was part of her routine. In Utah her journal records the same pattern.
When her brother William’s infant daughter, Lucia Presendia, became “very sick in the night,” Zina was sent for and wrote, “Came near dying with the croop. It seemed the Lord truly sent me.”47 Zina herself was often ill. In both of her early journals, she was sick at least once a month with fevers, facial problems, tooth aches, and various other health problems. She thought of herself as frail, perhaps creating in her a special sensitivity to others who likewise suffered.
The shared world of female maladies created yet another avenue to common ground among women. For example, one of Brigham Young’s later plural wives, Ann Eliza Webb Young, was thoroughly disillusioned with polygamy but thought kindly of Zina: “Her generous nature and [p.231] strict sense of justice would not allow her to neglect anyone under her care, no matter how distasteful the person might be to her. She … always gave her patient the tenderest, most watchful, and motherly care.”48 When Patty Bartlett Sessions, herself a skilled midwife and close friend, became ill, “Zina Young … washed and anointed me she said I should get up in the morning well [and] the Elders laid hands on me.” Just a few days later, she added, “I have set up the most of the time to day many that saw me yesterday are astonished to see me so well and go out doors.”49
As early as 1848, Dr. Willard Richards organized a local Board of Health to promote health awareness in the territory. Both Presendia and Zina were members of the board, both officially called and set apart to function as midwives with special priesthood blessings. According to Presendia, Richards, also an apostle, “realized that the gift of healing was a power, especially when combined with works adapted to the circumstances of the case, and he felt that it was quite necessary that those who officiated among the sick, especially midwives, ought to have all the blessings that could be conferred upon them by those holding the keys of the priesthood of God upon the earth.” As a result, Richards himself laid hands on the women set apart to be midwives and nurse the afflicted, blessing them with “power to officiate in that capacity as handmaids of the Lord.”50
Zina had established herself as a competent midwife in Nauvoo, and in Salt Lake City attended to the births of almost all of Brigham Young’s children. Besides ministering to the sick and delivering hundreds of babies, she often blessed the mothers, anointing them with oil and pronouncing a blessing. Emmeline B. Wells described the confidence this instilled in her patients:
In the sickroom she was a ministering angel, having always something to suggest that would be soothing and restful; she was a natural nurse, and she invariably inspired confidence. Her strongest capabilities lay in nursing the sick. … No other woman knew better what to do when death came into a home … Numberless instances might be cited of her ministrations among the sick, when she seemed to be inspired by some higher power than her own.51
Zina often acted as midwife to her sons’ wives and eventually to her [p.232] own daughter. Emma Jacobs, Chariton’s wife, described Zina as the “dearest woman in the world.”52 Emma’s own mother had died when she was a child, so “I stayed with Zina the night before I was married. When I suggested that I should like to call her mother, she put her arms around me and said, ‘Indeed, you may!’ I have loved her ever since.” Emma and Chariton were living in Ogden when Emma went into labor with her first child. Frightened and feeling alone, they heard a noise at the door. “Surprise!” called Zina “in her sweet, clear voice. On her own part this was a much-loved greeting. She liked nothing better than to poke her head through the door at the home of one or another of her children and call to them in this manner.” Another midwife had been attending the birth but had been unable to deliver the child. Zina quickly took over. She recognized the dangerous and precarious position Emma was in and told Chariton to go for a doctor. The delivery required his instruments, but even so the baby was born dark and discolored. It took Zina and the other midwife several minutes to get the baby girl to breath. For Chariton and Emma, Zina’s presence “meant the difference between life and death.” “I am sure she saved the life of my first child,” Emma added gratefully.
Zina followed up this experience with an official medical course in obstetrics during the 1870s, taught by Mary Barker. Eliza R. Snow had announced to a Relief Society conference in Ogden in 1873 that Mrs. Barker would be holding classes in Salt Lake City in physiology, anatomy, and other branches of medicine.53 In the absence of the instructor, Zina also sometimes taught obstetrics.54 After other Mormon women, including Ellis R. Shipp, had become professionally trained as doctors at Eastern medical schools, Zina continued to support the work but deferred to their more sophisticated training. The Woman’s Exponent noted her attendance at a class in “obstetrics and Nursing” held at Dr. Shipp’s Salt Lake home. “Zina D. H. Young,” was, it reported, “joining in the congratulations and timely counsels to the ladies just starting out upon their important labors of love and kindly ministration among the sick and suffering of their own sex.”
Although Zina’s friends said she was a “born physician,” hers was folk medicine born of practical experience. For “caked breasts, strains, lame backs, and rheumatism” she recommended: “Good sized live Toads [p.233] 4 put in boiling water—cook very soft take them out boil the water down 1/2 pint and add 1 lb fresh butter simmer add 2 oz. tincture arnica.”55 Drawing on a unique variation of Thompsonian medicine, she counseled in 1891:
If those who feel slightly sick would fast for twelve hours and then eat lightly, they would find it one of the best of medicines. Take pains, mothers, to teach your children the virtue of consecrated oil. … One by one the world are [sic] adopting the pure principles that were given to us, and they think they are scientific discoveries, but to us they were gifts of God. When we have attained to correct living it will be much easier to practice correct morality.56
Regardless of the source of her knowledge, Zina brought to her work compassion, tenderness, and faith. “One realized as soon as she entered the sick room the influence of her presence, … she was a natural healer,” Emmeline B. Wells remarked. “She carried about with her the ‘balm of Gilead.’ The motherly element so designated in modern times, together with the gift of healing so largely developed by her through the gifts and inspiration of the Gospel.” Zina, she continued, had an “intense sympathy with misfortune and suffering that brings one into close communion with hearts and inner lives of those to whom they minister.” Furthermore, “she was generously endowed with that true charity which hopeth all things, and in the exercise of these sacred gifts she so distinguished herself among the sick and the sorrowing as to gain the appellation of ‘Zina, the Comforter.’”57
On one occasion, Emmeline recounted, as a mother lay dying, Elizabeth Ann Whitney, a woman of great spirituality, led the weeping daughters in prayer. “Into the house, and up stairs and to the sick room, walked Aunt Zina, not knowing why she had come so late in the evening, Mother Whitney … arose and exclaimed, ‘The Lord has sent you, Sister Zina, you can surely do something to save her.’ Calmly, and without losing any time, she prepared restoratives, and soon there was rejoicing instead of grief.”58 Another wrote of her special gifts “To soothe the heart, the swollen eye,/ When none but she and God were nigh.”59
Susa Young Gates described Zina as an “angel of hope and faith to thousands and thousands of the Latter-day Saints.” She wrote, “Who has [p.234] not seen the heavenly comfort and faith beaming from her eye as she knelt over the sick or soothed the mourner! In those early days, whose child was not nursed back to health, or robed for its last long sleep by the tender hands of this angelic woman! What household was not made better, purer, holier far, because of the presence of this saintly woman and womanly saint!”60 Zina’s friend and counselor in her Relief Society presidency, Jane Snyder Richards, portrayed her as self-sacrificing. “She has often gone to the bedside of the sick when she herself was feeling ill, and she has returned feeling strong for having done her duty.”61 “A more sympathetic woman never lived,” mused Emmeline B. Wells. “Many a time have I known her to get up in the middle of the night and go off into the country in a lumber wagon to visit the bedside of some suffering brother or sister. She was a ministering angel wherever there was sickness or death. She was a tireless worker for her faith and was, I believe, honored, beloved and reverenced above any woman in the church.”62
Brigham Young appreciated the need for professional health care among his people and encouraged Zina in her studies. Because of this support, she was instrumental in establishing a nursing school in the Social Hall building where she herself lectured in the early 1880s.63 Rachel Emma Woolley Simmons recorded Zina’s encouragement of this move toward professionalism:
In the spring of 1874, Sister Zina D. Young came to me and wanted me to attend a course of lectures on obstetrics given by Dr. Mary Barker, a physician who was here. I told Sister Young I could not do so as I hadn’t the means, but she said that two were to be appointed from each Ward and the Relief Society of each Ward was to pay for the lectures. She insisted so I consented, but I borrowed the money as I did not like to be under obligation to the public in that manner.64
After the Relief Society was revitalized in 1866, followed by the creation of the Retrenchment Association in 1869, Zina used both forums to promote health awareness. When Dr. Romania B. Pratt and Dr. Ellen B. Ferguson sponsored a series of lectures on women’s health at retrenchment meetings in the late 1870s, she encouraged young women to attend. “These lectures she thought should be attended by our young ladies, who are to be the future mothers of the race. She said that she recently heard [p.235] an Apostle say, that if the education of either boys or girls was necessarily to be neglected, it should be the boys; for the girls were to be the mothers of the coming race, on which would rest the building up of Zion.”65
Dr. Pratt, who led the effort to organize obstetrical classes in 1878, requested Zina’s help through the Relief Society: “We solicit the cooperation of the R.S. Presidents in furnishing a student from each settlement and [will] aid them if necessary. … By bringing bedding and boarding themselves the expense including tuition, fire, lights and particularly furnished rooms will cost fifty dollars each student for six months payable one half in advance and the balance at the expiration of three months.”66 The next month at a quarterly Relief Society conference in the Ogden Tabernacle, Zina spoke “impressively upon the subject of women physicians, the great need of having women in the various settlements thoroughly qualified to attend the sick, especially women and children. Said we have now in Salt Lake City, ladies who have graduated and are prepared to teach others, they are women of God, and it is such women who should minister among the sick.”67
Zina’s contribution to local health care was recognized when she was chosen vice president of the Deseret Hospital, which opened in July 1882 under the direction of the Relief Society. The staff of ten included Dr. Ferguson, house physician; Dr. Pratt, eye and ear consultant; Eliza R. Snow, president; Zina D. H. Young, vice president; Emmeline B. Wells, secretary; Matilda M. Barrett, treasurer; and Dr. Washington F. Anderson, Dr. Seymour B. Young, Dr. Ellis R. Shipp, and Dr. Elvira S. Barney, as visiting staff.68 The facility was first located on Fifth East until the women moved into a building originally used for the Holy Cross Hospital. Although there were usually only about sixteen patients at one time, there were as many as forty beds, and the hospital was supplied with modern medical equipment from the East.
In a pamphlet published for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, one writer described the purpose of the hospital as in a “great measure charitable, furnishing a place where the sick and afflicted can receive equal care and attention, regardless of race or denomination.” The report also summarized the hospital’s operations. It served over 100 patients in an average year. The monthly expenses, between $500 and $600, were largely met by donations from the Female Relief Society, the Young [p.236] Men’s and Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Associations, the Primary Association, local mining companies, and private individuals.69
Zina continued as vice president of the hospital until 1892. But the Achilles heel of the hospital appears in an 1891 entry: “At 11.30, went to the hospital board meeting Pres Hiram Clawson present the board was well represented & a good spirit with us, about 500 $ in debt, thousands of dollars been given to the poor Yet we are blest & may the way be opened before us.”70 When the Panic of 1893 weakened Utah’s already fragile economy, the Deseret Hospital did not have the resilience to survive. Two hospitals had already been organized in Salt Lake City—in 1874 the Salt Lake City Episcopalians began medical service at St. Mark’s Hospital, and in 1876 the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Holy Cross founded Holy Cross Hospital.
Perhaps the most important fact about Zina’s increasing public role was Brigham Young’s confidence in her abilities. While his concern about women’s health reinforced Zina’s long-time involvement in nursing, midwifery, nutrition, and sanitation, she would certainly have been involved in health care whether he had expressed an interest or not. However, a second major project she undertook from the 1860s through the 1880s was something she would probably never have voluntarily involved herself in if it had not been Brigham Young’s wish.
As early as the 1850s, Brigham expressed concern over the Saints’ dependence on outsiders for imported “states goods.” As a countermeasure, he proposed a comprehensive effort to achieve economic and territorial self-sufficiency, including the encouragement of various home industries.71 Home industry had played a partial role in the economic order among American frontier communities from the days of Zina’s great-grandmothers. However, in Utah during the cooperative movement of the 1860s and 1870s, Brigham Young explicitly invited women to step into the public sphere and share in the heady business of kingdom building. In a strongly worded address to the legislative assembly in January 1852, he said: “I wish to see this people manufacture their own clothing, and make as good cloth as is in the coat I now have on, and as good silk as in the handkerchief around my neck, and as good linen as is in the bosom and wristbands of my shirt. … I want to see the people wear hats, boots, [p.237] coats, etc., made by ourselves, as good as ever was made in any country.”72 Sericulture was one of many home industries Brigham encouraged in attempting to diversify the territorial economy. It joined a growing list—breweries, tobacco growing, cotton growing, lace making, and the home manufacture of brooms and straw hats, each essential parts of the cooperative economy the Mormons were creating.73
Zina no doubt participated in these activities, but found herself at the center of implementing Young’s quixotic embrace of silk manufacture. While today silk hardly seems necessary for a pioneer community, silk manufactured in the Far East and imported cheaply was a popular fabric in those days and was considered de rigueur for genteel ladies. In fact, when Mormon women retreated to their isolated new home, they brought with them an approach to fashion learned in New England, Ohio, and Illinois.
Mulberry seeds purchased in France with money from the church’s Perpetual Emigration Fund were planted at Forest Farm, Brigham’s experimental farm in Salt Lake City in 1868. From those trees, Brigham produced cuttings offered free to anyone willing to plant them.74 Brigham subsequently built a small cocoonery in his orchard capable of feeding and tending over 2 million silkworms.
As his cocoonery was being built, Young threatened, “If I cannot succeed in getting the sisters with their children to attend to this business I shall be under the necessity of sending to China for Chinamen to come here and raise silk for us, which I do not wish to do.”75 Apostle George A. Smith continued in the same vein: “We would like to see our wives and daughters clad in the most delightful silk, but we cannot get it; and yet it can be cultivated and produced by their own nimble fingers, in this climate; just as easily as flax or wool, and at very little more expense.”76 The U.S. government promoted silk production as particularly well suited for women “who may have no other means of profitably employing their time.” Furthermore, the “reeling demands an acute and gentle touch found only in the hands of women.”77 The Woman’s Exponent also supported sericulture as a female industry with such statements as: “From the breeding and sale of the eggs alone, a handsome income can be secured with little trouble and less outlay.”78 The fact remains, however, [p.238] that sericulture was so labor intensive that it was simply not possible unless those involved worked for almost nothing.
In the cocoonery cellars, the small silkworm eggs79 were kept on metal sheets in a well-ventilated environment below 50 degrees, until the mulberry leaves unfurled in the spring. Then the egg trays were brought up and placed on saw horses in rooms with temperatures of between 75 and 80 degrees. Within a few weeks, the trays were covered with wriggling tiny black worms, busily eating the mulberry leaves. Individual silkworms molted four times during the next six weeks, achieving a length of about three inches when they were about forty days old. Then they spun cocoons, covering themselves with a long silken filament of their own making.
Silkworms required a great deal of space but also an area from which they could not escape, consistently warm temperatures, and a twenty-four-hour-a-day supply of fresh mulberry leaves, chopped into squares between one-eighth and one-sixteenth of an inch. There were at least some experiments with diet. When a Deseret News reporter visited a cocoonery in 1869, he reported that 5,000 worms fed exclusively on orange leaves had produced cocoons “of large size and good color. The filament was “perhaps not quite so fine” as “worms fed on mulberry leaves,” but the silk was satisfactory in other respects. Since orange trees are not native to Utah, however, this experiment seemed doomed to fail.80
Zina was so physically repelled by the worms that the most frequently cited example of her devotion was her care for them. “She fed and took care of millions of worms,” wrote George Pyper, manager for a time of Brigham’s cocoonery, “although there were months that her dreams were nightmare remembrances of her daily horror.”81 She directed the work at the family cocoonery during its first year, and her efforts were deemed “comparatively very successful.”82 Brigham’s cocoonery produced “many pounds of first-class cocoons, and sixty-four ounces of the best silk worm eggs.”83 It remained in use until Young’s death in 1877, then was taken over as a silk experiment station.
Though devoted, Zina stopped short of complete enthusiasm. Writing to Brigham’s son, Willard Young, in 1875, she observed: “I wish the Silk business success but do not intend overdoing for it. The soles [souls] of the children of men are of the greatest importance.”84 The next year [p.239] the Utah Silk Association was organized, and Zina was chosen as its first president, with Anson Call as first vice president; Mary Isabella Horne, second vice president; Lelia Tuckett, secretary; corresponding secretary, Mary Carter; Paul A. Schettler, treasurer; and Alexander C. Pyper, superintendent. Although three of the leaders were men, the majority of the association’s members were women. Zina now had an official title that covered the activities she had begun as early as 1868: overseeing the silk industry, teaching women how to feed and care for silkworms, management, marketing, and publicity.
Brigham Young died in 1877, but the production of silk continued. In fact, thanks to the Deseret Silk Association, production increased dramatically. Twice as many cocoons—5 million—were reeled and spun in Utah during 1877 as during the year before.85 Much of the work utilized Relief Society channels. Nearly every one of the 150 Relief Society organizations had a silk project,86 and Eliza R. Snow, as chair of the donations committee, urged society presidents “to act as agents for this Association, to solicit donations from the brethren and sisters in their respective districts.”87
The Deseret Silk Association’s mission was “the diffusion of information on the subject, encouraging the raising of cocoons and the reeling of silk here, instead of merely producing and exporting the eggs.”88 The association conducted studies on the local silk industry, gathered statistics, and funded the purchase of machinery. For instance, in 1876 Zina sent to England for a ribbon-weaving loom and instructed a craftsman to build a full-sized version of it.89 The association simultaneously purchased a reel for Susannah Cardon, an Italian convert living in Logan who had learned how to do the delicate work in her homeland.90 That same year women in Sugarhouse Ward in Salt Lake City reeled and twisted silk on machinery housed in an unused sugar beet factory.
At a meeting of the Deseret Silk Association on 8 December 1878, Zina described herself as “devotedly engaged in this work.” Responding to the most frequently asked question, whether it was financially remunerative, she answered, “Yes, by opening the way whereby hundreds could find employment. It was for our own interest to take hold of this branch of industry.” She continued, “Our greatest drawback was the [p.240] want of machinery to prepare the silk for the home market, but there was some prospect of getting it soon.”91
In October 1879, Zina was honored for her contribution by being asked to address a church congregation on sericulture.92 She was only the second woman to speak at a general conference. The first had been Lucy Mack Smith in 1845. The next year, on 17 January 1880, the Utah Silk Association was incorporated with William Jennings, president; Eliza R. Snow, vice-present; A. M. Musser, secretary; and Paul A. Schettler, treasurer; and Zina, no doubt with private relief, resigned as president of the now-defunct Deseret Silk Association.
In 1886 territorial governor Caleb West wrote that Utah had produced an estimated 17,000 pounds of cocoons, sold for an average $1 per pound.93 According to another report, a total 28,000 pounds of cocoons were produced during the enterprise.94 A minor boom in silk production followed, but the industry could not survive on its own. Mormon silk never found a consistent and profitable market, nor did Utah have adequate machinery to produce high quality silk. But Utah silk was displayed at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia,95 silk fringe decorated the St. George temple, and silk laces, veils, handkerchiefs, and scarves produced by Relief Society sisters were sold at the Woman’s Commission House in Salt Lake City.96 A gown produced under the auspices of the Utah Silk Association in May 1895 was presented to Susan B. Anthony for her eightieth birthday. Visibly pleased, Anthony saluted women’s work in the silk culture and observed the dress was “made by women, too, who stand on a plane of perfect equality of political rights and privilege with the men of their state.”97 In 1892 Utah silk was showcased at the Chicago World’s Fair. According to the Deseret News, the Utah exhibit
was one of the features that attracted the greatest attention from visitors. … It was no easy task to make a creditable showing of an industry now but little attended to, if at all, but at least a number of Utah [women] made silk dresses, shawls, scarfs, fringes, sewing silk and twists, as well as reeled silk and cocoons, were collected. A Utah woman was also engaged to reel and another to weave, using the primitive machinery of the early days of the Territory.98
[p.241] Sericulture in Utah officially ended in 1905. Possibly with the exception of Zina herself, its most ardent proponents were, like Brigham Young, people who delegated to others the actual work of tending the worms and reeling the silk. However, the real benefits of the silk industry may have been that it provided a unique opportunity for Mormon women to develop organizational skills, financial expertise, travel widely, and learn to work cooperatively. To that extent, it was successful, and Zina Diantha was at its center.
3. Box 1 of the Zina D. H. Young Collection at LDS Church Archives contains nineteen separate folders of diaries, diary entries, or typescripts of diary entries. They include diaries from the following time periods: [May]-June 1854; May 1855; July-August 1855; December -January 1858; 1860; January-May 1859; 1874-77; 1876; March-June 1877; July-September 1879; June 1878; 1880; November 1880; 1881-92; 1881; August-December 1881; 1889- 96; January 1890-May 1891; December 1890-January 1891; June-August 1892; June-July 1893; 1898; 1890-97; diary entries, n.d.; notes, n.d.
15. This group of fifteen sisters born between 1849-56 included: Fanny, 26 January 1849; Emily Augusta, 1 March 1849; Marinda Hyde, 30 July 1849; [p.242] Clarissa Maria, 10 December 1849; Jeanette Richards, 14 December 1849; and the “big ten”: Evelyn Louisa, 30 July 1850; Zina Presendia, 3 April 1850; Caroline, 1 February 1851; Dora M., 12 May 1852; Eudora Lovinia, 12 May 1852; Nabbie Decker, 22 March 1852; Emmeline, 11 February 1853; Shemira, 21 March 1853; Phoebe Louise, 1 August 1854; and Susa, 18 March 1856.
16. This number does not include stepchildren who lived with their mothers or stayed with them for weeks at a time, or youngsters whom Young brought into his home because they lacked family in the area, or children from the neighborhood who were constantly in his house with his own children and in whose welfare he took a paternal interest.
20. Zina Young Card Brown, “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card,” 26 March 1930, pp. 4, 17, typescript, Zina Young Williams Card Collection, Special Collections, Lee Library.
71. Social historians recognize a similar effort in other time periods and situations. “The household unit in society through the first millennium A.D. was responsible for about 90 percent of the total production of the city-states and empires. If we define as household production all that is produced inside and adjacent to the home, including courtyard and kitchen garden, family workshop and farm fields … then we may say that women have at the very least been equal partners in production through most of history.” Elise Boulding, The Underside of History (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1976), 9.
79. Thomas and Elizabeth Whittaker, British immigrants and converts, brought the first silkworms to Utah in the late 1850s to their new home in Centerville, Utah. Whittaker advertised in the Deseret News on 4 June 1862 that he had raised 1,400 healthy silkworms and would be glad to give them to anyone interested in starting their own business.
95. The Women’s Centennial Territorial Fair opened on 4 July 1876. For ten cents, visitors could see displays of the latest handiwork produced by the territory’s women, including silk products of all kinds. The Deseret News, 12 July 1876, described the fair as “by far the best ever presented in Utah.”
97. Deseret News, 7 September 1880. Utah had granted women suffrage in 1870 in reaction to the anti-polygamy legislation—the Cullom Bill—even though it was canceled in 1887 by the provisions of the Edmunds-Tucker Act.