by Rebecca Bartholomew
Who Were They?
[p.25]Just before World War II Kate B. Carter, president of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and compiler of three encyclopedias of Utah history, tried to repair the image of the British Mormon. Her statistics, she claimed, proved that Mormon elders got no response in “the slums of the larger cities” but instead drew from “the great middle-classes, farmers and skilled tradesmen.” She went on: “Even though many [converts] did not have enough money to carry them across the ocean, they were far from poverty. They had good positions, happy homes, and were in love with their country and their queen.”1
I hope to prove Carter substantially right, but her claim first poses several problems. One, she did not elaborate statistics to support her. Second, her frame of reference was probably not that of pioneer mothers. She wrote in a more tactful age, when the Latter-day Saint church was conciliatory toward secular society and when society for its part had come a long way toward cleaning up its massive underside. Earlier Mormons than Carter were unashamed of poverty and unhesitant to blame it on godless [p.26]and inhumane government—the society of David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.
In the mid-1990s we are still not sure how many Britons converted to Mormonism. One researcher cited by Carter claimed that the number exceeded 126,000 of whom 52,000 emigrated to America.2 But Richard O. Cowan, writing in 1987, would consider such figures over-generous. He could find only 110,301 total baptisms for the entire century, with 46,054 emigrations.3
We have less idea how many of these convert emigrants were women. Records show that males and females almost equally manned the emigrant companies. If this held true for the British branches (congregations) as well, then between 55,000 and 63,000 British women were baptized. But this balance may well not have held in the branches. There is some indication that women joined the church more readily than men.4
Thus Carter’s middle-class theory will be hard to prove with numbers. That may be just as well, since numbers and facts often do not tell the story. Yet since they pose the easier task in my detective work, I will begin with facts.
Geographic Origins: Industrial Cities
The easiest question to answer is where in Great Britain Mor-[p.27]mons had their greatest success. To summarize, most converts were picked from England, the next largest groups came from Wales and Scotland, while Ireland contributed a small minority. British converts throughout the nineteenth century outnumbered Scandinavian converts several times over, and southern European baptisms were as scarce as Irish.
Actually, the small Irish numbers are misleading. Ten-20 percent of converts from Glasgow, Liverpool, Merthyr Tydfill, and probably even London itself were Irish refugees. Americans are aware of their 1 million ancestors who emigrated to the eastern seaboard during the potato famine but not so aware that three times that many simply migrated to other parts of Britain. One Mormon elder working in Glasgow in the 1850s claimed to have more Irish than Scotch converts.4
It was as if the sheep had been pre-gathered. My one hundred women’s histories bear out P. A. M. Taylor’s 1954 finding that the majority of baptisms were made in cities and counties which form a corridor about the shape of a woman’s skirt down the western and lower parts of Britain.6 Specifically, six areas contributed heavily: London to South Wales (at the slightly-flared hemline), the West Midlands and new West Riding of Yorkshire (at the thighs), Lancashire (at the hips), and far up to Glasgow and central Scotland (at the slim waist).
To be more precise, a sample of over 5,000 emigrants claimed these cities of origin:
London 1,301 24 percent
Merthyr Tydfill 844 16
Birmingham 741 14
Liverpool 702 13
Glasgow 530 10
Manchester 485 9
Sheffield 385 7
Bristol 332 6
The numbers for Liverpool and Bristol may be inflated, for [p.28]these were the embarkation ports for 95 percent of Mormon emigrant companies. Members commonly moved to these cities weeks or even months before emigrating, then reported their in transit addresses rather than places of origin.7
If converts came predominantly from this western corridor of mining and manufacturing counties rather than from England’s rural east, north, and south, one would expect Mormon branches of the last century to have been predominantly urban—as indeed they were. Three out of four emigrants hailed from a city or large town, only one from the country or a village of under 10,000 people.8
Admittedly, few Britons were far removed from the village, for the northwest industrial cities had tripled in population only since 1800, and the typical city dweller was a transplant from a neighboring town, availing herself of metropolitan job opportunities.9 Yet it is surprising that in a land still half-rural, Mormonism was three-quarters urban. Why should city more than rural Victorians be attracted to the new American religion?
Taylor poses this urban phenomenon as evidence that urban poverty was a motive for conversion and emigration. But urbanization could just as well have been a result rather than a cause. Mormon elders tended to work the towns and cities, finding it easier to obtain meeting halls and draw crowds.
Another reason for greater success in the cities was Britain’s religious climate. City life loosened the bonds of extended family and parish church. Although well-indoctrinated in the Bible, urbanites were somewhat less likely to be churched, were exposed to a greater variety of sectarian influences, and were freer to make personal choices about religious activity without affecting job, [p.29]housing, and social status. The opposite applied for villagers whose actions had more sure consequences in a more restrictive social atmosphere.
Among those heavily-urban counties which contributed converts, Lancashire was the first center of the British Mission. The shipping and industrial city of Liverpool and the factory city of Birmingham were in Lancashire until it was restructured in 1974. But Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, later Joseph Fielding and Willard Richards, established their headquarters in Preston, in the northwest corner near the Irish Sea.
Preston was a textile town of 45,000 residents in 1837, the year missionaries arrived. It was growing by nearly 2,000 residents per year, much as modern Evanston, Wyoming, grew during the oil boom of the 1970s, with similar results: shortage of housing, inundated churches and schools, few social agencies, and public utility construction far behind needs. To the above add conditions peculiar to pre-modern towns: unpaved streets, backyard privies, and drainage facilities that during storms overflowed and carried odor and disease.10
Another Mormon stronghold was the mining country of central England. The Staffordshire Potteries yielded converts in the 1840s, but its branches declined by the 1850s through emigration, the vagaries of mining economics, and lack of attention to the waxing and waning branches.11
In Scotland the urban pattern held. With 3,291 members in 1851, Scotland had seventy branches, almost half of these in four counties: Lanark (Glasgow being its mining center, a city which throughout the century provided as many converts as all other Scottish counties combined), Fife (a coal-mining and agricultural area), Clackmannan (an industrial and agricultural hub), and Edinburgh (heavily industrial but a cultural center as well).
It was not that missionaries did not scour the Scottish countryside for proselytes. William Mackay volunteered in 1846 to preach [p.30]in the Highlands where Gaelic was a barrier to English-speaking elders. He was unsuccessful. Later Peter McIntyre tracted through Argyllshire and some of the Western Isles where he too found few listeners willing to be baptized. Mormonism just did not do as well “in the heather hills as in the smoke stacks, mine shafts, and factories of central Scotland.”12
Wales furnished most of its converts from its industrialized southern counties where three-quarters of its population still live. Cardiff, in the mid-1800s the world’s most important coal shipper, had been a small town until 1794 when the Glamorganshire Canal connected it to coal deposits. While North Wales remained mostly agricultural (sheep and cattle), South Wales became mostly urban.
Yet it was in Herefordshire, a rural county on the border of Wales, that Wilford Woodruff found a congregation of 600 United Brethren and baptized all but one in 1837-38. Many of these men and women had Welsh surnames. Missionaries in 1840 established two branches in northeast Wales, but the elders were stoned and the branches quickly depopulated by emigration.
In 1845 Dan Jones, a Mississippi River steamboat captain born in northern Wales, began his mission in his home area. At the end of a year he had won only three baptisms.13 Transferred to the south, he established a Cambrian newspaper and was directly or indirectly responsible for over 1,000 baptisms by 1848. Baptisms in Wales varied from 150 a month in the late 1840s to 90 per month in the early 1850s before they waned.14 The emigrant group Jones led to Utah in 1849 was said by a non-Mormon editor to include “substantial farmers.” What the editor did not mention is that most of the company were colliers, urbanites like their Scotch and English brothers.15
Ireland was different. While many Irish were converted in [p.31]England, Ireland itself never contained more than a couple of hundred members at a time, less than 3 percent of church membership in Britain.16 In Dublin missionaries met with greater resistance and intolerance than almost anywhere in Britain. Their meetings were crashed by heckling crowds, tracting was disrupted by bands of “camp followers” who grabbed tracts out of would-be readers’ hands and tore them up, and anyone who showed interest or pity for the elders was (“in thousands of instances,” said George Q. Cannon) turned out of house and job. Members could not keep leases on their homes, the missionaries complained. Magistrates would not intervene. Most opposition came from non-conformist Protestant groups rather than from Roman Catholics. The hecklers effectively stifled proselyting in Ireland decade after decade, which is probably why a diary or history written by an Irish Mormon is exceptionally rare today.17
Socio-economic Origins: Mixed Circumstances
One might expect to see in the increasingly industrialized society of early Victorian Britain a developing middle class such as that described by Carter. If it existed, the early elders did not take notice. Barely middle-class themselves in America, they were shocked by living standards in England. Wilford Woodruff wrote of the Preston poor going to and from the factories, their wooden clogs making “a great rattling on the pavement.” Heber C. Kimball was struck by the class discrepancy he saw in Liverpool, where one met “the rich attired in the most costly dresses, and the next minute was saluted with the cries of the poor with scarce covering sufficient to screen them from the weather.”18
It should be remembered that in 1837 England was entering its severest depression of the nineteenth century. In good times, [p.32]writes Malcolm Thorp, factory workers earned wages adequate for a living, but in bad times wages fell. He estimates that one-half of the working force of Preston did not have enough to eat during such times as 1837-42.19 To help families survive, women and children entered the work force, some children working thirteen-hour days without warm clothing or shoes, women leaving small children in the care of a shoemaker or blacksmith husband who had to spend the day in the shop.
Our women’s histories reflect these conditions, not only in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s, but as late as 1900. Throughout the century over 90 percent of Britons were landless and in economic bondage to some degree. The Reform Act of 1832 lowered voting requirements to include those not of the aristocratic class who owned land or rented property worth ten pounds or more. This meant that now 7 percent of the population could vote. The masses were locked into a system in which land was controlled in the country by local squires, in the cities by factory magnates, and in the mining villages by the mine proprietor. Not until the Reform Act of 1850 was franchise based on occupation rather than ownership of property.
Thus the elders obtained their converts primarily from among the unfranchised working classes and the poor. Many Mormon families resembled the Ewers—Hannah Taylor Ewer and John—who with their eleven children “struggled constantly for a meager living.” They lived in rented quarters in Banbury, Oxfordshire, a beef processing and metal manufacturing town. They themselves were hand-loom weavers at a time when cottage industry was succumbing to competition from the factories. Ewer, his wife, and the older children all did piece work on two looms at home. That this provided a marginal living is revealed by their daughter’s recollection of being pressed into winding bobbins when only six years old. When her fingers bled, torn by the warp, her mother wrapped them in linen so that Mary Jane could continue (Mary Jane Ewer Palmer).
Although from our biographies it appears that many families [p.33]prospered a little better, the Ewers’ situation was common. Taylor’s study included 10 percent variously-skilled textile workers like the Ewers, 22 percent in perhaps worse situation as “general laborers,” 16 percent miners, and 4 percent farm or village workers such as wool combers. This gives a sub-total of 52 percent underprivileged.
That leaves 48 percent unlike the Ewers. According to Taylor, only a few of these came from the bourgeoisie of professionals and shopkeepers—those who fit today’s conception of the middle class, who often lived above their own shop or office and sometimes became monied. The majority of them was what we would now call “blue-collar workers”—artisans and skilled tradesmen considerably better off than their semi-skilled peers. They were carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, stone masons, and iron workers. They comprised Carter’s “great middle class,” some of whom were far from poverty, had good positions and happy homes, and were in love with their queen.
Just how prominently they figured in the total Mormon population is debatable. Taylor’s sample seems to represent emigrants of the 1840s and 1850s—those with resources to help themselves to Zion soonest. Malcolm Thorp compared a Mormon group to a Primitive Methodist group and found that 50 percent of Methodist emigrants were skilled artisans compared to 32 percent of Mormons. “These skilled workers, often the most prosperous group among the common people, were also the most numerous members of the evangelical sects” generally, but he concluded that the Mormons attracted converts from lower socio-economic status than did the other proselyting churches. “Here were the meek and lowly being gathered.”20
Yet the evidence is not all in. Among our narrower sample of one hundred, this second class of slightly more prosperous, skilled workers is more noticeable than in either Taylor’s or Thorp’s study. This may be because our sample was self-selected: that is, those who left records were more literate, higher-status converts. But if so, then why would one of the most articulate, vividly-de-[p.34]tailed records be that of Mary Jane Ewer Palmer—who was all but illiterate and left her story only through dictation to her daughter? Literacy was not an exclusive factor in leaving histories.
Another statistic strengthens this argument. Whereas 22 percent of Taylor’s Mormons were listed by emigration clerks as “general” (rather than “skilled”) laborers, among British emigrants as a whole the percentage was 65. This would bear out Dickens’s observation that the Mormon company included “the pick and flower of England,” and it partially vindicates Carter.
Whatever the economic status of these women, their own records do not usually dwell on poverty in their pre-lives in Britain. Margaret McNeil Ballard, who emigrated with her family when she was ten, remembered in later years not hunger or drudgery but “the beautiful scenes of grasses and waters” of the coal mining village of Tranent, Heddingtonshire, Scotland. Other histories tell matter-of-factly of economic conditions which today might seem rather bleak but which then were unexceptional (Margaret McNeil Ballard).
Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford wrote, “I was the eldest of a family of eleven children; when I was about eleven years of age I was placed to work in a silk factory and was thus enabled to earn a little to assist my parents in the support of the family.” She seemed to view her job as an opportunity, while others saw it simply as a fact of life much as attending school for children today. My own ancestors, two Thomas families of Carmarthenshire, Wales, each had listed on the 1851 census a fourteen-year-old son at work, one as a coal miner, the other as a tailor’s apprentice. A Welsh boy who could work beside his collier father in the mine increased his father’s production and the daily family income.21
Even Mary Jane Ewer’s reminiscences are not embittered, though there is a hint of resentment. It seems that after five or more years of working in a dress goods factory, all that time paying a strict tithe and sending a few cents each day through her father to the church emigration clerk, Mary Jane contracted smallpox. Two [p.35]others in the family, her younger siblings, died, whereupon her father begged her for her savings to bury them. Mary Jane deliberated a full day before deciding not to postpone emigrating any longer. Her father obtained burial money from a town officer, and Mary Jane set out for Utah alone.
So much is unsaid in this story. In conflict were her duty to family and her impassioned desire to get to Utah. There is just the suggestion that she felt used by her family, that they expected her to sacrifice whatever present and future she might hope for. She must have given the bulk of her five-year earnings to her parents or it would not have taken so long to save emigration expenses. But her resentment is milder than Charles Dickens’s, put to work at age twelve in a blacking warehouse while his father sat in debtor’s prison. One has to wonder if in later years Ewer might not have rethought her decision, for her life in Utah as an oft-abandoned plural wife in an isolated desert outpost seems as bleak as her youth in Banbury.
Some women state conditions of hardship bluntly. Sarah Lewis Davies’s husband, a stone cutter, died of what the children believed resulted from “lifting too hard” and “inhaling dust.” This is an indictment of the labor system of the day, and it was meant to be (Mariah Davies Davies).
A few of our women describe people who were “making it” financially. Jane Graham Laidlaw, later portrayed by a Utah neighbor as “above average in intelligence and culture,” remembered comfortable growing-up years in Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, with an aunt and uncle. Jean Rio Baker Pearce, a widow with seven children, had either been left cash and property by her husband or earned sufficient as a dressmaker to buy a house (“only four rooms, but it will do for the winter”) with twenty acres in Utah. Margaret Mitchell Blythe’s father was a mine inspector entrusted by the Sydney Mining Company to open its new holding in Nova Scotia where the family lived in middle-class respectability.
Henrietta Bullock’s husband was a law clerk, then tax exciseman whose work took him from port to port and provided a steady and satisfactory if modest income. Hannah Tapfield King lived the depressive but materially comfortable life of “an upper middle [p.36]class lady” before becoming a Mormon. Among our sample, seven out of twenty-one who directly reported on socio-economic conditions appear to have been middle class or better.
Thus neither the stereotype of the poor, working girl nor Carter’s picture of the happy, middle-class family is entirely satisfactory—yet both apply. Those attracted to Mormonism ranged the spectrum of class origin. Converts with some investiture in the British establishment seem to have been almost as numerous as those who might well have grasped an alternative to twelve-hour days, seventy-two-hour weeks, and no hope of ever owning land or rising above their stations.
Family Characteristics: Young and Married
Another of Taylor’s conclusions is that the emigration was overwhelmingly young and whole-family. For every 100 emigrants, thirty-three were infants and children, sixteen were middle-aged or elderly, while fifty-one were between the ages of sixteen and forty. Whether youth was also a characteristic of those who converted is less certain but probable.
Again out of each 100, seventy-five belonged to some kind of family. Of these, twenty-five were attached to a large family of six or more members—often an extended family of a grandparent or two, an aunt and uncle, or cousins. Thus the idea that the gospel would call one of a household and two of a city applied to only 25 percent of Saints, and these did not remain isolate for long.22
The biographies bear out the fact that people joined the Mormon church as families. If a wife were baptized, chances were very good that within the year her husband would follow. If their family was young, all of the children would be baptized as a matter of course. If some children were grown, several if not all of these would also join with their spouses.
Alicia Allsley Grist provides an example of the core, two-parent family.23 She was born in Birmingham in 1827, obtained at least a basic education as evidenced by her articulate letters to the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star and Woman’s Exponent, and mar-[p.37]ried John K. Grist when she was about twenty-three. Five years later they were both baptized. After several months he was made an elder, and subsequently the family followed him to Dublin, perhaps on a mission for the church. By 1861 (six years later) they were in Liverpool Center Ward preparing to emigrate. It was another year and a half before the family, including at least four daughters, sailed for America with no mention of any extended family accompanying them. Other biographies encapsulate this family experience in the phrase, “the whole family was converted,” meaning parents and children (Emily Ann Parsons Barker, Margaret McNeil Ballard, Alice Maw Poulter, and Mary Foster).
Another pattern was extended families who converted and helped one another emigrate. Henrietta Rushton married Thomas Bullock, whom she had known for years, when both were about twenty-two. Two years later her family “heard and believed” the gospel, and the following year she and Thomas converted. All of them emigrated together, sharing berth and wagon.
A third family pattern was that of the widow, widower, or divorced man or woman with children. Out of the twenty-seven biographies with enough detail to reveal family status at the time of conversion or emigration, seven subjects were single heads of families, including four widows, one divorcee, and two widowers. There were others who traveled singly but were technically still married. Most remarried either during emigration or within a year after arriving in Utah.
Remarriage as a product of church affiliation was so common it should be considered as a motive for both conversion and emigration. Reconstituted families were more numerous than those with single heads. Adults left alone by death prior to joining the church often remarried before emigrating. Reconstituted families comprise one-third to one-half of our 100 families. The experience of losing a spouse to death or divorce was at least as common during this period as in our day.
Single people, or those emigrating singly, formed the least typical pattern. Taylor’s study shows them comprising only one-[p.38]fourth of emigration companies. In the histories I encountered they are less than one-tenth. Most singles were young and would marry soon after reaching Zion, if not on the way. Others became single through death of a spouse at sea or on the plains. And among the histories in this study are three or four stories of men and women who joined the LDS church, met with resistance from a spouse, and went to Zion alone–some divorcing first, most not. These incidents inspired tremendous hostility from outsiders and helped reinforce the image of home-breakers.
One suspects that for every person who abandoned a spouse for religion’s sake there was one who did not but remained in Great Britain in varying degree of involvement with the church. Stories about these women are hard to find, but they occasionally surface in subsequent chapters.
Large, Landless Families Acquainted with Grief
What were other characteristics of these Mormon families? First, if they were not large families at the time of emigration, they would become so in Zion. Couples with only three or four children were either young, fatherless, or had lost infants through death. Most would soon have six or more children, the average being eight.24
With so many children, there was little spacing between pregnancies and a woman’s childbearing years were prolonged. When birth dates of the children are available, one typically sees the birth of the first child seven to twelve months after marriage, three or four subsequent children born in close succession (sixteen to twenty-four months apart), then later children born at 2.5 to four-year intervals. Women married between ages sixteen and twenty-three and, if not widowed, bore children for the next sixteen to twenty-eight years.
The case of Elizabeth Phillips Thomas’s in-laws, while probably not typical, is instructive. Her mother-in-law was at marriage twenty-three, vocation not known, from Merthyr Tydfill. Her father-in-law was twenty-five, a weaver, of Pontgwynfe, Llan-[p.39]deusant Parish, Carmarthenshire, Wales. They were married “by banns” in 1831, according to the parish records, and were probably Church of England (unlike 80 percent of their countrymen) because they had each of their children christened. Legitimacy in marriage was necessary, but few Methodists cared to anglicize their children as well.25
By the time of the 1851 census the mother was thirty-three and had seven living children ranging from one to sixteen years. Thomas, the eighth child listed in the family record (and later the husband of Elizabeth Phillips), told his children that his parents had twenty-one children. Because the family record stops in 1841, and we have only the 1851 census, many of the mother’s childbearing years are unaccounted for. With continued, nearly uninterrupted pregnancies, she may well have had twenty-one births.
It is tempting to believe that this was an extremely prolific family even for the nineteenth century—but was it? The first baby was born and died on Christmas Day. The second died sometime in infancy. We have no marriage or death dates for the fifth, sixth, and seventh children as well, suggesting that they may have died in infancy or early childhood. Since Thomas would not likely have fabricated a family tradition of twenty-one children, there must have been others, perhaps some stillbirths, that went unrecorded. Had the family record listed only those siblings who lived beyond infancy, the list might have been closer to the average of eight. Perhaps other subjects who reported only ten or twelve children did not include stillbirths. In other words, sixteen, eighteen, or twenty-one births might not have been remarkable.
Death was a common experience in these families. Most lost infants or older children to illness and accident in addition to the loss of a parent or step-parent. Clara Alice Robinson Allred’s father [p.40]lost one wife at thirty-five, remarried but lost her too, then married a milliner who outlived him seven years. “Wee Granny” Murdoch lost her husband when he went to rescue a young miner caught in a shallow shaft near their home. Perhaps out of consideration for his heroism, the company loaned her land on which her sons built her a stone cottage where she lived out her life (Mary Murray Murdoch).
Examining the childbearing history of eight women chosen at random from 100 histories shows that of sixty-four children born, thirteen died before the age of five, two died in their late teens, and one died unmarried at age thirty-one. An unusual case is the family of Elizabeth Phillips Thomas herself, whose own parents had eleven children between 1835 and 1852. Two died in infancy, one was stillborn, another died at age seven, and four others died by the age of twenty (one at sea, another killed by a team of horses). Out of eleven children, only Elizabeth lived to marry and raise a family, and she emigrated to Utah, leaving her parents childless.26
Another characteristic of these families is that they were landless. The Thomas family lived in the “Furnace Cottages,” row houses leased out by a Carmarthen refinery. Even if the opportunity to buy land had arisen, many would have passed because they moved from mine to mine as one pit retired and another opened. Country residents were no more likely to own other than small parcels, sharecropping or hiring out to larger landowners.
It was in the larger towns and cities that shopkeepers and others of the middle class had a better chance of owning property. In our sample, several families owned shops with living quarters above, including London dressmaker Jean Rio Baker Pearce and Priscilla Merriman Evans’s fancy milliner-sister who a gypsy had predicted would wear silk and satin and live in a big house in the city. Jane Benbow, whose husband was a yeoman farmer with a [p.41]gracious house and property in Castle Frome, Herefordshire, was an exception.
Family Relations: The Histories Are All but Mute
What of the emotional fabric of these families? In the histories not much is overtly said about relationships, either between father and mother or parent and children. Hannah King, the upper-class lady, almost alone wrote in detail about her inner world. There was her idolized father, a kindly, expressive land steward to the Earl of Gogmagog near Cambridge. Hannah loved but feared her more severe, practical mother. She married a son of the lesser gentry and discovered even before the wedding that “we were two in the religion of the soul.” Though he was kind and solicitous, “I never thought of telling him my sorrows or my feelings” but learned “to work out my salvation alone.”
Most Mormon women of the time were too busy with survival to philosophize over relationships. Thus their memoirs give only hints and glimpses into their emotional lives. We know, however, that John Johnson Davies and Mariah Davies remained happy companions after marriage. For years after Mariah’s death John fondly gleaned from his early diary those memories which he considered worth keeping. One of those reads: “My girl and myself used to go on excursions to the seashore in a steamer. And sometimes down to the seashore in a boat. England and Wales is a great country for enjoyments. Excuse me for saying so much about my girl, I can’t help it for she was good company to me” (Mariah Davies).
Feelings were expressed more often in reminiscences than in contemporary accounts. One learns more about grandmother Sarah Hattersley Wells’s temperament through the eyes of little Nellie’s than through Wells’s diaries. Grandmother Wells told Nellie stories about the early life in England because “I like to tell Thee things, Thee listens.” Though bent and aged, Grandmother Wells had long brown hair only slightly greying, and one of her stories was about her husband Samuel Wells who had been a common laborer. “Thee Grandfather, just like a banty rooster, always ready, always got a chip on his shoulders,” she would say.
The diaries are all but silent on the matter of sexual relation-[p.42]ships between husband and wives—a predictable finding when dealing with Victorian ladies. My experience parallels sociologist Hulett’s attempts to gather information about sexual habits in Mormon polygamous families. He could not get answers.27
Scholars say the Victorians were more delicate in sexual attitude than their Puritan ancestors: “A colonial lady or gentleman had no hesitation about using such words as `legs’ and `belly’ to describe those parts of the body; but their children and grandchildren preferred `nether limbs’ and `lower portion’.”28 In the 1880s, according to domestic historian Mary Cable, “a squeamish female became the ideal.”
Whether squeamishness about such matters was the British ideal, and whether this ideal was embraced by the working as well as genteel classes, cannot be determined from our histories. Only one woman permitted herself any frankness about her physical life: Hannah Tapfield King, the delicate, upper-middle-class English poetess, who probably referred to the onset of menopause with this statement: “I might have had children up to my 52nd year.” Elsewhere in her journal she made one oblique comment on marital sex which is placed in fuller context with her story in chapter 9.
Cultural Roots: Church-schooled or Self-schooled
One aspect of Mormon stereotype was naivete bespeaking a lack of breeding and education. To approach the reality behind this image, we need to ask how much schooling the women attained. If we define education as formal schooling, the stereotype will be [p.43]verified, not only by the level of Mormon women but of Victorian women generally.
Even Mrs. King, seen as a poet and “lady” by her English and Utah associates, by her own admission received no more than two years of classroom training and none beyond the age of twelve. Probably Ellen Brooke Ferguson was the most highly-educated. But while she was known as “Doctor” Ferguson, Ellen’s education was not obtained in a preparatory school or college but under private tutors (some of them Cambridge dons) hired by her lawyer-father. Her medical training came largely from her husband, an Edinburgh graduate, since British society offered no outlets for a woman tutored in math and science.
A woman who impressed Wilford Woodruff with her educational accomplishments was Ellen Balfour Redman. Woodruff wrote proudly in his journal that Sister Redman, an enthusiastic member of the Whitechapel Branch, taught languages to daughters of the nobility.29 However, I have been unable to find record of her anywhere but in his journal. Other Mormon women obtained degrees from American colleges, but this was in maturity and long after emigration.
Most women received at least some formal schooling. If nothing else, they attended day schools (also called circulating or scripture schools) taught by traveling preachers, where they learned to read through the Bible. Eliza Dorsey Ashworth, for instance, remembered attending (at an early age, before she went “out to service” [i.e., became a domestic help]) a Sunday school [p.44]that taught reading and writing. Even when a woman such as Mary Coslet Thomas left her mark rather than her signature on her marriage certificate, it did not mean she could not read. And though it is apparent that most Welsh women did not write other than by necessity, our histories testify that British women in general wrote as well as read. Most of the records, if not coming to us directly, were at least based on handwritten memoirs. Since the majority of the rememberers were of the working classes, we assume that people of all classes could write.
If we include informal education, then a good percentage of women acquired learning. Before and after age twelve, Hannah King was taught “by my mother” who “conversed a good deal” with her son and daughters, taught them the social graces, read to them, and listened to them read. In later years she recalled:
I had been raised carefully as all our family had. My mother was a wise and judicious trainer of the young, and her mind was stored with much practical knowledge of character and circumstances. She was our daily, hourly Lexicon. If we spoke wrongly, she corrected us there, if ungrammatically, she made us repeat it properly. She talked knowledge and learning and good manners and morals and principles into us day by day, and so cultivated our minds and formed our characters. Still our lives were secluded and mine especially.
By the age of thirteen Hannah was perusing the Anglican Whole Duty of Man and the weekly preparation lessons for taking the sacrament.
Because self-education was so substantial a part of the Victorian tradition, the level of women’s literacy varied as widely as the circumstances, ambitions, and tastes of the families and women themselves. Priscilla Merriman Evans began attending the National School at Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales, at an early age and continued until she was eleven. The school taught the Bible, sampling needlework for girls, and “other studies.” She would have continued, but at eleven she was required to drop out to tend house for her ailing mother. An older sister should by rights have taken on this obligation, but she did not like housekeeping so Priscilla was commandeered into the assignment. Any further [p.45]education she had to create herself, and she seems to have done so. When many years later her husband was called on another mission from Utah to Wales, leaving Priscilla pregnant with their eleventh child, she showed enough ability to manage the family store and support the family.
Vocational education had a larger role in nineteenth-century schooling than for today’s children. Many were apprenticed to a trade through which they learned the skills necessary to earn a living. A liberal education came through family and social contacts rather than textbooks and classrooms. In Scottish families Robert Burns’s poetry was an oral tradition, and recitations and singing took the place of television. In Wales choral music, hymn-writing, and poeticizing were a birthright. And for church-goers fortunate enough to have a cleric with high-church leanings, Sunday sermons could be an experience in literature, philosophy, and aesthetics.
For one Mormon girl, at least, her parents’ conversion deprived her of formal schooling. Margaret McNeil Ballard, from a small coal village near the seashore of Scotland, told her children: “Because of being a Mormon I was not permitted to attend the schools and so I was entirely deprived of schooling while in the old country, and in pioneering there was little opportunity of education.” This is further evidence that formal education in nineteenth-century Britain was tied to the churches, primarily motivated by the anti-papacy ethic of enabling common people to read the Bible for themselves. It also suggests that either the Ballards were too removed from a Mormon branch to send their children to Sunday school or that Mormon Sunday schools did not teach reading and writing.
A possibility is that Mormonism attracted readers because the illiterate depended completely on what other people said about the unpopular sect. There is corroboration of this in several memoirs and missionary journals. A common proselyting tool in the British mission was pamphlets distributed door-to-door and from street corners. Dan Jones, especially, used the printing press to spread his message in the Welsh language. Many converts reported encountering missionaries by reading a posted bill an-[p.46]nouncing the meeting. A few initially discovered Mormonism through printed literature. Two of the memoirs mention a specific book which converted them and which they then lent to friends and neighbors—A Voice of Warning, Elder Parley P. Pratt’s discussion of millennial prophecies.
Moral Roots: Conventional Origins
Writers have tried to pinpoint what it was that predisposed 100,000 Britons, at least half of them women, to the doctrines of Mormonism. P. A. M. Taylor skirted the question when he posed several theories to explain the Mormon drive to emigrate. He considered millennial fever, contagion, economic depression and urban poverty, Zionism, and church financial assistance. He found too little proof for any one of these, concluding that those who proved susceptible to Mormon preaching “may have craved spiritual assurance at least as much as material betterment.”30
Thorp studied 280 converts for prior religious affiliation and found that 70 percent of his subjects came from mainline churches: 25 percent were Methodist, 21 percent Church of England, 11 percent Baptist, 6 percent Independent, 5 percent Presbyterian, almost 1 percent Catholic. A minority came from evangelical or splinter groups: 11 percent Primitive Methodist, 2 percent “teetotallers” and “infidels.” Of the remainder, 1 percent were not religiously inclined and 15 percent were religiously inclined but not affiliated. Since the working class tended to belong to this latter group, Thorp’s statistics may suggest that Mormon converts were more churched than their working-class peers. They were not culled from the religious fringe but from mainstream British culture.31
There were dramatic exceptions to this rule, Wilford Woodruff’s 600-strong Herefordshire splinter group—the United Brethren—being one.32 There were other instances of entire congrega-[p.47]tions joining the Mormon fold. In one village 90 percent of residents became Mormons. But these mass conversions did not occur within a mainline church.
Many of our histories tell of the woman’s specific religious affiliation before her conversion. Susannah Albion’s father was an Independent minister of London. Priscilla Evans’s family was Baptist, a relatively rare but still acceptable commodity in Wales where Methodists predominated. Rachel Killian’s parents were Catholic, also rare among Mormon converts and suggesting, along with their name, Irish background. The Thomas family’s church affiliation is not stated, but the fact that they recorded their babies’ christenings in the parish register identifies them as Church of Wales. Alice and Edward Horrocks’s Welsh marriage was registered instead with the Society of Protestant Dissenters.
Other families whose religious affiliations are not given describe themselves as anything from “deeply religious” (a common phrase used by Thomas Bullock and others) to “almost Infidel to all Religion and did not belong to any therefore the children were not taught much about it” (statement by Mary Nixon Bate Buckley on her religious training). A number of other women, while also not reporting specific church membership, stated that as children they attended Sunday school and scripture class.
The phrase “deeply religious” could have applied to British society at large. The church was still pervasive in the private and public life of nineteenth-century England. Tithing was a tax exacted by the civil government from property owners and used to support the official church. When a man posted the banns to be married, it was not done at the courthouse but at the parish church—even if one was not Anglican.
The church was so ingrained in peoples’ lives that probably only in a larger city could the Nixons have been “infidel to all religion.” Elsewhere this course would have been more difficult if they wanted employment, education for their children, and acceptance into the community. Attending an alternate church had been a hard-fought and only 100-year-old right.
[p.48]The level of mass religious fervor wavered, however. New and old sects bestirred themselves periodically to arouse the religious feeling inspired in the eighteenth century by Methodism. Probably to contrast low-church Methodism to Mormonism, the magazine of the LDS British Mission, the Millennial Star, reported in considerable detail one Irish revival, part of a series of Protestant revivals during the 1850s.33
It appears that in other ways Mormon proselytes mirrored the times and were conventional in their moral and social beliefs. This is an all-important claim which demands documentation. To begin with, lower-middle class girls like Priscilla Meredith Evans, who attended scripture classes as children, likely would have retained in adulthood the lessons of childhood. Upper-middle class girls like Hannah Tapfield King were taught by age two the limits of respectable behavior. As a toddler she was once severely flogged when her mother suspected she had lied about taking some honey from the parlor cupboard. Her Anglican mother “hated a lie with a perfect hatred.”
The personal histories and branch minutes are replete with examples of Mormon intolerance of deviant moral behavior among members. The branches were quick to excommunicate not just for offenses deemed disloyal to the group or its leaders but for moral lapses. A girl would most certainly be cut off for fornication, probably for stealing or lying unless she repented or made amends, and often for swearing or missing meetings without cause.34
In the personal histories there is additional evidence of traditional mores. There is not one instance in our histories of abandonment or divorce due to infidelity—though there were a number of separations over religious differences. British Mormons believed in legal marriage, if one may judge from the case of Brother and Sister Booth of London. Reverend Albion, the once-Independent minister, charged Sister Booth with adultery because she had [p.49]never divorced her first husband. Branch leaders thought the accusation serious enough to convene two church hearings several years apart in which they ascertained that while she had been deserted as a teenage bride of only six weeks, Sister Booth had not been legally divorced from the young man. Her husband had taken another wife with whom he had lived for nineteen years, while the Booths had been together for ten or more years (no details given as to whether or how a second marriage was performed). The final church court forgave the couple and, while telling them to legalize Mrs. Booth’s situation, then indicted James Albion “for maliciously putting charges against [Henry] Booth” as well as for slandering the character of an unnamed branch member.35 Albion was eventually cut off from the London branch, though whether for stubbornness or a larger discontent is not known.
That the branch showed some leniency toward the Booths does not indicate condonment of common-law marriage. Some tolerance toward youthful indiscretions was typical of the times and its churches. Methodist Hannah Daniels of Carmarthenshire, Wales, was eighteen and pregnant when she wed Thomas Job, thirty-five, who was studying to be a minister. Obligations to parents and siblings resulted in many long and frustrating engagements, so there was no real scandal though, as Thomas put it, more was expected of a preacher than of others. His ambitions to the cloth were ended (Hannah Daniels Job).
In other ways the attitudes of British Mormons reflected the values of their culture. John Davies and his girl friend Mariah dated, as was common, and the branch kept tabs on them. Always concerned for the moral wellbeing of members, Amasa Lyman reported of the Whitechapel, London, Branch: “[It] is warm and friendly, holding social concerts to keep its members from other amusements.”36 A Mormon matron of 1875 looked respectably askance at violations of the work ethic:
[p.50]One of our sisters asked a fine grown, strong, healthy-looking young woman, who came to the door begging, if it would not be far better for her to try and get a situation at some gentleman’s house, than to go through the streets begging as she was doing. The young girl replied, no indeed it wouldn’t! … There wasn’t money enough in it. The sister opened her eyes in astonishment, and asked her if she could get more money by begging. She answered, “Oh yes! it is a very poor street that I cannot get a penny in and I can visit sixty streets per day and at least that will clear me five shillings, and I am my own mistress into the bargain.”37
The Critical Ingredient
But if Mormons were conventional, how were they attracted to a sect which, after 1852, openly admitted the practice of plural marriage? This was the question Fanny Stenhouse tried to answer in 1870 as a fifty-year-old disaffected Mormon. She concluded from her own experience and observation of others that “religious tendencies and a devotional feeling were almost universally found to be the causes which induced men and women to join the Mormon Church.” Most converts were like her, she claimed, in being “religiously inclined … Evangelical Protestants of the Old World.” Even as a child she had been “disposed to religious influences,” trying with simplicity and enthusiasm to please God by the life she lived. She contrasted this background to Roman Catholicism, whose beliefs, she felt, emphasized dependence on authority rather than personal piety. Converts were rarely “persons predisposed to infidelity” or little prior religious inclination.
Yet Stenhouse eventually left Mormonism, whereas many stayed. Perhaps she exemplified those proselytes who brought to Mormonism only half a disposition for it; who lacked a critical ingredient which brought, for better or worse, staying power. This quality has been given different names by different writers including church apologists, descendants, historians, and the women themselves. Some called it prayerfulness or personal communion with God; others described the proselytes as “religious seekers” [p.51]who drifted from one church to another.38 In contemporary Mormon meetings prayer givers ask that missionaries will find “the honest in heart,” and nineteenth-century Mormon women described themselves as “the blood of Ephraim.”
Call it readiness. Many of our women were prepared for the Word when it came. They felt pre-selected, called, made ready. Fanny Stenhouse was not; her vulnerability to Mormonism came through familial loyalty. Yet there were facets to even her makeup which predisposed her to Mormon teachings. One was a tendency toward independence or at least mild dissatisfaction with the religions of her girlhood:
In plainness of dress the Methodists and Baptists much resembled the Quakers. … I well remember one smooth-faced, pious, corpulent brother, who was old enough to be my father, saying to me one day: “My dear young sister, were it not for your love of dress, I have seriously thought that I would some day make you my wife.” I wickedly resolved that if a few bright coloured ribbons would disgust my pious admirer, it should not be my fault if he still continued to think of me.
Another was a recognition that her family had improved under the new religion. A third was the desire to be spiritually united not only with her family, who had converted while she was away in Paris, but also with the young elder who taught her, baptized her, and, through the “magnetic currents” of his sensitive mind and her “excited state,” produced what she came to believe was a false conversion experience. Perhaps she was right. She was an anomaly—that rare reality which resembled the stereotype of the too-impressionable young woman swayed by the dashing young missionary.
A few women had joined one church after another in quest of an institution which embodied the inner vision they possessed. Mary Nixon Bate Buckley, daughter of the “infidels,” wrote:
i had a great desire for Religion when i was quite [a] Small girl but could not get any Encouragement so it kind of laid dorment [p.52]and after i got married and began to have a Family I commenced to go to church and then I began to wonder wich was the Right one but i could not tell[.] i went to the church of England [and] to the Methodist and thought i would give them a good trial[.] I prayed to the Lord in my weak way to know wich was the right the Lord gave me a dream or vision showing me they where none of them write ……
This reminds one of Thorp’s observation that some of the men drifted into as many as six churches before joining the Mormons. He found others who expressed disillusionment with all churches, in particular with the insensitivity of ministers, the constant cry for money, and the irreconcilability of orthodox doctrines with their own understandings of the Bible.39
The women of our histories say little about ministers, but they followed family members’ discontent. John Powell reported that his mother was disillusioned with the religious “kant” and hypocrisy (Mary Powell). Alice Maw Poulter’s father was one of those “not satisfied with his religion,” and when he joined Mormonism his daughter went with him. Ann Killip Cowley’s husband, for twenty years a Wesleyan Methodist on the Isle of Man, was at length disfellowshipped “because he did not think Wesleyan teachings fit the Bible.” Since the Cowleys were together baptized into Mormonism, one presumes she was united with him in his earlier dissent. Other women said nothing about dissatisfaction but did report being “earnest Bible readers.” They were certainly not disinterested bystanders.
Some women were prepared by dreams, visions, or other psychic experiences. Sixteen-year-old Priscilla Evans was promised by a gypsy that she would one day “cross the big waters.” Lovable, 200-pound Eliza Dorsey Ashworth, who kept a garden and window boxes filled with flowers, had a dream about roses: “She dreamed she was dressed in white and was going on a long journey. On the way, she crossed a long bridge. She had two white roses in her hand, and while she stood on the bridge one of the roses fell in the stream. Soon the other one dropped in. She [p.53]watched them fall, and it made her feel so badly she awoke crying.” Ashworth indeed made a long journey, settled the mouth of Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake City, and lost two of her sons in the canyon stream.
Perhaps most poignant is the story of Martha Cumming Clark. She was a latecomer to the Mormon fold, the great-granddaughter of a Mrs. Low who with four sons emigrated to Zion in about 1860. A fifth son refused to go but stayed in England, raising his children as Presbyterians. He was Martha’s grandfather.
Martha was destined from birth to be a Mormon. When two days old she was taken in the arms of her grandfather, who prophesied to her mother, “Maggie, this is your second child. You may have a dozen more, but remember from me, that this child will be The one in your family.” As a girl Martha had dreams which, when told to her sisters as they gathered around the fireplace in their nightgowns, provoked them into calling her Joseph the Dreamer. “Do you mean to tell us that my father and mother and all us children have got to bow down to you some day?” they would taunt her. Her dreams told her that one day she would go to America and marry a widower. She had other mystical experiences which complicated family life but eased her physical suffering while working in a mill to support her widowed mother.
Some of the histories contain no hints whatever about their subjects’ spiritual lives prior to Mormonism. To all appearances Jane Graham Laidlaw Bell was a cheerful, gregarious girl who had few troubles until meeting up with the Mormons. Why would a twenty-six-year-old woman raised comfortably by an aunt and uncle in an intelligent, cultured home suddenly join a new sect, marry one of its preachers, and allow herself to be led to the wilds of Utah? Yet in her later years as a widow with three children “she never tired of talking over the principles of the gospel,” testified a neighbor. A significant event is missing from her history, and it may well have been another spiritual catharsis.
For most women the way to conversion was not a spiritualist phenomenon but the kind of material hardship that needled them into seeking reasons for existence, such as the death of a father or sibling. For Mary Jane Ewer it was religious hunger but also the [p.54]endless demands of her family’s poverty. For Priscilla Evans it was a life of drudgery under a demanding father and as substitute mother to five brothers.
For lonely Hannah Tapfield King, living in her eight-room house in the midst of her husband’s well-tended fields and no physical wants, the deaths of friends and family detached her from mundane life. But she also suffered from “triste” (sadness)—a lifelong if usually mild depression which she expunged through poetry, letters, and effusive confessions to her diaries. As a thirteen-year-old Hannah had been tortured by a sense of unworthiness mixed with skepticism at the preaching of the new curate, the “evangelical low-church” Mr. Williams. A visit to the bedside of a dying boy brought her overwrought sensitivities to a pique, and she became ill. Her mother found her crying one day, and though Hannah had dreaded this formidable person ever finding out her inner torment, she confessed how “the Lord had afflicted me.” Her mother merely hugged her, assured her that “if the Lord had afflicted me, it must be for some fault of her and my father, for she considered me without a fault,” and afterward spoke to the retired minister, a high-church soul whose plain, practical sermons spoken in a musical voice Hannah had loved. He wrote the girl a calming letter which assuaged her fears.
Hannah still suffered “a dark spirit for years.” She was forty-two and had endured a year of “the breaking up of old associations” by death and disagreement, when her dressmaker introduced her to Mormonism.
She told me that all other Churches were false! I had suffered so much in my early life for my religious feelings, and had by earnest prayer, and trying to walk consistently as became a Christian[,] gained a great degree of happiness in my religion, and I know the spirit of God has led and comforted me. And when she showed me that the last dispensation was opened and that there were but two Churches on earth—One God’s and the rest the opposite power, I felt again stranded, and oh! how I trembled to think should I again have to “stumble upon the Dark Mountains” of doubt and uncertainty in which I had struggled and suffered for years? Oh! how she broke me up, how I wept “rivers of tears”. She was shocked, and seemed to mourn over [p.55]me. I told her never to mention it to me again, etc. Under this wounded spirit came the letter from George D. announcing the death of his brother. I was already full of tears, and indeed were the “deep fountains” of my heart broken up. Truly I was “born in tears” unto the Church of Christ … (entry for Aug. 1849).
For other women, preparation meant circumstances which placed them in proximity to a Mormon branch. Several families moved from Ireland or south England to Scotland and the Midlands where the Mormon influence was more pronounced, just in time for the elders to find them. It seemed Martha Cumming Clark would spend her life as a drudge—six years in a textile mill, eight years caring for a retarded boy, three years as housemaid and nursemaid to an invalid woman—until her mother badgered her into the aid of a sister in Edinburgh. “You are the only one in the family who pretends to be a Christian,” said her mother; “now I want you to show it.” Despite her ailing stump of a foot and the harsh chores which had already driven other girls from the clergyman’s household where her sister worked, Martha went—after praying and being told by the Lord to go. Within weeks she had been introduced to the missionaries in Edinburgh.
1. Kate B. Carter, Heart Throbs of the West (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1947), 3:106.
2. Ibid., 4. She cited her source only as Evans, probably Richard L. Evans, author of A Century of Mormonism in Great Britain (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1937). Compare Frederick S. Buchanan, “Scots Among the Mormons,” Utah Historical Quarterly 36 (1968): 328-49; Philip A. M. Taylor, “Why Did British Mormons Emigrate?” Utah Historical Quarterly 22 (1954): 249-60. All three used charter ships records in computing their totals and about a 50-percent emigration rate.
3. Richard O. Cowan, “Church Growth in England, 1841-1914,” in V. Ben Bloxham et al., eds., Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles 1837-1987 (Cambridge: University Press, 1987), 199-217.
4. Kate Carter said that, in the European emigration, women predominated by a slim margin. Of 12,477 emigrants from Europe during the second half of the century, 5,796 were men, 6,681 women, a difference of 885 or 7 percent. But of the general British emigration between 1840 and 1855, 57.73 percent were male, 42.27 female. Kate B. Carter, ed., Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1965), 13:109-61.
9. Malcolm R. Thorp, “The Setting for the Restoration in Britain: Political, Social, and Economic Conditions,” in Bloxham, 58. Also, R. F. Foster, ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).
18. Manuscript History of the British Mission, 14 Jan. 1840 and 20 July 1837, LDS archives. Such histories, hereinafter referred to as Mission History, were compiled by the LDS Church Historian’s Office early in the twentieth century from mission minutes, missionary journals, and the Millennial Star (the mission magazine). Manuscript histories were also compiled for many of the conferences and branches.
25. Marriages could be officially performed only by the established church—in England, the Church of England; in Wales, the Church of Wales; etc. Thus, if a Methodist couple wished to be married in the eyes of the law, they had no choice but an Anglican ceremony. Christenings and blessings, on the other hand, did not need a government stamp, so members of dissident sects were free to have such rites performed by their own ministers.
26. From Thomas family papers, specifically my grandmother’s research notes taken from “Births & Baptisms of Llannelly Branch Record of Members” and “Carmarthen Parish Records and Bishops Transcripts, 1686-1889,” records found in LDS archives.
27. James Edward Hulett, Jr., “The Sociological and Social Psychological Aspects of the Mormon Polygamous Family,” Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1939; cited by Jessie L. Embry, Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), 50.
28. Mary Cable, “S*x Education,” in American Heritage 25 (Oct. 1974), 6:41. For further discussion of Victorian mores, see In Search of Victorian Values: Aspects of Nineteenth-Century Thought and Society (Manchester, NY: Manchester University Press,
29. Wilford Woodruff Journal cited in British Mission Manuscript History for 10 January 1842. Woodruff wrote, “She is a widow, a Scotch lady of the first rank and education. She formerly taught languages, French and Italian, as well as music, to some of the nobility in London. She has many acquaintances here and thinks the Lord has sent her here to do good … She is now visiting many persons of rank and preaching the fullness of the Gospel to them … She says she can get a Book of Mormon for us to the Queen … She has been a great traveler through the East Indies and other parts of the world, has been ship-wrecked several times, taken once by the Indians and once by Pirates.” Sister Redman is mentioned several times over the next weeks in Woodruff’s journal and then fades away. One wonders just what kind of a character she was.
32. Was this the Pennsylvania-born United Brethren, a Mennonite offshoot started in 1800 which baptized any way the recipient wished? If so, it might help to explain the mass conversion—the group was used to American preachers and was open to new ideas in doctrines.