Over the past 30+ years, Richard Turley has worked hard to promote women in the Mormon History field. Barbara Jones Brown sat down with Rick last summer and they share their collaborations together and how Rick has helped promote women.
Barbara: I owe so much to you, because you opened doors for me in terms of my career, to help me achieve the things that I wanted to work on and wanted to achieve, both in first hiring me to be content editor for book one, and then also asking me to join you as your co-author for book two. I know that it’s not just me that you’ve opened those doors for and extended those opportunities to. I’ve seen so many women for whom you’ve done the same thing. Our MHA President-Elect Jenny Lund, for example, other women who worked on Mountain Meadows: Janiece Johnson, LaJean Carruth. I wonder if you could talk about all that you have done to help promote women in Mormon History and to promote the field of women in Mormon History, as well.
Richard: Sure. Let’s talk first of all about women working in what was in the Church Historical Department, what is now the Church History Department. We wanted women and men both to be participants in all of the historical endeavors that we had in the Church Historical Department. At the time I arrived at church headquarters, there were very few women who were in the position of being a director. To understand the Church structure, you have the General Authorities, then you have managing directors, then you have directors of divisions. Then you have managers and supervisors and so forth. There were a number of women in some of those positions as supervisors and managers, but there were very few in director level positions. During the 30 years that I was privileged to be in the Church Historical Department, later called the Church History Department, my colleagues and I were able to promote women to the point where we ended up with five women total during that 30 years that I was there who were in director level positions. In addition to that, we wanted women to be reflected in the History of the Church.
Richard: Traditionally, in the United States, and in many parts of the world, history had been written from a male perspective. We wanted history to be written from a women’s perspective. So that led, over time, to the creation of Women’s History part of the Church History Department and women who were hired to write that. I can think of, you know, many who fit into that: Kate Holbrook, Jenny Reader, Lisa Tate and others. In addition to that, I had a meeting at one point with Sheri Dew and with Kathy Chamberlain of Deseret Book and suggested to them that we needed to have more women’s history as part of what was offered to Church members in particular. We got together for dinner at a restaurant in the Joseph Smith Memorial building. We talked it through, and at the end, I was expecting them to sort of take on that project and go do something about it. At the end, they nodded their heads and said, “Yes, we agree with you, 100%. Now, what are you going to do about it?” So I thought, “Well, if the ball is back in my court, then let’s see if we can launch something.”
Richard: So I thought to myself, if I’m going to do this, I don’t want to do this alone. This ought to be a project that a woman is participating actively in. So I thought about our staff. We had a young, recent hire Brittany Chapman, now Brittany Chapman Nash. So, I approached Brittany and asked her if she’d be interested in this kind of a project. Brittany and I worked together on a series. We ultimately produced four books on the subject. She was new at the beginning, and so my name went on to the book first with hers after mine. I ultimately suggested that we maybe reverse that. At a certain point, she came to me and said, “I’m ready for that.” So if you look at the first volume, and the last volume and compare them, the first volume was my name first, her name second. The reality is, she did the majority of the work on those volumes, all four of them. At the end, her name is on top and mine’s underneath, and that’s more appropriate.
 The books are titled, “Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume 1-4.” Volume 1 can be purchased at https://amzn.to/349gygK . Volume 2 can be purchased at https://amzn.to/3gG37du . Volume 3 can be purchased at https://amzn.to/2KhExU6 . Volume 4 can be purchased at https://amzn.to/3mmxMxO .
Were you aware of Richard’s promotion of women? We also talk about how Richard set up the Church Historian’s Press.
Check out our conversation….