Following her time as a student and teacher at BYU, Dr. Margaret Toscano had a bit of a feminist awakening. What was it about BYU that led her to seek more about female spirituality?
Margaret: I’m working like crazy to finish this master’s thesis. Then right about the same time that I finished the master’s thesis is when I found the Ehat book with the Joseph Smith material and I’ll come back to that. I want to finish the professional trajectory, which really connects to this tension I felt between, what is it to be a good Mormon woman, and do my desires and ambitions conflict with that? What does God want of me? How does God view women in this bigger scheme of things? So really, that question is just kind of building up in me over the years, starting in the 70s, and feeling marginalized and ignored and invisible at BYU no matter what I did, and then getting married, and I’m having my kids, and then I’m starting to get interested in Mormon History and also in biblical studies and thinking about women within the biblical narratives. Then I do my thesis, and then I start really looking at these documents about the church. [The year] 1984 was when I did my first public speech on women and priesthood. I’ll come back to that. So that’s happening, but to go to my professional life, I’m really involved in Mormon studies and Mormon things from the 70s, the 80s, the 90s. I started my PhD in 1988, after I’d already published some things in Mormon Studies, because I realize and here it goes back to these tensions, that I really love teaching on the university level. I had been an adjunct teacher, already. So in 1988 I’d already been an adjunct teacher for like 10 years, with my master’s degree and I’m thinking I can never move beyond the adjunct position, if I don’t have a PhD.
I wanted to do that Ph.D., but it took me a lot of years, it actually took me 12 years to finish my Ph.D., for two reasons, well, three reasons. I was raising my family at the same time. Here again, I’ll sound really defensive. I actually never worked full time until my youngest was 12. Why do I feel like I have to say that? I’m a dedicated mother, right? But again, that’s what you’re put into–this kind of defensiveness. I’m taking my kids to school, going to a class, going home and pick them up, make them dinner, 11 to 2, work on my papers for my classes, trying to do this Ph.D. So it took me 12 years [because I was] raising my family. I was also still involved in Mormon Studies and my Ph.D. here at the University of Utah.
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