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Opening Doors for LDS Female Historians (Part 3 of 5)

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.[1] 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.

[1] The books are titled, “Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume 1-4.” Volume 1 can be purchased at  . Volume 2 can be purchased at . Volume 3 can be purchased at . Volume 4 can be purchased at  .


Were you aware of Richard’s promotion of women?  We also talk about how Richard set up the Church Historian’s Press.

Barbara Jones Brown talks with Richard Turley about how he has promoted LDS female historians.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Barbara and Rick!

476: Turley on MMM

475: Hired After Hofmann

Check out our conversation….


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Feminism, Sexual Revolution, & LDS Church (Part 2 of 4)

Phyllis Schlafly was an important figure in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment, and she convinced LDS leaders to oppose the amendment.  Dr. Taylor Petry will tell us more about how LDS messages have changed over the decades with regards to feminism and the sexual revolution.

Taylor: Phyllis Schlafly becomes the most famous anti-feminist during this time period. Schlafly is a Catholic, and she sees something that had been happening in the broader conservative religious world at the time, where there had been a backlash to the kinds of feminism that was arising.  But it hadn’t really been organized as a political movement. So she sees that evangelicals and Protestant fundamentalists and even Mormons, are opposing feminism. She says we need to unite all of these people into a single coalition that will be able to speak for our values. The big issue of the time period is the Equal Rights Amendment. The Equal Rights Amendment was hugely popular among Democrats and Republicans.

All the Republicans at the outset of it passing in Congress, were ecstatic about it, and then it needs to march through the states.  Immediately it’s passed by the first 32 states within the first year or something like that.  That’s when the opposition really gets going. When the Stop ERA movement that Phyllis Schlafly is organizing and pulling together–all the sort of anti-feminist groups into a political coalition and the Church gets involved.  [The Church] is specifically recruited by Phyllis Schlafly to get involved in this fight. [The Church] politically mobilizes, for the first time in decades at that point.  The Church had not really seen itself as having a political mission. Even during ERA, at the very beginning, if you asked church leaders in the first couple of years that the ERA was a public topic, in the early 70s–the ERA had been around since the 1920s. But it really kind of gets going in the early 70s. It was supposed to be the sort of follow-up to the civil rights amendments or civil rights movements of the 1960s.  So now it’s the feminists turn, so the Church gets recruited to do this and reverses itself because at first it was a no, this is a political issue. We don’t comment on political issues. We just care about moral issues, not political ones. But Phyllis Schlafly convinces the church that this is a moral issue, that it’s not just a political issue. So the Church decides to mobilize its membership in this political fight, and they start sending members to ERA conventions to shout down the leaders that are there, and to disrupt the meetings. The Church’s, nearly decade long, it lasted about eight years, fight against the Equal Rights Amendment until it was finally defeated in 1982, decisively. This was one of the major ways that the church gets involved in the anti-feminist movement.

We’ll also talk about changing attitudes with regards to birth control, and how feminism was tied to lesbians.  Were you aware that Schlafly changed Kimball’s mind on the Equal Rights Amendment?  Check out our conversation….

Phyllis Schlafly persuaded Pres Kimball to oppose ERA.
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*Arguing Against a Genderless God (Part 8 of 8)

Dr. Margaret Toscano has been studying Mormon history for 4 decades!  We will discuss her journey in and out (but still kind of in) the LDS Church and her writings that got her in hot water with LDS Leaders.  We’ll discuss her time as both a student and adjunct at BYU, her excommunication, and her continued belief that Joseph Smith intended Relief Society to be a priesthood quorum.  I even learned something from Margaret about how priesthood is tied to the temple endowment.  You won’t want to miss this conversation!  Subscribe to our free newsletter to hear the conclusion: