Women and Spirituality: Debunking Myths About Mormonism

mesa-mormon-temple1Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight feminists to find out what feminism means to them. The last few weeks have focused on the connection between feminism and different forms of spirituality.

This week we’re talking to Margaret Turley, a Mormon and a retired nurse. Margaret is the author of Save the Child, a novel about about a young child who is diagnosed with cancer. She is also the co-founder of Writers Unite to Fight Cancer, a nonprofit that raises money for cancer research.

1. What does spirituality mean to you?
Spirituality means having a close, inspirational connection with our creator. For me that means I believe in God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost – the Godhead. My own spirituality waxes and wanes in different periods of my life. The more I pray, study scripture and gospel principles, the closer I feel to my Heavenly Father. Attending church helps to develop spirituality but I’ve met people whom I consider to be spiritual who proclaim no specific religion. When I am in nature I feel close to God and thank Him for the many beautiful things that lift my spirit. I have noticed that when I am healthy, I feel more spiritual. I suppose that is because my thoughts are not so fixed inward on my own problems and I have the energy to look out and up.

2. What does Mormonism mean to you?
I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS for short. That means I am a Christian. Our church acknowledges Jesus Christ as the head of our Church. After the original apostles died, many of the plain and precious truths were lost. Many refer to us as Mormons because The Book of Mormon is one of our books of scripture. [Read more...]

Book Review: Generation Roe

Sarah Erdreich has been very busy, ya’ll. She has published a book called Generation Roe: The Future of the Prochoice Movement. I admire Sarah’s tenacity and her ability to get so many abortion patients and providers to talk to her. Many of them were willing to use their own names.

1. How were you able to gather so many statistics to support your arguments?A lot of research!
I spent hours falling down the research rabbit hole—reading a paper to get information on one specific issue, but then learning about something else that I wanted to include, so going to the footnotes to find that source, and so on. The biggest challenge was finding sources that were reputable and nonpartisan, and for that the Guttmacher Institute and Centers for Disease Control in particular were really invaluable.

2. How were you able to get so many doctors to share their stories? You mention that many of them have received death threats at their homes. How did you convince them to speak out? [Read more...]

Women’s History Month: Josephine Lowell

When it comes to the field of social work in the United States, it is women who have really been the pioneers. Starting with what is commonly referred to as the Progressive Era, women have led the fight to improve conditions for the less fortunate and for and entire industry to be built around helping others.

History changers from the Progressive Era included notable women such as Jane Addams, Margaret Sanger, Lillian Wald, Margaret Fuller, Eleanor Roosevelt and Josephine Lowell. I have been familiar with the name Josephine Lowell for quite sometime, and I recently had the opportunity to learn more about her and found her story to be one I needed to share this Women’s History Month.

Like many trailblazing women from the Progressive Era, Josephine was born to a well-to-do family, and like many other social activists of the time, her parents were Unitarian Universalists. She was born in Massachusetts in 1843, and had the opportunity to travel around Europe with her family before they settled in Staten Island.

Josephine came of age during the Civil War and began her public service career as a teenager volunteering for the U.S. Sanitary Commission. It was during this time that she met her husband Charles, who she would soon travel with to Virginia where he served as Colonel and she volunteered tending to injured troops. Josephine faced the devastating consequences that many did during this time, losing both her new husband and brother to the war.

After the death of her husband Josephine gave birth to their daughter and moved in with her family back in Staten Island. She soon took it upon herself to starting working on behalf of communities who, especially during Josephine’s time, had few people standing up for them. She became involved early on as an advocate for Philippine independence and the Anti-Imperialist movement before working to improve education for African Americans, and then went on to organizing to improve conditions in hospitals, jails, and mental institutions. [Read more...]

Women’s History Month: Harriet Hosmer

Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908) is probably the most famous American artist you’ve never heard of, and I think that should change. I came to Harriet Hosmer by way of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The two women were expatratriates together in mid-nineteenth century Italy; both were extremely popular in their day and all but disappeared from popular memory a generation later. (Only Elizabeth Barrett’s marriage to Robert Browning seems to have kept her from disappearing from the British canon completely.)

I’m here to do my small part in returning Harriet Hosmer to her rightful place in American history. I can only hope that we finally live in an era where there are too many women participating in public life for a generation of female achievement to be buried again.

Historian Kate Culkin, the author of Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography, believes “Harriet Hosmer’s life resonates with those of us in the 21st century as she was so interested in and adept at shaping her image for the public. She was an international celebrity, and she and her supporters took great care to ensure that Hosmer, an ambitious, single woman who had moved to Rome with no intention of returning to the United States, was depicted an patriotic and genteel.”  [Read more...]

Women Studies Founder Explains Her Passion for Women’s History

I’ve long held an interest in women’s history, but that interest became a passion when I took a class with Dr. Mary Rothschild when I was in the Women’s Studies Program at Arizona State University. I took an oral history class with Mary that changed my life. Suddenly history wasn’t just boring memorization of names and dates – it was collecting living women’s stories to preserve our history. Ever since that class, I’ve let that passion continue to sizzle. In fact, it’s a big motivation for our Feminist Conversations column, as well as our effort to celebrate Women’s History Month every year here on the blog.

For those who don’t know my shero, Mary Logan Rothschild is a Professor Emerita from Arizona State University in Women and Gender Studies. She was an early leader in the Women’s Studies movement nationally and is the only person in the country who has been a Women’s Studies Program Chair or Director on her 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays. Her specialty is American Women’s History and her great love is the history of American feminism. She has been very involved in women’s oral history, the movement to include women in public history and, especially in the early decades of her career, the gender equity movement in education. I hope you enjoy reading Mary’s story as much as I have enjoyed her mentorship over the years.

1. When did you know that you wanted to be a historian?
I didn’t know I wanted to be a historian until very late in my undergraduate career, although I was a History major. For graduate school, I was accepted into the School of Social Work at the University of Washington and I wanted to work with inner city children, but I had a kind of “conversion” experience in my final year and decided I had to at least get a Master’s in History, so I applied to the History Department. Miraculously, I was offered a four-year fellowship (though I had missed the deadline to apply for financial aid) to do a PhD, so I immediately went into the PhD program. [Read more...]

Women’s History Month: 5 Royal Women I LOVE

I have always been interested in monarchies, especially royal women. Like many a young American girl, the notion of being a princess appealed to me on many levels. The interest in royalty has continued into my adult years and as a lover of historic biographies I have devoured many books on the lives of various royal figures and often find myself falling asleep to David Starkey’s Monarchy (as you can see, when it comes to entertainment, I prefer it as dry as it comes). As a feminist I have come to view the lives of many royal women in a different lens than many, and respect many of them in profound and personal ways.

In honor of Women’s History Month, here is a tribute to five of my favorite royal women:

Queen Elizabeth 1: Probably my most favorite historical figure. Lacking any type of female example, Elizabeth beat the countless odds stacked against her and became one of the most successful heads of state England has ever known. After numerous decades of turmoil and instability, Elizabeth propelled England into what would come to be known as The Golden Age for its prosperity and relative peace.

We all know about Elizabeth’s refusal to marry, which was a remarkable decision. What many don’t realize is not only did she continue to receive proposals late into her life; she did in fact allow herself to fall in love more than once and had more than one love affair. She was, however, a career woman at heart, and never lost sight of her true purpose in life, to serve her country as she saw fit. Her life and legacy are still an inspiration to strong women today. [Read more...]

International Women’s Day: How did it start??

Today marks the 101st International Women’s Day around the globe. Communities use the day across the world to press demands on governments, promote gender equality, raise awareness about women’s oppression, celebrate mothers, and more. Given that this day has so much significance worldwide, it is worth knowing how the movement was started.  Consider it another item in your feminist history repertoire.

International Women’s Day was originally created by a group of international Suffragists to recognize their work and to press demands on their respective governments. The holiday was proposed at the second International Conference of Working Women, a Socialist conference held in Denmark, at which over 100 women from 17 countries attended.

The effort was most strongly headed by European feminists. Interestingly, International Women’s Day was originally held on March 19th, due to the date being significant to the original organizers because of it being the anniversary of the day that the Prussian king, during the 1848 revolution, promised to grant women the right to vote.

The king later reneged on his promise and the 19th was no longer important. In 1913 International Women’s Day was moved to the March 8th, where it has remained ever since. [Read more...]

Tribute to Jeanette Rankin: First Woman in Congress

This post comes to us from guest blogger Talia bat Pessi bat Feige bat Ita bat Gittel. Talia regularly blogs over at Star of Davida.

Women currently make up 17% of Congress. While this number is certainly much lower than it should be, less than a century ago, there was only one woman in Congress: Jeanette Rankin. Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, opened the door for women to enter politics in the United States and worldwide.

Jeanette Rankin (sometimes spelled Jeannette) was born on a Montanan ranch on June 11, 1880. She helped her parents run the ranch and raise her five younger siblings, which gave her the confidence that she could take charge and lead, a mindset she continued to go by in her later years. [Read more...]

Good Reading: Women of Historical Fictions

One of my favorite ways to experience history is through the historical fiction novel.  While all of the details of the story are not technically rooted in historical fact, you get really get a sense of the spirit of the story and the people who populate it, and you get to read an exciting novel, not a dry history book (I do admit a complete literary bias in this respect). The best historical novelists write an afterword that detail where the creative liberties were taken in the story, which are not intended to alter historical facts, but rather to fill in gaps where information is lacking. Some historical fictions are more fiction than others, but in each one you get a sense of the inner being of an historical character that you cannot get otherwise.  The following is a list of my favorite historical fictions.

The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George With a childhood love of Cleopatra, Margaret George sifts through all of the historical documentation about Cleopatra and constructs an historical novel that has very little embellishment. The love and passion for Cleopatra with which this novel was written comes across in every page and I finished this novel with a new found love and devotion for Cleopatra.

Most interesting to me was the re-claiming of Cleopatra’s character as a strong powerful woman, not the deceitful, conniving seductress that she has so famously been portrayed to be.  Also quite interesting was the revelation that Julius Caesar was Cleopatra’s true love, not Mark Anthony. While Cleopatra and Antony were lovers, their relationship only began after the demise of Caesar and while it seems Cleopatra did love Antony, it was not nearly as intimate a relationship as she had with Caesar.   [Read more...]

Women’s History Month: Lillie Langtry

Frank Miles sketchLillie Langtry (1853-1929) was born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton on the island of Jersey, the only daughter of the Reverend William Corbet Le Breton, the Dean of Jersey, and his wife Emilie. The second-to-last born in a brood of seven, Lillie would seem to have had little choice but to grow up a tomboy, but it’s worth noting that she could have gone the other way and responded to her brothers’ presence by asserting her difference more emphatically. Given the same education as her brothers, a rarity at the time, Lillie seems to have received little sanction against her unladylike penchant for bareback horse-riding or pulling pranks with her brothers.

Perhaps this was due in part to the fact that her femininity was never in question: Lillie was an acknowledged beauty at an early age. Her father reportedly had to fend off the first proposal for Lillie’s hand in marriage before she was fourteen years old.  [Read more...]