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Homemaking, medicine, polygamy and strong women.

Sometimes, I wish there was less I wanted to do. For instance, I don’t decorate my house much, nor sew, nor do lots of crafty stuff that I actually think is fun. I enjoy this kind of thing. I want a pretty house decorated with things I made and kids dressed fantastically in clothes I made and a scrapbook and to give out handmade cards always. I want to make the place I live in appear to be the thing of beauty that is in our hearts.

But I want to write more.

One of my heroes is someone named Ellis R. Shipp. There is a lot that biography leaves out, of course. One of the things was that she was always, always curious about the world around her and always nurturing. Her taking on the calling to become a doctor was very much in line with her personality. Brigham Young called several women to go back east, learn medicine, and come back to practice and educate. It was actually a church calling extended to these women. Ellis was troubled to leave her children, but passionate about the work.

One of the reasons she could even dream of this career was that her husband was a polygamist. Ironic? Not what you thought polygamy was about? In this day and age where early Mormons practiced polygamy, women were encouraged to pursue their talents. In order to support such families, some of the wives had to work too. The sister wives more inclined to homemaking would take care of the children. These arrangements were actually very friendly towards women and their diversity of talents. The kinds of jobs they took were still very much of a ‘womanly nature’ though. Teaching, medicine and midwifery, sewing, etc. But the fact of the matter is that women under these circumstances were among the most progressive of all their peers across the world. They could vote well before their counterparts back east, until the US federal government took that right away for several years. They started the first women’s organization (and now the oldest). The Women’s Exponent (1872-1914 independent) and The Relief Society Magazine (1915-1970 church run, started after TWE failed due to financial difficulties) were magazines run by and for women.  

So, polygamists good? Well… the divorce rate was pretty high too. That says something about how it often turned out. In fact, Ellis Shipp’s sister wife, the second wife of her husband, divorced him. I am sure that one of the reasons Wilford Woodruff recieved revelation that it was time for this practice to stop, was because many men were practicing it unrighteously. By that, I mean, rather than marrying women to provide husbands for them (at a time when there were a shortage of men and lots of widows) it was becoming tradition to, say, have your daughter marry into an ‘old’ and well known (if not rich) polygamous family. Men were entering into polygamous marriages without being called to. You see, polygamy only works well under very limited circumstances and and when men are very righteous. Once those have expired and/or men start to act on their lusts, (Both of these happening at the time it was discontinuted in the LDS church) then polygamy becomes very destructive to women and it is time to stop. The ‘fundamentalist’ mormons of today who practice polygamy give us good examples of just how bad it can get when practiced unrighteously. (Kingstons, Greens, Warren Jeffs)

But even in modern times, it can be practiced righteously. I once heard a former police officer who had been investigating these societies in Utah say he had met a man who was “practicing righteously”. Basically, this was a Christian man who had married and was a good husband to several women who wanted marriage but were more or less unmarriagable due to disability or appearance. Odd and warm fuzzy like all at the same time, yeah?

So from a legal standpoint, should we allow polygamy? My answer? Yes. This article pretty much describes my thinking.) Should we practice it? No.

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