Wife No. 19, the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complet

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: Wife No. 19, the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Com

Postby admin » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:30 am


Increasing Light. The Equality of the Sexes. Exaggeration Impossible. Likely Saviours. The Present Condition of Mormon Women. The Prospects for the Future. Polygamy Bad for Rich and Poor. A Happy Family. The Happiness Marred. Sealed for Time Only. Building on Another Man's Foundation. The New Wife. How the Old One Fared. The Husband's Death a Relief. As a Calkins's English Mission. What Came of It. How to Get Rich. Two Sermons from One Text. Dividing the Spoil. No Woman Happy in Polygamy.

Polygamy in High and Low Life.

ALL this while I was gaining knowledge of the domestic customs and relations of the "Gentiles." At nearly every place that I visited I was entertained in some private family, and my eyes were constantly being opened to the enormities of the wicked system from which I had escaped.

I had felt its misery; I had known the abject wretchedness of the condition to which it reduced women, but I did not fully realize the extent of its depravity, the depths of the woes in which it plunged women, until I saw the contrasted lives of monogamic wives.

I had seen women neglected, or, worse than that, cruelly wronged, every attribute of womanhood outraged and insulted. I now saw other women, holding the same relation, cared for tenderly, cherished, protected, loved, and honored. I had been taught to believe that my sex was inferior to the other; that the curse pronounced upon the race in the Garden of Eden was woman's curse alone, and that it was to man that she must look for salvation. No road lay open for her to the throne of grace; no gate of eternal life swinging wide to the knockings of her weary hands; no loving Father listened to the wails of sorrow and supplication wrung by a worse than death-agony from her broken heart. Heaven was inaccessible to her, except as she might win it through some man's will. I found, to my surprise, that woman was made the companion and not the subject of man. She was the sharer alike of his joys and his sorrows. Morally, she was a free agent. Her husband's God was her God as well, and she could seek Him for herself, asking no mortal intercession. Motherhood took on a new sacredness, and the fatherly care and tenderness, brooding over a family, strengthening and defending it, seemed sadly sweet to me, used as I was to see children ignored by their fathers.

Seeing this, I began to comprehend a little why it was so difficult to make the state of affairs in Utah understood. The contrast was so very great that, unless it was seen, it could not be realized, even ever so faintly. I feel sometimes, both in speaking to audiences, and in private conversations, the thrill of shocked surprise which runs through my listeners' veins as I relate some particular atrocity, or narrate some fearful wrong, which has been suffered either by myself or some person known to me; but even then I know the enormity of the system which permits such things to be possible is but vaguely understood.

I am accused sometimes of exaggeration. In reply to that accusation I would say, that is simply impossible, I could not exaggerate, since language is inadequate to even half unveil the horrors. There are events of daily occurrence which decency and womanly modesty forbid my even hinting at. No one can, even if they would, quite tear the covering away from the foul, loathsome object, called "Celestial Marriage," reeking as it is with filth and moral poison; rotten to the very core; a leprous spot on the body politic; a defilement to our fair fame as a nation. I am compelled to silence on points that would make what I have already said seem tame in comparison. Not a word of all my story is exaggerated or embellished. The difficulty has been rather to suppress and tone down.

Women are the greatest sufferers. The moral natures of the men must necessarily suffer also; but to them comes no such agony of soul as comes to women. Their sensibilities are blunted; their spiritual natures deadened; their animal natures quickened; they lose manliness, and descend to the level of brutes; and these dull-witted, intellectually-dwarfed moral corpses, the women are told, are their only saviours.

What wonder that they, too, become dull and apathetic? Who wonders at the immovable mouths, expressionless eyes, and gray, hopeless faces, which tourists mark always as the characteristics of the Mormon women? What does life offer to make them otherwise than dull and hopeless? Or what even does eternity promise? A continuation merely of the sufferings which have already crushed the womanhood out of them. A cheering prospect, is it not? Yet it is what every poor Mormon woman has to look forward to. Just that, and nothing more.

Rich or poor alike suffer. Polygamy bears no more lightly on the one than the other. If they are poor, they have to work for themselves and their children, suffer every deprivation, submit to every indignity. If they are in more affluent circumstances, they have more time for brooding over their sorrows, more leisure for the exercise of the natural jealousy which they cannot help feeling for the other wives. Happiness and contentment are utterly unknown to Mormon women; they are impossible conditions, either to dwellers in poverty or plenty.

A few years ago, a man and wife of the name of Painter, decided to cast in their lot with the Saints, and enroll themselves among the Lord's chosen people. The woman had been previously married, and her husband had died shortly after his conversion to the Mormon faith. The elders urged her marrying again, and, after a time, she found her heart adding its persuasions to the "counsel" of the brethren, and she married William Painter, an honest, kind-hearted fellow, who made her a good husband, and with whom she lived very happily.

As soon as possible they came to America, but that was not until their family had been increased by two or three children, who were alike the objects of the mother's care and the father's pride. Although they were poor, hard-working people, I have never known a happier family than this when they first came to Utah.

Like all new arrivals they were anxious to receive their Endowments, and it was shortly arranged for them to go through the rites. When they presented themselves at the Endowment House, Heber C. Kimball told the wife that she could only be sealed to her present husband for time. She must belong to her first husband in eternity, he having died in the faith. She was not at liberty to deprive him of his privileges, or to rob him of his kingdom.

The poor woman felt very badly, for this man was the father of her children, and she felt that her claim on him should be the strongest; but the authorities refused to see the matter as she did, and insisted that the sealing should be only for time. There was no help for it, and the poor woman was obliged to submit. Neither was the husband satisfied. It did not suit him to "build a kingdom on another man's foundation;" he must commence one for himself; and, in obedience to counsel, he looked about diligently for a wife "all his own." He was not long in finding one, and, greatly to his wife's distress, he brought home an ignorant young girl, who turned the house topsy-turvy in her endeavors to exercise the authority which she arrogated to herself. The first wife considered that she had some rights still remaining, and that, certainly, she might dictate somewhat concerning household affairs, as she had been so long the ruling power, and understood the manner of regulating and running the domestic machinery; but the new-comer claimed entire supremacy, declaring that she was "the only wife William had," her rival belonging to another man.

Strange as it may seem, the husband took sides instantly with the new-comer against the woman who had been a faithful wife for years, and was the mother of his children. She ruled the household affairs, the first wife, and even the husband and all were compelled to submit to her decision. She heaped every indignity upon the poor wife, even resorting to personal violence, and the victim could obtain neither sympathy nor redress. She was compelled to live under the same roof with her rival, as her husband's means would not admit of two establishments, and for several years she endured the misery silently. We all knew her to be very unhappy, and we pitied her extremely. She was our near neighbor, and the nearest approach to confidences which she ever made was given to my mother. But we did not know for a long time how very much she had to bear.

One cold day, in the midst of a dreary storm, the poor woman came rushing into our house, with her babe in her arms, crying bitterly. She sank into a chair, which my mother placed for her near the fire; and in answer to the anxious inquiries, she sobbed out, "O, sister Webb, I have left my home and my husband. I have been compelled to do it. I can endure no more. If you knew all, I am sure you would not blame me!"

Mother inquired what it was that had occasioned this new rupture, and brought her to this final decision.

The poor, distressed creature replied, that her husband had taken Emma, the second wife, and gone on a visit of several days to some relatives, leaving her and the children utterly unprovided either with food or fire, and they were nearly perishing with cold and hunger. She had sent the other children to another neighbor's to get warm, and she and the younger ones had taken refuge with us.


In two or three days the husband returned, and finding where his wife was, compelled her to come back to him, by threats of taking the children from her unless she did. After a few years he died, and what little property there was the young wife claimed. The first wife appealed to the church authorities, but they upheld the last wife's claims, and she was driven penniless away with her children. She had to support herself and them; but she used frankly to say, that she was happier than she had been for years, and that her husband's death was a positive relief to her. I knew this woman well, and I knew that no more worthy woman lived than she. Polygamy blighted her life, and made a miserable dependent of one who would have been, in other circumstances, a happy wife.

About fifteen years since, a man by the name of Asa Calkins was sent by Brigham Young to preside over the Saints in the British Isles. He left two wives in Salt Lake, but on his arrival in England, he met with a young lady who completely fascinated him, and having obtained the permission of his Prophet to marry while on the mission, began paying her the most devoted attention.

He met with no difficulty in his wooing, and no obstacle was placed in the way of his speedy marriage. After the marriage, he informed his wives in Utah of the event, and they received the news with resignation, as they expected, nothing different. But he was not so frank with the new wife. Brigham had told him, when he gave him permission to marry, to say nothing about his other wives, so the young English lady supposed herself to be the only Mrs. Calkins. About two years after the marriage, the first went to some of the Eastern states on a visit to some relatives. While there her health became impaired, and on being advised that a sea-voyage would benefit her, wrote at once to her husband in Liverpool, asking permission to join him in England.

He said, in reply, that she might come, if she was willing to pass as his sister, as he had all the wife there that the English law would allow. As she felt obliged to take the voyage on account of her failing health, she agreed to do as he desired.

On her arrival at Liverpool, she found her husband so infatuated with his new wife that he scarcely noticed her at all, and she almost regretted having crossed the sea; yet she saw no way of escape from the trial, as she was to remain there until her husband's mission was ended, which would not be for two years at least.

Mr. Calkins almost entirely ignored the existence of his first wife, and, taking Agnes, travelled all over Europe, introducing her everywhere as Mrs. Calkins, while the poor "sifter" remained in Liverpool. He lavished every luxury of dress and ornament upon his idol, while the poor, neglected wife was supplied with the merest necessities of life.

In course of time, they all returned to Zion; but Agnes still remained the favorite wife. Calkins had always been one of the most prosperous Saints, but he returned from his mission a rich man. About the time of his return we often heard rumors concerning his manner of obtaining this wealth, which were not altogether creditable to him, and, consequently, no one was surprised to hear brother Brigham apply the lash to the delinquent missionary the Sabbath after his arrival at Salt Lake, for what he was pleased to term a species of highway robbery. The Saints universally believed that the man merited the rebuke. But the surprise came the Sabbath following. Brigham changed his tactics, and put in a warm plea in the missionary's defence. He said that he had not distinctly understood all about Brother Calkins's course in England until some time during the previous week, when he had visited him, and explained matters to his entire satisfaction. He omitted to state that "Brother Calkins" not only visited him, but divided the spoils with him, his own share amounting to several thousand dollars.

Mr. Calkins was restored to favor. The English Mrs. Calkins was recognized as the chosen wife, and the other two were merely tolerated, and were obliged to see their husband's devotion and wealth lavished on her, while they starved for love and lacked for comforts.

These two cases show the workings of the polygamic system in the families of the rich and the poor. It is as hateful in the one case as in the other, and equally productive of misery in both.

I have yet to learn of one woman who is happy in it. Like Zina Young, they say, "The system must be right, I suppose; we are taught that it is. But if that is the case, we must live it wrongly; there is fault somewhere."

There is worse than that. There is positive sin; and in her heart of hearts, no woman of them all believes it to be right, although she may try, with all the sophistry at her command, to convince herself that it is. Her heart and her reason both give her arguments the lie, and she cannot help but heed them, even when she counts herself a sinner for so doing.
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Re: Wife No. 19, the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Com

Postby admin » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:33 am


I Return to Utah. Reception at the Walker House. Greeting old Friends. My Love for the Place. Six Lectures in the Territory. Brigham's Daughters make Faces at me. My Father and Mother in the Audience. The Half not told. Multitudes Pleading for Freedom. Eastern Newspaper Reports. Indiscretion. The Poland Bill. Increase of Polygamy. The Secrets of Brigham's Power. The Pulpit and Press on Mormonism. The Salt Lake City Tribune. A Word to the Sufferers. Calls for Help. The Future of Utah.

Receiving my Friends at the Walker House.

IN August, 1874, I returned to Salt Lake City; but not in the secret way in which I had left it months before. I was met with every expression of good will, and congratulations and welcomes poured in upon me from every side. A reception was held for me at the Walker House, and I had the opportunity of greeting again the friends who had so nobly assisted me in my struggles for freedom. Foremost of all, Judge McKean, the truest, most upright, and inflexible chief justice who had ever presided over the Utah courts; the man who could neither be bribed nor cajoled; who did right for the right's sake, and who consequently had gained the enmity of Brigham Young and his followers, but who was implicitly trusted by all lovers of justice; General Maxwell, too, who was so kindly acting for me in my suit; Colonel Wickizer, who lent his room for my trunk to be taken to, and otherwise assisted me in my flight from Utah; and Mr. and Mrs. Stratton, the dearly beloved friends who had first shown me the possibilities of an escape from bondage and a life outside.

My Reception at Salt Lake City.

This welcome, hearty and spontaneous, touched me deeply, and I felt then that however much my interests might be drawn away from Salt Lake City, and my work lead me away from there personally, yet it was my home, its people were my people, and my heart would always turn lovingly toward it to the day of my death.

And why should I not love it? I had grown with it, and there is not a building in it that I have not watched as it arose, not an improvement that I have not rejoiced in. I have seen a lovely city spring up in an alkali desert as if by magic. True, I have suffered there. Many of its associations are bitter. But that is the city as it has been the Salt Lake of the past, not the Salt Lake of the future, as I hope its future will be.

During the summer, I lectured six times in the city, and several times in other towns in the Territory. Brigham did not attend any of my lectures, but he sent his daughters and daughters-in-law, and bade them sit on the front seats, and make faces at me. They filled the two rows nearest the platform, and, as I saw them there, my heart went out in pity toward them. I knew all of them; many of them had been my dear friends from girlhood, and I had known how unhappy they had been under the cruel system which I was fighting against. I had been in the confidence of several, and more than one had commiserated me upon my unhappy situation while I was their father's wife. Instead of annoying me, and causing me to falter and break down completely, as the prophet hoped, it only lent new strength to my purpose, new fire to my words. I knew that these women sympathized with me in every word I uttered, and that in their hearts they earnestly wished me success.

My father and mother were in my audience, too. It had required a great deal of persuasion to induce the latter to be present, but she finally yielded to us all, and went. Long before this she had lost her faith in Mormonism, and was ranked among the apostates. Brigham's attempts to ruin me had opened her eyes, and she at last saw him as he really was.
I think no one rejoiced in my success more than she did, and certainly no one else has had power to imbue me with such fresh courage and strength. And now that she has abandoned Mormonism, when I think of her, away from all the old associations, united in her old age to the friends of her childhood, happy in a home safe from the intrusion of polygamy, every shade of bigotry blotted out, her reason unfettered, her will free, I am happier than I ever can say; and if this result only were reached in the cases of the other women of the Territory, I should feel that my suffering and my labors had not been in vain.

Next to these lectures in Salt Lake, my most successful appearance was made at Provo, where I spoke under the auspices of the Rev. C. P. Lyford, the pastor of the Methodist church in that place, and one of the most inveterate foes of Polygamy and Brigham Young. Three years ago Provo was one of the most powerful of all the Mormon strongholds in Utah. Many deeds of violence had been committed there, and bigotry in its worst form ruled the people. Mr. Lyford, young, brave, and enthusiastic, determined to build a Gentile church there. He went into the work cheerfully and determinedly, although he was warned to leave the county, his life threatened, and every possible insult and indignity offered him. But he could not be intimidated, and flatly refused to leave; and now he has a society fully organized, a church built, and a free school established. He has been one of my strongest allies and warmest defenders, and I owe to no one more gratitude than to him.

I have told my story as simply as I could. I have added nothing, but I have left much untold. Another volume, as large as this, would not contain all I could write on this subject. My life is but the life of one; while thousands are suffering, as I suffered, and are powerless even to plead for themselves, so I plead for them. The voices of twenty thousand women speak in mine, begging for freedom both from social and religious tyranny.

I take up papers, and I read letters from eastern correspondents who have visited Utah; and while I do not wonder at the enthusiasm which they display concerning the outward beauty of this city of the desert, I marvel at the blindness which fails to see the misery of the majority of its people. "Polygamy is on the decrease," they almost unanimously exclaim; "the ballot and education are its foes, and it cannot stand before them; the young people will not enter the system, and while polygamous marriages diminish in number, monogamic ones steadily increase."

This is not so. I have no doubt it is the story which is told to these strangers by Mormons. But that is an old trick. They have been accustomed, in other days, to repudiate polygamy while practising it most extensively. They are only following "Brother Joseph's" example. He denied it, to save the reputation of himself and his followers; and they do it still, when they wish to blind the Gentiles' eyes, and escape their criticism.

Last year, as the records will show, there were more polygamous marriages in Utah than there have been any previous year since the "Reformation." The Order of Enoch and Polygamy are, to-day, Brigham's two strongest holds on the people. By the first, he holds the men through sheer necessity; for all who have entered the Order have given themselves and their possessions so entirely to him, that they cannot, by any possibility, get free. By the other system, he holds the women in a crueller bondage still. He and Cannon may repudiate the "Celestial Marriage" as strongly as they choose, but they cannot change the facts. They are more shrewd, but not so honest as the fellow who was seen reeling through the streets of Salt Lake City, with a bottle under each arm, shouting, "I've taken a new wife to-day, and I'm not afraid of the Poland Bill." They do care for "the Poland Bill," or, rather, they care about public opinion very much, and they like the positions which they might be obliged to resign if they ventured to claim the legality of Polygamy.

There is a strong working-power against it in its very midst, however, and it seems to me that it is a power which must prevail. The pulpit and press combined are dealing some heavy blows upon it, and it cannot always stand under it. Instead of the Mormon church being the only church in Utah, nearly every denomination is represented there now, and the most of these churches have schools connected with them, -- such superior schools, some of them, that a few of the more liberal and intelligent Mormons venture to send their children to them.

"Not Afraid of the Poland Bill."

But the strongest power in the Territory against Polygamy, -- the most implacable and relentless foe to Brigham Young and his pet institution, -- is the Salt Lake City Tribune, the leading Gentile paper in Utah. It is owned by a stock company, composed of the leading Gentiles in the Territory; is ably conducted, and is hated and dreaded by the Mormons, although they all read it. It has been my constant friend, and has stood bravely by me ever since I turned my back on my false faith, and sought shelter and friends in "Babylon."

It is a power in politics. When Governor Woods -- although a loyal and brave officer of the government -- was removed to make place for Axtell, who was a mere tool in the Prophet's hands, the indignant utterances of the paper made themselves felt all over the country; and the supporters of the new governor in Washington grew ashamed, and he was removed to make room for Governor Emory, the present governor, who, as yet, has shown no disposition to assimilate with the saintly portion of his subjects.

Now, as I approach the end of my story, I turn longing eyes toward my old home, and my heart goes out in pitying tenderness to it and the women there. To them I want to say, Your cause is my cause, your wrongs have been my wrongs; and while you are still bearing them patiently, because you know there is no redress; hopelessly, because while your hearts are breaking, you see no avenue of escape, I am trying the best I know to make the way easy and plain to your eyes, dimmed with tears, and your feet, tired of wandering in broken paths. Many of you, I know, think that I am wrong; you believe, as I once did, that to fight against Brigham Young, and his will, is certain damnation. You mourn for me as one lost; you regard me with pity; but yet, in your hearts, you wish to believe that I am right; you would like to be convinced that I am. Some of you are certain of it, but you do not see your own way out. The darkness closes around you thicker and heavier, and, tired of groping about, you fold your hands and sit in an apathy worse than death, waiting until the dawn of eternity shall throw light upon your path. God help you, sisters, one and all, and bring you out of the spiritual bondage in which you are held.

And you, happier women, -- you to whom life has given of its best, and has crowned royally, -- can you not help me? The cry of my suffering and sorrowing sisters sweeps over the broad prairies, and asks you, as I ask you now, "Can you do nothing for us?" Women's pens, and women's voices pleaded earnestly and pathetically for the abolition of slavery. Thousands of women, some of them your country-women, and your social and intellectual equals, are held in a more revolting slavery to-day. Something must be done for them. This system that blights every woman's life who enters it, ought not to remain a curse and a stain upon this nation any longer. It should be blotted out so completely that even its foul memory would die.

Yet, how is it to be done? I confess myself discouraged when I ask that question. Legislation will do no good, unless the laws can be enforced after they are once made. But if laws are to be framed, and the men who enforce them are to be removed as a punishment for their faithfulness, they are better not made.

But one thing is certain. If one voice, or one pen, can exert any influence, the pen will never be laid aside, the voice never be silenced. I have given myself to this work, and I have promised before God never to withdraw from it. It is my life-mission; and I have faith to believe that my work will not be in vain, and that I shall live to see the foul curse removed, and Utah -- my beloved Utah -- free from the unholy rule of the religious tyrant, -- Brigham Young.

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