Exposae of Polygamy: A Lady's Life among the Mormons

Exposae of Polygamy: A Lady's Life among the Mormons

Exposae of Polygamy: A Lady's Life among the Mormons

Exposae of Polygamy: A Lady's Life among the Mormons

Excerpt

The name Fanny Stenhouse may bring to the mind of someone vaguely familiar with it associations such as Fanny Stenhouse = anti-Mormon, antipolygamy crusader, lurid exposé author. Her reputation or, in some minds, notoriety is largely based on her massive exposé, “Tell It All,” in which she describes in fascinating detail her experience as a Mormon, the unusual doctrines and practices of Mormonism, and especially the damaging effects of polygamy as she observed and experienced them. Stenhouse and her book became national and even international phenomena. The book went through many editions, and she went on the lecture circuit and testified before Congress as part of the national debate on Mormons and polygamy.

Yet this was not Stenhouse's original telling of her story. Two years before the 1874 publication of the wildly popular “Tell It All” and soon after her break with Mormonism, she wrote a shorter memoir. This version, titled Exposé of Polygamy in Utah: A Lady's Life among the Mormons. A Record of Personal Experience as one of the Wives of a Mormon Elder during a Period of more than Twenty Years, reveals a different woman and a different voice from the more highly colored ones of the later, longer book. The first account of Stenhouse's experience has been sidelined, largely forgotten and subsumed in the image of the later Fanny Stenhouse. But that early version lets us see a sensibility more immediate and honest, experience a forthright and restrained writing style, and make acquaintance with a more human and sympathetic woman.

A detailed description of the book's contents is unnecessary, since Stenhouse is a compelling storyteller and makes it easy for readers to discover and understand her experiences on their own. Along with Stenhouse's own personal history we find illuminating pictures of general Mormon life and society; extensive descriptions, comments, and analyses of polygamy in its many forms and ramifications; and a fair amount of Stenhouse's philosophy regarding life, God, human nature, and love.

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