Post-Manifesto Polygamy: The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff

Post-Manifesto Polygamy: The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff

Post-Manifesto Polygamy: The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff

Post-Manifesto Polygamy: The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff

Synopsis

These letters among two women and their husband offer a rare look into the personal dynamics of an LDS polygamous relationship. Abraham "Owen" Woodruff was a young Mormon apostle, the son of President Wilford Woodruff, remembered for the Woodruff Manifesto, which called for the divinely inspired termination of plural marriage. It eased a systematic federal judicial assault on Mormons and made Utah statehood possible. It did not end polygamy in the church. Some leaders continued to encourage and perform such marriages. Owen Woodruff himself contracted a secretive, second marriage to Avery Clark. Pressure on the LDS church revived with hearings regarding Reed Smoot's seat in the U. S. Senate. After church president Joseph F. Smith issued the so-called Second Manifesto in 1904, polygamy and its more prominent advocates were mostly expunged from mainstream Mormonism. Owen Woodruff was not excommunicated, as a couple of his apostolic colleagues were. He and his first wife, Helen May Winters, had died suddenly that same year after contracting smallpox in Mexico. Owen Woodruff had often been "on the underground," moving frequently, traveling under secret identities, and using code names in his letters to his wives, while still carrying out his administrative duties, which, in particular, involved supervision of the nascent Mormon colonies in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.

Excerpt

The complete 1899–1904 correspondence among Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff are published here for the first time along with excerpts from Avery Clark’s autobiography. The documents are taken from the Abraham Owen Woodruff Collection (Vault MSS 777) housed at the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. According to the register compiled by David J. Whittaker and Erin Parker, the collection

consists of journals, notebooks, letters, and other miscella
neous items arranged into six boxes. The first box contains
Woodruff’s mission journals (1) from 23 January 1894 to 31
October 1894, and (2) from 1 October 1895 to 26 May 1896,
a journal from 1 January 1899 to 31 December 1900, a journal
from 1 October 1901 to 24 April 1902, a letter record book
beginning in 1894, a notebook of 1898, and a letterbook from
6 March 1900 to 18 April 1900.

The second box contains a scrapbook of various dried plants,
a book of music, and a notebook belonging to Helen Winters,
Woodruff’s first wife. The third box contains letters to and from
various family members, including: Wilford Woodruff, Emma
L. Woodruff, Helen Winters Woodruff, Avery Clark Woodruff,
Asahel Woodruff, and other family members. Box three also
contains Woodruff’s mission correspondence to his family.

The fourth box begins with miscellaneous mission cor
respondence, including several letters written in German. It
also includes correspondence with members of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Mexico and cor
respondence with many prominent church figures, including:
Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, Joseph F. Smith, and
Lorenzo Snow, among others, as well as miscellaneous reli
gious correspondence.

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