A Voice of Their Own: The Woman Suffrage Press, 1840-1910

By Martha M. Solomon | Go to book overview

10
The Woman's Exponent, 1872-1914 Champion for "The Rights of the Women of Zion, and the Rights of the Women of All Nations"

Tarla Rai Peterson

Woman feels her servitude, her degradation, and she is determined to assert her rights, to attain to an equality with man, and to train herself to fill any position and place of trust and honor as appropriately and with as much dignity as her brother man. . . . Her highest motive is, that she may be recognized as a responsible being, capable of judging for and maintaining herself.

( 1 July 1877, 20)

From 1872 to 1914, the Woman's Exponent agitated for woman's right to "be recognized as a responsible being." The paper sought to accomplish this task by replacing the four cardinal feminine virtues of piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity with a triumvirate: piety, purity, and independence. To accomplish this, the Exponent argued that piety and purity were incompatible with submissiveness, and only inconsequentially related to domesticity. Because they were Mormons, most Exponent readers were simultaneously involved in two social movements, and their experiences in one movement increased their self-perception as potential activists in the other. Their allegiance to the Mormon religion had led to virtual expulsion from American society, while their practice of plural marriage had inculcated the principle of civil disobedience into their lives. Thus, the Exponent had only to articulate what Mormon women already believed: neither piety nor purity would be obtained by submissiveness. Once this connection had been severed, readers were encouraged to become "real," instead of "true," women by

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