The following minutes include speeches by twelve women given in Salt Lake City in a gathering known as the “Great Indignation Meeting.” Between January and March 1870, thousands of Latter-day Saint women assembled in mass “indignation” meetings to protest federal legislation that proposed to deny U.S. citizenship to anyone practicing plural marriage.1 On January 13, 1870, between five and six thousand Latter-day Saint women congregated in the Salt Lake City tabernacle. Apparently, no men were present except for reporters.2 Speaking from the pulpit in the “old” tabernacle, women affirmed that they had become plural wives by their own choice and articulated their vehement objections to the antipolygamy legislation pending in Congress. They declared their rights and appealed for the rights of their husbands, fathers, and brothers.
Public defense of plural marriage by women was potentially the most persuasive form of public relations available to the Saints because it answered the key objection: that plural marriage oppressed women. Latter-day Saints first officially acknowledged their practice of plural marriage in 1852, more than a decade after the first plural marriages were contracted in Nauvoo under the direction of Joseph Smith.3 After that public announcement, Latter-day Saint women began to defend plural marriage publicly as well as privately.4 For example, Belinda Marden Pratt, a plural wife of apostle Parley P. Pratt, justified the practice by drawing on historical and biblical precedent in Defence of Polygamy, by a Lady of Utah, in a Letter to Her Sister in New Hampshire, the first published defense of plural marriage written by a woman.5 In January 1868, when Republican senator Aaron H. Cragin of New Hampshire introduced antipolygamy legislation in the U.S. Senate, some Mormon women voiced their objections in a letter to the editor of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News. They stated: “We, the ‘Mormon’ ladies of Utah, would offer an expression of indignation towards Senator Cragin and his despicable Bill, did we not consider those subjects too preposterously degrading to merit our contempt.” The letter was signed: “‘Mormon’ First Wives, and all other ‘Mormon’ Wives.”6 However, two years later, when additional antipolygamy legislation was proposed in the form of the Cullom Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, Latter-day Saint women mounted a dramatically different defense of plural marriage: personal and collective indignation expressed publicly through a series of mass meetings.7
Women in Salt Lake City first held a protest meeting on January 6, 1870, to organize against the Cullom Bill.8 The bill declared marriage in Utah Territory to be a “civil contract” and modified the territory’s judicial structure in order to prosecute, fine, and imprison any man cohabiting “with more than one woman as husband and wife.”9 The Cullom Bill did not become law, though some of its provisions were incorporated into subsequent federal legislation: the 1874 Poland Act, the 1882 Edmunds Act, and the 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act.10
At the close of the January 6 meeting, Eliza R. Snow suggested “assembling in a general mass meeting” with similar meetings to be held throughout the territory.11 The January 13 meeting described in the following minutes was the first of these general protest meetings. By March 1870 the Deseret News estimated that twenty-five thousand women had taken part in such meetings in over fifty settlements throughout the territory.12
Ultimately, these protests served a number of purposes. Mormon women had a chance to show the outside world that they were articulate and willing to defend their beliefs. Through indignation meetings held in local communities, Latter-day Saint women made a dramatic entry into public life and simultaneously quenched any concern of church leaders that the reorganization of the Relief Societies might promote opposition to plural marriage.13
Minutes of the January 13 meeting were first published in two installments in the Deseret Evening News, January 14 and 15, 1870. Those published minutes are reproduced here.
GREAT INDIGNATION MEETING
Of the Ladies of Salt Lake City, to protest against the passage of CUllom’s Bill.
Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, the Tabernacle was densely packed with ladies of all ages—old, young and middle aged.
On the motion of Sister Eliza R. Snow, Mrs. Sarah N. [M.] Kimball (President of the Female Relief Society of the 15th ward) was elected president of the meeting.
Mrs. Lydia Alder was appointed secretary of the meeting.
The following ladies were proposed, and unanimously sustained, as a committee to draft resolutions:
M. [Margaret] T. Smoot,
20th w’d [ward]
F. M. S.14
M. [Marinda] N. Hyde,
Prisc. [Priscilla] Staines,
Mrs. Kimball, in rising to address the meeting, said she desired the prayers of all present, that she might be enabled to express herself in a comprehensive manner. They were there to speak in relation to the Government and institutions under which they lived, and she would ask: Have we transgressed any law of the United States? [Loud “No”—from the audience.]15 Then why are we here to-day? We have been driven from place to place, and why? Simply for believing in and practicing the counsels of God as contained in the Gospel of Heaven. The object of that meeting was to consider the justice of a bill now before the Congress of the United States. She said: “We are not here to advocate woman’s rights, but man’s rights.” The bill in question would not only deprive our fathers, husbands and brothers of enjoying the privileges bequeathed to citizens of the United States, but it would also deprive us, as women, of the privilege of selecting our husbands, and against this we most unqualifiedly protest.16
While the Committee on resolutions were absent speeches were made by various ladies, the first, as follows, being delivered by
bathsheba w. smith.
Beloved Sisters and Friends:—It is with no ordinary feelings that I meet with you on the present occasion. From my early youth I have been identified with the Latter-day Saints; hence I have been an eye and ear witness to many of the scenes that have been inflicted upon our people by a spirit of intolerant persecution.
I watched by the bedside of the first Apostle, David W. Patten, who fell a martyr in the Church. He was a noble soul. He was shot by a mob while defending the Saints in the State of Missouri, Ray County, on the 25th of October, 1838. As Bro. Patten’s life blood oozed away, I stood by and heard his dying testimony to the truth of our holy religion, declaring himself to be a friend to all mankind: he sacrificed his life freely to defend the innocent. He had no feelings of hostility to his race, but labored to exalt them. His last words, addressed to his wife, were: “Whatever you do, oh! do not deny the faith.” This circumstance made a lasting impression upon my youthful mind.17 In Missouri, mobs were burning houses and killing the Saints, when an army was sent by Governor [Lilburn W.] Boggs, which we supposed had come to protect us; but, alas! time proved that it came to continue the same dreadful work—reducing the whole people from competence to extreme poverty, sending them forth, under an exterminating order, in mid-winter, 200 miles across bleak prairies, among strangers in a strange State, leaving their homes and property to be possessed by their persecutors.18
I was intimately acquainted with the life and ministry of our beloved Prophet and Patriarch, Joseph and Hyrum Smith. I know that they were pure men, who labored for the redemption of the human family. For six years I heard their public and private teachings. It was from their lips that I heard taught the principle of celestial marriage,19 and when I saw their mangled forms cold in death, having been slain for the testimony of Jesus by the hands of cruel bigots, in defence of law, justice and Executive pledges, and although this was a scene of barbarous cruelty, which can never be erased from those who witnessed the heart-rending cries of widows and orphans, and mingled their tears with those of thousands of witnesses of the mournful occasion, the memories of which I hardly feel willing to awaken, yet I realized that they had sealed their ministry with their blood and that their testimony was in force.20
On the 9th day of February, 1846—the middle of a cold and bleak winter—my husband, just rising from a bed of sickness, and I, in company with thousands of Saints, were driven again from our comfortable home, the accumulation of six years’ industry and prudence, and, with two little children, commenced a long and weary journey through a wilderness, over prairies, deserts and mountains, to seek another home, for a wicked mob had decreed we must leave. Governor [Thomas] Ford, of Illinois, said the laws were powerless to protect us. Exposed to the cold of winter and the storms of spring, we continued our journey amid want and exposure, burying by the way side a dear mother, a son and many kind friends and relatives.21
We reached the Missouri River in July.22 Here our country thought proper to make a requisition upon us for a battalion to defend our national flag in the war pending with Mexico. We responded promptly, many of my kindred stepping forward and performing a journey characterized by their commanding officer as “unparalelled in history.”23 With the most of our youth and middle-aged men gone, we could not proceed, hence we were compelled to make another home, which, though humble, approaching winter made very desirable. In 1847–8, all who were able, through selling their surplus property, proceeded; we, who remained, were told, by an unfeeling Indian Department, we must vacate our houses and re-cross the Missouri River, as the laws would not permit us to remain on Indian lands!24 We obeyed, and again made a new home, though only a few miles distant. The latter home we abandoned in 1849, for the purpose of joining our co-religionists in the then far off region, denominated on the maps, “The Great Desert,” and by some later geographers as “Eastern Upper California.”
In this isolated country we made new homes, and, for a time, contended with the crickets for a scanty subsistence. The rude, ignorant and almost nude Indians were a heavy tax upon us,25 while struggling again to make comfortable homes and improvements; yet we bore it all without complaint, for we were buoyed up with the happy reflections that we were so distant, and had found an asylum in such an undesirable country, as to strengthen us in the hope that our homes would not be coveted, and that should we, through the blessing of God, succeed in planting our own vine and fig tree,26 no one could feel heartless enough to withhold from us that religious liberty which we had sought in vain amongst our former neighbors.
Without recapitulating our recent history—the development of a people whose industry and morality have extracted eulogy from their most bitter traducers—I cannot but express my surprise, mingled with regret and indignation at the recent proceedings of ignorant, bigoted, and unfeeling men, headed by the Vice-President, to aid intolerant sectarians and reckless speculators, who seek for proscription and plunder, and who feel willing to rob the inhabitants of these valleys of their hard earned possessions, and what is dearer, the constitutional boon of religious liberty.27
The following is a verbatim report of the remarks of the next speaker:
mrs. levi [rebecca] riter.
In rising before this vast assembly my heart is filled with feelings that words cannot express. We have not met here, my beloved sisters, as women of other States and Territories meet, to complain of the wrongs and abuses inflicted upon us by our husbands, fathers and sons; but we are happy and proud to state that we have no such afflictions and abuses to complain of. Neither do we ask for the right of franchise; nor do we ask for more law, more liberty or more rights and freedom from our husbands and brothers; for there is no spot on this wide earth where kindness and affection are more bestowed upon woman, and her rights so sacredly defended as in Utah. We are here to express our love for each other, and to exhibit to the world our devotion to God our Heavenly Father; and to show our willingness to comply with the requirements of the gospel; and the law of Celestial Marriage is one of its requirements that we are resolved to honor, teach and practise, which may God grant us strength to do (“Amen,” from the audience). And that we may have a continuation of liberty I ask in the name of Jesus Christ! (“Amen,” again by the audience).
The resolutions drafted by the Committee were then presented, and carried unanimously, being greeted with loud cheers. They were as follows:
Resolved.—That we, the Ladies of Salt Lake City, in mass meeting assembled, do manifest our indignation and protest against the Bill before Congress, known as the Cullom Bilt, also the one known as the Cragin Bill, and all similar Bills, expressions and manifestos.28
Resolved.—That we consider the above named Bills foul blots on our national escutcheon—absurd documents—atrocious insults to the Honorable Executive of the United States Government, and malicious attempts to subvert the rights of civil and religious liberty.
Resolved.—That we do hold sacred the Constitution bequeathed us by our forefathers, and ignore, with laudable womanly jealousy, every act of those men to whom the responsibilities of government have been entrusted, which is calculated to destroy its efficacy.
Resolved.—That we unitedly exercise every moral power and every right which we inherit as the daughters of American citizens, to prevent the passage of such bills; knowing that they would inevitably cast a stigma on our Republican Government by jeopardizing the liberty and lives of its most loyal and peaceable citizens.
Resolved.—That, in our candid opinion, the presentation of the aforesaid bills indicates a manifest degeneracy of the great men of our nation; and their adoption would presage a speedy downfall and ultimate extinction of the glorious pedestal of Freedom, Protection and Equal Rights established by our noble ancestors.
Resolved.—That we acknowledge the Institutions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only reliable safeguard of female virtue and innocence; and the only sure protection against the fearful sin of prostitution and its attendant evils, now prevalent abroad, and, as such, we are and shall be united with our brethren in sustaining them against each and every encroachment.
Resolved.—That we consider the originators of the aforesaid bills disloyal to the Constitution, and unworthy of any position of trust in any office which involves the interests of our nation.
Resolved.—That, in case the Bills in question should pass both houses of Congress and become a law by which we shall be disfranchised as a Territory, we, the ladies of Salt Lake City, shall exert all our power and influence to aid in the support of our own State Government.29
The meeting was addressed, by several other speakers, whose remarks are given below in the order in which they were delivered:
mrs. [amanda barnes] smith,
Relict of Elder Warren Smith, who was murdered at Haun’s Mill, then spoke:
Sisters, as I sat upon my seat listening, it seemed as though if I held my peace the stones of the streets would cry out. With your prayers aiding me I will try and make a few remarks.
I obeyed the gospel on the first day of April, 1831, almost thirty-nine years ago; and I have been in the midst of this people ever since. I have seen their travels, their sorrows, their afflictions. I have seen the mourning and sorrow of this people in their calamities, and many is the time my heart has been pained at the scenes of distress I have witnessed. I moved to Kirtland with my husband, a good man and a faithful elder in Israel. He moved his family to Kirtland and bought a beautiful place, but he could not live on it. Our persecutors said we must not stay there. We sold our beautiful home for a song, and we had to sing it ourselves. We traveled all summer to Missouri, our teams poor, and with hardly enough to keep body and soul together. We landed in Caldwell County, near Haun’s Mill, nine wagons of us in company. Two days before we landed there we were taken prisoners by an armed mob that demanded every bit of ammunition and every weapon we had. We surrendered them; gave up all. They knew it, for they searched our wagons. A few miles more brought us to Haun’s Mill where that awful scene of murder was enacted. My husband pitched his tent by a blacksmith’s shop. If I mistake not Bro. David Evans had made a treaty with the mob that they would not molest us. He came in and called the company together, and they knelt in prayer. I sat in my tent, and looking out saw the mob coming, the same that took away our weapons. They came like so many demons or wild Indians. Before I could get to the blacksmith’s shop door to tell them, the bullets were whistling amongst them. Among those who fell were my husband and a son, and one beautiful boy, now here, a man, in your midst, was wounded worse than death. I was obliged to stay on that awful ground all that night to take care of my poor children. Another sister who had a son wounded, stayed there all night with me. The scene was terrible beyond description. One poor brother was lying in the shop and could not be moved; and the moans of the dying and wounded were heart-rending. Our enemies were not far off and we did not know but they would return. Next morning Brother Joseph Young came to see what could be done. He inquired what should be done with the dead, as there was not time to bury them, for the mob was coming on us, and there were not men to dig the graves. I said anything but leaving their bodies to the fiends that had killed them. There was a deep, dry well close by, and into this the bodies had to be hurried, seventeen in number, some head downwards and some feet downwards.30
And this was in America! In the land of liberty and freedom, that boasts of the rights guaranteed to its citizens! We are here to-day to say if such scenes shall be again enacted in our midst. I say to you, my sisters, you are American citizens; let us stand by the truth if we die for it (applause).
mrs. wilmarth east.
It is with feelings of pleasure, mingled with indignation and disgust, that I appear before you my sisters, to express my feelings in regard to the Cullom Bill now before the Congress of this once happy and Republican government. The Constitution for which our forefathers fought and bled and died, bequeathes to us the right of religious liberty,—the right to worship God according to the dictates of our own consciences! Does the Cullom Bill give us this right? Compare it with the Constitution if you please, and see what a disgrace has come upon this once happy and Republican government! Where, O, where is that liberty, bequeathed to us by our forefathers, the richest boon ever given to man or woman, except eternal life or the gospel of the Son of God? I am an American citizen by birthright and, having lived above the laws of the land I claim the right to worsoip God according to the dictates of my own conscience and the commandments that God shall give unto me. Our Constitution guarantees “Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all who live beneath it.” What is life to me if I see the galling yoke of oppression placed upon the necks of my husband, sons and brothers as Mr. Cullom would haev it! I am proud to say to you that I am not only a citizen of the United States of America, but a citizen of the kingdom of God, and the laws of this kingdom I am willing to sustain and defend both by example and precept. I am thankful to-day that I have the privilege of living the religion of Jesus our Savior. I am thankful to-day that I have the honored privilege of being the happy recipient of one of the greatest principles ever revealed to man for his redemption and exaltation in the kingdom of God, namely plurality of wives; and I am thankful to-day that I know God is at the helm and will defend his people.
Felt thankful to be numbered with this people. We feel to honor God and the gospel communicated to us. She was sorry that Congress is engaged in framing measures for the overthrow of the Latter-day Saints. She prayed that the spirit and feelings of that audience might be felt in the Congress of the United States and that any measures that are calculated to bring evil upon this community, might be thwarted; and that Congress will be made to see the injustice of such measures as those contemplated by the Cullom bill, against good, honest, virtuous and loyal citizens, such as are the people of Utah.
mrs. [mary] mcminn
Could not refrain from expressing herself in unison with her sisters, and her indignation at the bill. She was an American citizen. Her father had fought through the revolution with General Washington, and she claimed the exercise of the liberty for which he had fought. She was proud of being a Latter-day Saint.
In answer to an inquiry she stated that she was nearly eighty-five years of age.
e. r. snow.
My sisters:—In addressing you at this time I realize that the occasion is a peculiar and an interesting one. We are living in a land of freedom—under a Constitution that guarantees civil and religious liberty to all; black and white, Christians, Jews, Mahometans and Pagans; and how strange it is that such considerations should exist as those which have called us together this afternoon.
Under the proud banner which now waves from ocean to ocean, strange as it may seem, we, who have ever been loyal citizens, have been persecuted from time to time and driven from place to place, until at last, beyond the bounds of civilization, under the guidance of President Young, we found an asylum of peace in the midst of these mountains.
There are, at times, small and apparently trivial events in the lives of individuals with which every other event naturally associates. There are circumstances in the history of nations, which serve as centres, around which everything else revolves.
The entrance of our brave pioneers and the settlement of the Latter-day Saints in these mountain vales, which then were only barren, savage wilds, are incidents with which, not only our own future, but the future of the whole world is deeply associated.
Here they struggled with more than mortal energy, for their hearts and hands were nerved by the spirit of the Most High, and through His blessing they succeeded in drawing sustenance from the arid soil; and here they erected the standard on which the Star Spangled Banner waved its salutations of welcome to the nations of the earth; and, although it had been stained with the blood of innocence,31 here it has been rescued from the withering touch of tyranny and oppression—here it has been honored and respected, and here it will be bequeathed unsullied to future generations. Yes, that “dear old Flag,” which in my girlhood I always contemplated with joyous pride, and to which the patriotic strains of my earliest muse were chanted, here floats triumphantly on the mountain breeze.32
Our numbers, small at first, have increased, until now we number one hundred and fifty thousand, and yet, we are allowed only a Territorial Government. Year after year we have petitioned Congress, for what it was our inalienable right to claim,—a State Government; and year after year our petitions have been treated with contempt. Such treatment as we have received from our rulers, has no precedent in the annals of history.
And now, instead of granting us our rights as American citizens, bills are being presented to Congress which are a disgrace to men in responsible stations, professing the least claim to honor and magnanimity—bills, which, if carried into effect, would utterly annihilate us as a people. But this will never be. There is too much virtue yet existing in the nation, and above all, there is a God in heaven, whose protecting care is over us, and who takes cognizance of the acts of the children of men.
My sisters, we have met to-day to manifest our views and feelings concerning the oppressive policy exercised towards us by our Republican Government. Aside from all local and personal feelings, to me it is a source of deep regret that the standard of American liberty should have so far swayed from its original towering position as to have given rise to circumstances which not only rendered such a meeting opportune but absolutely necessary.
Heretofore, while detraction and ridicule have been poured forth in almost every form that malice could invent—while we have been misrepresented by speech and press, and exhibited in every shade but our true light, the ladies of Utah, as a general thing, have remained silent. Had not our aims been of the most noble and exalted character, and had we not known that we occupied a standpoint far above our traducers, we might have returned volley for volley; but we have, all the time, realized that to contradict such egregious absurdities, would be a great stoop of condescension—far beneath the dignity of those who profess to be Saints of the living God; and we very unassumingly applied to ourselves a saying of an ancient apostle in writing to the Corinthians, “Ye suffer fools, gladly, seeing that yourselves are wise.”33
But there is a point at which silence is no longer a virtue. In my humble opinion we have arrived at this point. Shall we—ought we to be silent when every right of citizenship—every vestige of civil and religious liberty is at stake? When our husbands and sons—our fathers and brothers are threatened, being either restrained in their obedience to the commands of God, or incarcerated year after year in the dreary confines of a prison, will it be thought presumptuous for us to speak? Are not our interests one with our brethren? Ladies, this subject as deeply interests us as them. In the Kingdom of God, woman has no interests separate from those of man—all are mutual.
Our enemies pretend that in Utah, woman is held in a state of vassalage—that she does not act from choice, but by coercion—that we would even prefer life elsewhere, were it possible for us to make our escape. What nonsense! We all know that if we wished, we could leave at any time—either to go singly or we could rise en masse, and there is no power here that could or would ever wish to prevent us.
I will now ask this intelligent assembly of ladies: Do you know of any place on the face of the earth, where woman has more liberty, and where she enjoys such high and glorious privileges as she does here, as a Latter-day Saint? “No!” The very idea of women here in a state of slavery is a burlesque on good common sense. The history of this people, with a very little reflection, would instruct outsiders on this point, it would show at once that the part which woman has acted in it, could never have been performed against her will. Amid the many distressing scenes through which we have passed, the privations and hardships consequent on our expulsion from State to State, and our location in an isolated, barren wilderness, the women in this Church have performed and suffered what could never have been borne and accomplished by slaves.
And now, after all that has transpired, can our opponents expect us to look on with silent indifference and see every vestige of that liberty, for which many of our patriotic grandsires fought and bled, that they might bequeath to us, their children, the precious boon of national freedom, wrested from our grasp? If so, they will learn their mistake, we are ready to inform them. They must be very dull in estimating the energy of female character, who can persuade themselves that women, who, for the sake of their religion, left their homes, crossed the plains with handcarts, or, as many had previously done, drove ox, mule and horse teams from Nauvoo and from other points when their husbands and sons went at their country’s call, to fight her battles in Mexico; yes, that very country which had refused us protection and from which we were then struggling to make our escape I say, those who think that such women and the daughters of such women do not possess too much energy of character to remain passive and mute under existing circumstances are “reckoning bills without their host.”34 To suppose that we should not be aroused when our brethren are threatened with fines and imprisonment for their faith in and obedience to the laws of God, is an insult to our womanly natures.
Were we the stupid, degraded, heartbroken beings that we have been represented, silence might better become us; but, as women of God,—women filling high and responsible positions—performing sacred duties—women who stand not as dictators, but as counselors to their husbands, and who, in the purest, noblest sense of refined womanhood, being truly their helpmates; we not only speak because we have the right, but justice and humanity demand that we should.
Instead of being lorded over by tyrannical husbands, we, the ladies of Utah, are already in possession of a privilege which many intelligent and high aiming ladies in the States are earnestly seeking i. e., the right to vote. Although as yet we have not been admitted to the common ballot box, to us the right of suffrage is extended in matters of far greater importance.35 This we say truthfully not boastingly; and we may say farther, that if those sensitive persons who profess to pity the condition of the women of Utah, will secure unto us those rights and privileges which a just and equitable administration of the laws of the Constitution of the United States guarantees to every loyal citizen, they may reserve their sympathy for objects more appreciative.
My sisters, let us, inasmuch as we are free to do all that love and duty prompt, be brave and unfaltering in sustaining our brethren. Woman’s faith can accomplish wonders. Let us, like the devout and steadfast Miriam, assist our brothers in upholding the hands of Moses.36 Like the loving Josephine, whose firm and gentle influence both animated and soothed the heart of Napoleon, we will encourage and assist the servants of God in establishing righteousness; but, unlike Josephine, never will political inducements, threats or persecutions prevail on us to relinquish our matrimonial ties—they were performed by the authority of the holy priesthood, the efficacy of which extends into eternity.
But, to the law and to the testimony. Those obnoxious, fratricidal Bills—I feel indignant at the thought, that such documents should disgrace our National Capital. The same spirit that prompted Herod to seek the life of Jesus—the same that drove our Pilgrim Fathers to this Continent, and the same that urged the English Government to the system of unrepresented taxation, which resulted in the independence of the American Colonies, is conspicuous in those Bills. If such measures are persisted in, they will produce similar results. They not only threaten extirpation to us, but they augur destruction to the Government. The authors of those Bills would tear the Constitution to shreds. They are sapping the foundation of American freedom—they would obliterate every vestige of the dearest right of man—liberty of conscience, and reduce our once happy country to a state of anarchy.
Our trust is in God. He that led Israel from the land of Egypt—who preserved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace; who rescued Daniel from the jaws of hungry lions, and who directed Brigham Young to these mountain vales, lives and overrules the destinies of men and nations. He will make the wrath of man praise Him;37 and His kingdom will move steadily forward, until wickedness shall be swept from the earth, and truth, love and righteousness reign triumphantly.
The remainder of the proceedings will be printed in to-morrow’s issue.38
GREAT INDIGNATION MEETING
Of the Ladies of Salt Lake City, to protest against the passage of CUllom’s Bill.
harriet cook young.
In rising to address this meeting, delicacy prompts me to explain the chief motives which have dictated our present action. We, the ladies of Salt Lake City, have assembled here to-day—not for the purpose of assuming any particular political power, nor to claim any special prerogative which may, or may not belong to our sex; but to express our indignation at the unhallowed efforts of men, who, regardless of every principle of manhood, justice and constitutional liberty, would force upon a religious community, by a direct issue, either the curse of apostacy, or the bitter alternative of fire and sword. Surely the instinct of self-preservation, the love of liberty and happiness and the right to worship God are dear to our sex as well as to the other, and when these most sacred of all rights are thus wickedly assailed, it becomes absolutely our duty to defend them.
The mission of the Latter-day Saints is to reform abuses which have for ages corrupted the world, and to establish an era of peace and righteousness. The Most High is the founder of this mission, and in order to its establishment, His providences have so shaped the world’s history, that, on this continent, blest above all other lands, a free and enlightened Government has been instituted, guaranteeing to all, social, political and religious liberty. The Constitution of our country is therefore hallowed to us, and we view with a jealous eye every infringement upon its great principles, and demand, in the sacred name of liberty, that the miscreant, who would trample it under his feet, by depriving a hundred thousand American citizens of every vestige of liberty, should be anathematized throughout the length and breadth of the land as a traitor to God and his country.
It is not strange that among the bigoted and the corrupt such a man and such a measure should have originated; but it will be strange indeed, if such a measure find favor with the honorable and high minded men who wield the destinies of the nation. Let this seal of ruin be attached to the archives of our country and terrible must be the results. Woe will wait upon her steps, and sorrow and desolation will stalk through the land; peace and liberty will seek another clime, while anarchy, lawlessness and bloody strife hold high carnival amid the general wreck. God forbid that wicked men be permitted to force such an issue upon the nation!
It is true that a corrupt press, and an equally corrupt priestcraft are leagued against us—that they have pandered to the ignorance of the masses and vilified our institutions to that degree, that it has become popular to believe that the Latter-day Saints are unworthy to live; but it is also true that there are many, very many, right thinking men who are not without influence in the nation, and to such do we now solemnly and earnestly appeal. Let the United voice of this assembly give the lie to the popular clamour that the women of Utah are oppressed and held in bondage. Let the world know that the women of Utah prefer virtue to vice, and the home of an honorable wife to the gilded pageantry of fashionable temples of sin. Transitory allurements, glaring to the senses, as the flame is to the moth, but short lived and cruel in their results possess no charms for us. Every woman in Utah may have her husband, the husband of her choice. Here we are taught, not to destroy our children, but to preserve them, for they, reared in the path of virtue and trained to righteousness, constitute our true glory.
It is with no wish to accuse our sisters who are not of our faith, but we are dealing with facts as they exist. Wherever monogamy reigns, adultery, prostitution, free-love and foeticide,39 directly or indirectly, are its concomitants. It is not enough to say that the virtuous and the high-minded frown upon these evils, we believe they do, but frowning does not cure them, it does not even check their rapid growth; either the remedy is too weak, or the disease is too strong. The women of Utah comprehend this and they see in the principle of a plurality of wives, the only safeguard, against adultery, prostitution, free-love and the reckless waste of pre-natal life practised throughout the land.
It is as co-workers in the great mission of universal reform, not only in our own behalf, but also, by precept and example, to aid in the emancipation of our sex generally, that we accept in our heart of hearts, what we know to be a divine commandment; and here, and now, boldly and publicly we do assert our right, not only to believe in this holy commandment, but to practise what we believe.
While these are our views, every attempt to force that obnoxious measure upon us, must of necessity, be an attempt to coerce us in our religious and moral convictions, against which did we not most solemnly protest, we would be unworthy the name of American women.
mrs. h. [hannah] t. king.
My Dear Sisters:—I wish I had the language I feel to need at the present moment, to truly represent the indignant feelings of my heart and brain on reading last evening a string of thirty “Sections” headed by the words “A Bill in aid of the execution of the laws in the Territory of Utah, and other purposes.”! The “other purposes” contain the pith of the matter, and the adamantine chains the compilers of the said “Bill” seek to bind this people with, exceed any thing the feudal times of England, or the serfdom of Russia ever laid upon human beings. My Sisters! are we really in America the world renowned land of liberty, freedom, and equal rights? the land of which I dreamed in my youth as almost an earthly elysium, where freedom of thought and religious liberty were open to all? The land that Columbus wore his noble life out to discover? the land that God Himself helped him to exhume, and that Isabella, a queen—a woman, declared she would pawn her jewels and crown of Castile to give him the outfit which he needed? The land of Washington, “The Father of his Country”—and of a host of noble spirits too numerous to mention? the land to which “The Mayflower” bore the Pilgrim Fathers, who rose up and left their homes, and bade their native land “good night”, simply that they might worship God by a purer and holier faith in a land of freedom and liberty, of which America has long been synonymous? Yes, my sisters, this is America; but oh! how are the mighty fallen! Who or what is the creature who framed this incomparable document? Is he an Esquimaux or a Chimpanzee, or what isolated land’s end spot produced him? What ideas he must have of women! Had he ever a mother, a wife, or a sister? In what academy was he tutored, or to what school does he belong, that he should so coolly and systematically command the women of this people to turn traitors to their husbands, their brothers, and their sons! Short-sighted man of sections and the Bill! Let us the women of this people—the sisterhood of Utah, rise en masse and tell this nondescript to defer “the Bill” until he has studied the character of woman such as God intended she should be, then he will discover that devotion, veneration, and faithfulness are her peculiar attributes; that God is her refuge—and His servants her oracles, and that especially the women of Utah have paid too high a price for their present position, their present light and knowledge—and their noble future to succumb to so mean and foul a thing as the Baskin, Cullum & Co’s Bill.40 Let him learn that they are one heart, hand and brain, with the brotherhood of Utah—that God is their Father and their Friend—that into His hands they commit their cause—and on their pure and simple banner they have emblazoned their motto—
“God and my right.”
Ladies of Utah, as I have been called upon to express my views upon the important subject, which has called us together this day, I will say that I am happy to be one of your number in this association. I am proud that I am a citizen of Utah, and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been a member of this Church for thirty-six years, and had the privilege of living in the days of the Prophet Joseph and heard his teachings for many years. He ever counseled us to honor, obey, and maintain the principles of our noble Constitution, for which our fathers fought, and many of them sacrificed their lives to establish. President Brigham Young has always taught the same principle. This glorious legacy of our fathers, the Constitution of the United States, guarantees unto all the citizens of this great Republic the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, as it expressly says, “Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Cullom’s bill is in direct violation of this declaration of the Constitution, and, I think it is our duty to do all in our power by our voices and influence to thwart the passage of this bill, which commits a violent outrage upon our rights, and the rights of our fathers, husband and sons; and whatever may be the final result of the action of Congress in passing or enforcing oppressive laws for the sake of our religion, upon the noble men who have subdued these deserts, it is our duty to stand by them and support them by our faith, prayers and works through every dark hour unto the end, and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to defend us, and all who are called to suffer for keeping the commandments of God. Shall we as wives and mothers sit still and see our husbands, and sons, whom we know are obeying the highest behest of heaven, suffer for their religion without exerting ourselves to the extent of our power for their deliverance? No! verily, no!! God has revealed unto us the law of the Patriarchal order of marriage, and commanded us to obey it. We are sealed to our husbands for time and eternity, that we may dwell with them and our children in the world to come, which guarantees unto us the greatest blessing for which we are created. If the rulers of our nation will so far depart from the spirit and the letter of our glorious Constitution as to deprive our Prophets, Apostles and Elders of citizenship, and imprison them for obeying this law, let them grant us this our last request, to make their prisons large enough to hold their wives, for where they go we will go also.
mrs. [mary isabella] horne
Had been connected with the Church since 1835, and spoke her indignation at the bill. She is one of the so called oppressed women of Utah; is the wife of a man who practices plurality of wives and expects always to sustain him. Whether the bill is passed or not, it will be all right, if the Saints only are faithful and true to their God and themselves. She thought if the bill was passed, it would fill up the cup of the iniquity of the nation.
mrs. eleanor m. pratt
Said she was born in America, and thought she was free to teach that which came from God. It is many years since three men in rags came to her home in Mississippi, and by the Bible she held, they proved to her Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Eleven years after, she heard the same principles in California and received them. For so doing she was turned out of doors, her children were taken from her twice, and innocent blood was shed.41 She longed to see the women of Utah rise and express themselves concerning their rights. When she saw innocent blood shed like as in a slaughter house she did not fear as much as to-day. God gave her strength, and the officers and the soldiers trembled at the power God gave her. Fear falls on the enemies of the Saints because the women of Utah do not fear death; and she was willing to let her blood be shed for the principles of truth, but not for any ignoble purpose.
eliza r. snow.
My Sisters, My remarks in conclusion will be brief. I heard the prophet Joseph Smith say if the people rose up and mobbed us and the authorities countenanced it, they would have mobs to their hearts’ content. I heard him say that the time would come when this nation would so far depart from its original purity, its glory, and its love for freedom and its protection of civil and religious rights, that the Constitution of our country would hang as it were by a thread,. He said, also, that this people, the sons of Zion, would rise up and save the Constitution and bear it off triumphantly.42
I wish to say to my sisters, to the mothers in Israel and to the daughters, cultivate in your bosoms the spirit of freedom and liberty which has been bequeathed unto us by our fathers, or grandfathers I should say. My grandfather fought in the Revolution and was taken prisoner. He lay in a filthy prison, with a companion who was taken with him, and fed on such a scanty allowance as would scarcely support life.
His companion died, and for the sake of having his allowance of food he covered him up in the bed and kept him just as long as he dare to stay with a decaying body.43 And the spirit of freedom and liberty is what we should always cultivate, and what mothers should cultivate in the breasts of their sons, that they may grow up brave and noble, and defenders of that glorious Constitution which has been bequeathed unto us. Let mothers cultivate that spirit in their own bosoms. Let them manifest their own bravery and cherish a spirit of encountering difficulties, because they have to be met more or less in every situation of life. If fortitude and nobility of soul be cultivated in your own bosoms, you will transmit them to your children, your sons will grow up noble defenders of truth and righteousness, and heralds of salvation to the nations of the earth. They will be prepared to fill high and responsible situations in religious, judicial, civil and executive positions. I consider it most important, my sisters, that we should struggle to preserve the sacred Constitution of our country, one of the blessings of the Almighty; for the same spirit that inspired the Prophet Joseph Smith inspired the framers of the Constitution, and we should ever hold it sacred and bear it of triumphantly.
My sisters, I am happy to meet with you, although this is not the occasion that we could have desired to meet together; at least the circumstance which has led to the occasion, is one not to be so regarded. Yet I am happy to meet with you; and my desire is that we may as mothers and sisters in Israel defend truth and righteousness, and sustain those who preach it. Every sister in this church should be a preacher of righteousness; and I think we all are; I believe it is our aim to be such. Let us be more energetic to improve our minds, and develop that strength of moral character which cannot be surpassed on the face of the earth. We should do this. The circumstances in which we are placed and our positions in life demand this of us, because we have greater and higher privileges than any other females upon the face of the earth.
Having said so much I will close by saying, God bless you and help us all to keep His holy commandments and be valiant for the truth, that whether life or death, in life and in death, we may triumph over evil and return to the presence of the Holy One, pure, having kept the faith and finished our course, that the crown laid up for us may be presented to us in the kingdom of our God in the eternal world. Amen. (amen from the audience).
Mrs. Zinah D. Young then moved that the meeting adjourn sine die, which was carried; and Mrs. Phebe Woodruff offered the closing benediction.
The old Tabernacle was crowded with ladies at this meeting, and as it will comfortably seat five thousand persons, there could not have been fewer than between five and six thousand present on the occasion.