By the time the Latter-day Saints began settling in the West in the late 1840s and 1850s, American women were serving as editors of newspapers and magazines, and a substantial number of women’s publications existed across the country.1 Against this background, Edward L. Sloan, editor of the Salt Lake Herald, proposed a women’s paper in Utah in 1871 and suggested that twenty-two-year-old Louisa (Lula) Greene, who had written several poems for the Herald, be appointed editor. After receiving support from Eliza R. Snow and Brigham Young, her great-uncle, Greene accepted the offer, asking Young to call her to the job as a mission.2 He did so, and operations began shortly thereafter. Greene moved to Salt Lake City in April 1872 to live and work in the home of another of her great-uncles, Lorenzo Dow Young, the younger brother of Brigham Young. The first issue of the new paper, titled Woman’s Exponent, was published June 1, 1872. For the first six months of the paper’s publication, Greene ran the Exponent from a room in the house that contained “a table with writing materials, a few books, magazines, some chairs and a bed.”3 By the fall of 1872, both the Exponent and Greene had moved into an office and living quarters that Sloan had constructed not far from the Herald offices.4
The semimonthly paper, with each issue containing eight pages, included a wide variety of content: news; articles ranging from domestic life to theology to biographies of prominent Mormon women; obituaries of Mormon women; reports and minutes of meetings of women’s ecclesiastical and cultural organizations, including the Relief Society, the Primary, young women’s groups, and Retrenchment Associations; and poetry and short stories. The Relief Society reports regularly published in the Exponent helped unify and connect women of the society across the far-flung Mormon settlements. The paper’s circulation was likely between three and four thousand copies, though some articles reached a much broader audience as they were sometimes reprinted in women’s magazines throughout the country. The Exponent also reprinted articles from various women’s publications, particularly suffrage journals.5
Louisa Greene Richards (she married Levi Richards in 1873) acted as editor until 1877, followed by Emmeline B. Wells, who served in that position until 1914, when the paper closed and another magazine, officially published by the Relief Society, began as a successor to the privately owned Exponent.6 As editors, Richards and Wells handled the business affairs and wrote not only the editorials but many of the other articles and additional content, including poetry and fiction. During the forty-two years of its publication, the Exponent was central to the intellectual, religious, and social lives of many Latter-day Saint women.7
The following introductory editorial announced the new journal’s mission to accurately represent Mormon women to the world by allowing them a forum to speak for themselves. Indeed, the Salt Lake Herald’s April 1872 announcement of the forthcoming paper proclaimed, “The women of Utah are to-day unquestionably more the subject of comment than those of any other portion of the country, or indeed of the world. As they have long exercised the right to think and act for themselves, so they now claim the right to speak for themselves through the potent medium of the types.”8
a utah ladies’ journal.
The women of Utah to-day occupy a position which attracts the attention of intelligent thinking men and women everywhere. They are engaged in the practical solution of some of the greatest social and moral problems of the age, and a powerful interest is manifested throughout the United States, and, it may be said, the entire civilized world, to learn from reliable sources the views honestly entertained by them on these questions.
They have been grossly misrepresented through the press, by active enemies who permit no opportunity to pass of maligning and slandering them; and with but limited opportunity of appealing to the intelligence and candor of their fellow countrymen and countrywomen in reply.
Who are so well able to speak for the women of Utah as the women of Utah themselves? “It is better to represent ourselves than to be misrepresented by others!”
For these reasons, and that women may help each other by the diffusion of knowledge and information possessed by many and suitable to all, the publication of Woman’s Exponent, a journal owned by, controlled by and edited by Utah ladies, has been commenced.
The aim of this journal will be to discuss every subject interesting and valuable to women. It will contain a brief and graphic summary of current news local and general, household hints, educational matters, articles on health and dress, correspondence, editorials on leading topics of interest suitable to its columns and miscellaneous reading.
It will aim to defend the right, inculcate sound principles, and disseminate useful knowledge.
Utah, in its Female Relief Societies, has the best organized benevolent institution of the age; yet, but little is known of the self-sacrificing labors of these Societies. In Woman’s Exponent a department will be devoted to reports of their meetings and other matters of interest connected with their workings; and to this end the Presidents and Secretaries of the various Societies throughout the Territory are requested to furnish communications which will receive due attention.
Miss Eliza R Snow, President of the entire Female Relief Societies, cordially approves of the journal, and will be a contributor to it as she has leisure from her numerous duties.
Woman’s Exponent will be published semi-monthly, each number containing eight pages, quarto.
The following low rates will place it within the reach of all, and the hope is that it may be made so valuable that it will be found in every family in Utah.
TERMS, Strictly in Advance:
Copy [subscription] one year,
Copy six months,
Copies one year,
Copies six months,
No subscription received for less than six months.
It is earnestly desired that the Bishops, Presidents of Female Relief Societies and others interested in a work of this kind, will interest themselves in getting up clubs; ten copies for the price of nine.
Address all communications and subscriptions Publishers Woman’s Exponent, Salt Lake City, Utah.10 [p. ]