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Zina Y. Card, Letter to the Exponent, November 20, 1890

Zina Y. Card, Letter to the editor of the Woman’s Exponent, Nov. 20, 1890, in “The Sisters in Canada,” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, UT), Dec. 15, 1890, vol. 19, no. 13, p. 101.

See image of the original document at, courtesy of Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

In the aftermath of President Wilford Woodruff’s manifesto on plural marriage1 and her own husband’s indictment for illegal cohabitation, Zina Presendia Young Card wrote the following letter from Cardston, Alberta, Canada, to the Woman’s Exponent in November 1890. Card and her mother, Zina D. H. Young, shared strong convictions about plural marriage. The elder Zina, who had been a plural wife to Joseph Smith and later to Brigham Young, declared in 1878: “It is a principle of the Gods … and we want our children to practice it, that through us a race of men and women may grow up possessing sound minds in sound bodies who shall live to the age of a tree.”2 Zina D. H. Young was present at the October 1890 general conference when Woodruff’s manifesto on plural marriage was read and approved. She wrote in her diary, “To day the harts of all ware tried but looked to God & submitted … we are the same Latterday Saints, but God’s true laws they will not allow us to keep sacred.”3

Card herself entered into plural marriage in 1868; her husband, Thomas Williams, died in 1874, leaving her a widow with two children. A decade later she became a plural wife of Charles O. Card, president of the Cache Stake in northern Utah;4 in 1887 they moved to Alberta, Canada, to avoid prosecution in the United States.5 Charles Card reported that once when he and Zina attended a party with several Canadian political leaders, someone “said something about Polygamy to my wife and she fired up in defence and some rather sharp retorts were indulged in.”6

In March 1890 Charles Card, who had been indicted in Utah for illegal cohabitation, decided to face trial in Utah, hoping he could obtain an acquittal and then perhaps return to his residence in Logan.7 On November 17, 1890, he gave his “wife & children the parting kiss” and started for Utah to face his indictment. “Whether I go to suffer for keeping the commands of God in prison or be acquitted the Lord only can tell,” he recorded.8 Three days later, Zina Card wrote this letter.


Dear Exponent:

Our life here seems uneventful compared to yours in “Dear Utah,” months have passed since our return, and yet much has happened that was important to us. I am perhaps vain when I fancy it may be of interest to many dear friends in the “land of my birth,” to relate some of them.

My dear mother’s presence here was the signal for many pleasant gatherings, for spirited and spiritual feasts, when the gifts were ours and she seemed the humble and chosen one to be like a ministering angel to us, giving new courage and patience, by her cheerful precepts and example, but like most of our earthly joys, she has left us, only I trust for a season.9 Perhaps she has told you of our Fair, held jointly by the R. S., Y. L. M. I. A., and the Primary Association.10 Like all such affairs it was a big success, we all opened our eyes to see how many useful, pretty and necessary articles were in our possession, how wonderfully smart our little ones are, and what great big delicious, vegetables we have in abundence, a turnip that weighed 23lbs. Eleven potatoes 27lbs. Golden butter, white bread, pies, cakes and tarts all made by the deft little fingers or our dear children. Then the agreeable and genuine surprise given by the Pres. and members of the Relief Society11 to their beloved President, Sister Zina “Our mother” as they call her.

Zina Diantha Huntington Young and daughter Zina Presendia Young Card

Zina Diantha Huntington Young and daughter Zina Presendia Young Card. This mother and daughter are photographed here circa 1880–1890, in the approximate time period that Zina Young became general president of the Relief Society. They closely supported and advised one another in family and church life. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

We had a charming visit from Prof. Saunders, Gov. Agent for the Experimental Farms, of which there are five.12 He came to see what progress we were making as agriculturists, expressed himself as surprised and pleased with our progress, and predicted a bright and prosperous future for us.

Mr. Ross, Superentendent and builder of the great Canadian Pacific R. R. gave us a call, he came to look at the country with a view to building a new road from Edmonton some 500 miles north, down through this section of country across the line.13 The new road will be the highway for coal, coal oil, minerals, timber and the products of the ranchers and farmers of this great land.14

The opening of the Canadian and Great Falls Railroad is another important feature here, giving us direct communication by rail within 50 miles, and gives a new impetus to business generally.15

Now my dear friends if you want to come and see us, remember it is only 800 miles, will cost you about the same as a trip to San Francisco, or less, and you can get here inside of four days. We do not live in an Eden, nor without hard work, but we have plenty to eat, plenty to wear, can guarantee to keep you cool in Summer and warm in winter.

John T. Caine is elected, some may say, what’s that to you?16 Just let me whisper in your ear, I was born in Utah, and every thing that effects her finds an echo in my heart, do you think any Utah boy or girl could read the rousing speeches from our own faithful sons, fathers and husbands without saying “God bless and help them forever?”

Often my soul is singing:

O dear Utah I sigh for thee in vain,

Fain would I die to free thee from the despot’s iron chain;

Once thou coulds’t boast of freedom in thy mountains vales and glens,

O! give me back those good old days, and my dear old home again!

What Jerusalem is to the Jew,—so is Utah to the hearts of her mountain boys and girls, yet I would not, could not live there now. Why? because the holy priesthood has said my place was here. So my wings are folded, content in my nest, I sing, no I mean chirp to my little brood, try to be content with all the changes that find me, some unprepared and some otherwise, amongst the former was the “Manifesto,” it took my breath away, but it gradually narrowed down from what at first seemed a strange pill to the very draught that was needed in our present state, religiously and politically. It has caused some comment here from various stand points, but we feel our true position is known and appreciated now as it could not be before the issuing of the Manifesto, and the saints here as a whole all feel our leaders are carrying on Christ’s work to victory and are one with the saints in the land of Zion.

Hum! I fear you will think me tedious so will just add, the health of the saints is excellent, weather delightful. Pres. Card’s brief visit filled all with new courage.17 Our school will begin next week with Sterling Williams as teacher. All our Societies are in excellent running order.

Love to all the dear ones, and hope if any feel that they are neglected they will know they live with truer and more enduring ties in the heart of their absent sister and friend,

Zina Y. Card.

Cardston, Alberta Canada, Nov. 20, 1890.


  1. [1]See Document 4.25.

  2. [2]Martha Sonntag Bradley and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward, 4 Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2000), 348.

  3. [3]Zina D. H. Young, Diary, Apr. 1890–Aug. 1897, Zina Card Brown Family Collection, 1806–1972, CHL, Oct. 6, 1890.

  4. [4]Bradley and Woodward, 4 Zinas, 249, 314; Donald G. Godfrey and Brigham Y. Card, eds., The Diaries of Charles Ora Card: The Canadian Years, 1886–1903 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1993), xxxvii.

  5. [5]Charles O. Card, Diary, Mar. 21–22, 1887, in Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, 40–41; Jessie L. Embry, “Exiles for the Principle: LDS Polygamy in Canada,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18, no. 3 (Fall 1985): 108–109.

  6. [6]Card, Diary, Aug. 28, 1890, in Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, 149.

  7. [7]Charles O. Card to Wilford Woodruff, June 24, 1890, Wilford Woodruff Stake Correspondence Files, 1887–1898, CHL; see also Card, Diary, Mar. 4, 1890, in Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, 117.

  8. [8]Card Diary, Nov. 17 and 21, 1890, in Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, 158–159. In his December jury trial, Card was found not guilty and allowed to go free. He returned to his family in Cardston in January 1891. The Cards remained in Canada until 1903. (Card, Diary, Dec. 22, 1890, and Jan. 15, 1891, in Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, 163–164, 168; Bradley and Woodward, 4 Zinas, 378–380.)

  9. [9]Zina D. H. Young arrived in southern Alberta in about early August 1890 and departed for Utah at the end of September 1890. (Zina D. H. Young to Charles O. Card, Aug. 5, 1890, Zina D. Young Correspondence, Zina Card Brown Family Collection, 1806–1972, CHL; Young, Diary, Sept. 29, 1890.)

  10. [10]The fair, organized at Card’s suggestion, was held September 17, 1890. “Sister Zina Y Card spoke on the subject of our having a fair … and use the means that we made towards a bell for the meeting house; thought it [would] benefit our children, it will learn them to try and make themselves useful.” (Cardston Ward, Alberta Stake, Cardston Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, 1887–1911, CHL, bk. A, Aug. 21, 1890; Cardston Ward, Alberta Stake, Cardston Ward Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association Minutes and Records, 1887–1917, CHL, vol. 1, Sept. 17, 1890.)

  11. [11]The Cardston Relief Society president was Sarah B. Daines. (“Canada,” Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1900, 29:4.)

  12. [12]William Saunders (1836–1914) was a prominent Canadian scientist and agricultural expert. Charles O. Card met Saunders during an 1888 visit to Ottawa: “We were driven out to the Central Agricultural Farm where we spent a very pleasant & entertaining afternoon listening to Prof. Wm Saunders explain the plans of farm stock, Barnes, offices, Henery [hennery], Cellars, plants, trees, grains, shrubs etc. We found Prof Saunders a regular Encyclopedia of information and with all filled with the milk of human kindness.” (Ian M. Stewart, “Saunders, William,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, 1911–1920 [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998], 907–908; Card, Diary, Nov. 13, 1888, in Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, 68.)

  13. [13]James Ross (1848–1913) was a railway engineer, contractor, and businessman. The railway line between Calgary and Edmonton was completed in 1891. (“James Ross, Financier, Dies,” New York Times, Sept. 21, 1913, 15; Theodore D. Regehr, “Ross, James,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, 1911–1920, 896–899.)

  14. [14]As was true of the American frontier, the railroads played a significant role in moving “settlers into and wealth out of” western Canada during this period. Contractors and laborers from many areas—including at least one rock and grading crew from Cache Valley, Utah—helped with construction. (Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, xxiii.)

  15. [15]“By 1890 a branch railway connected Lethbridge with Great Falls, Montana, linking this corner of Alberta with American railroads which extended southward to Utah.” (Godfrey and Card, Diaries of Charles Ora Card, xxiii.)

  16. [16]John Thomas Caine (1829–1911), a Mormon convert from the Isle of Man, was Utah Territory’s fourth delegate to the U.S. Congress. He served from 1882 to 1893. At the time Card wrote this Exponent letter, Caine had just been reelected to his final term in Congress. (Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901–1936], 1:726–738; “Voters,” Salt Lake Herald, Nov. 4, 1890, 4.)

  17. [17]Presumably a reference to Alberta Stake president Charles O. Card, Zina Card’s husband. (Bradley and Woodward, 4 Zinas, 292.)