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.
THE SISTERS IN CANADA.
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.
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.