Book Spotlight: A House Full of Females

9780307594907Pulitzer prize winner and historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is once again taking a look at a previously unexplored history. Stitching together diary entries, letters, meeting minutes, and quilt patterns, Dr. Ulrich tells the story of early Mormon women living in “plural marriage” in her new book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870.

Dr. Ulrich brings to life the daily dealings of these women, all the while painting a complicated portrait of the women who helped shape the early tenants of the Mormon faith, fought to protect the practice of plural marriage, and helped women win the right to vote in Utah in 1870.

“This book is a kind of quilt,” says Dr. Ulrich in the opening chapter. It is “an attempt to find an underlying unity in a collection of fragments.”

Richard Brown, University of Connecticut Board of Trustee Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus, praises Dr. Ulrich’s ability to “convey an appreciation of why Mormons committed to their faith—notwithstanding the persecution and privations they faced crossing the country and building their pioneer settlements. Ulrich even enables outsiders to understand how polygamy functioned and why Mormon women embraced and defended it against Victorian condemnation.”

The New York Times Book Review says “in the best ways, ‘A House Full of Females’ remains a work of traditional ‘women’s history,’ a straightforward exploration of women’s lives and experiences on their own terms.”

Dr. Ulrich is a 1978 Women’s Studies Fellow and the 300th Anniversary University Professor of History at Harvard University. Her 1991 book A Midwife’s Tale won the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize for History. She is a MacArthur Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow and was recently interviewed about her book on NPR’s Fresh Air.


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