Activists for Polygamy: We are not Victims

Nov 8, 2013

Marlyne and Priscilla Hammon
Priscilla and Marlyne Hammon are polygamist activists.
Credit STORYCORPS / UTAH PUBLIC RADIO

Priscilla and Marlyne Hammon are sisters, who married the brothers who talked last week on StoryCorps. They two now discuss how laws against polygamists have affected their lives and how they became activists for plural marriage.

PRISCILLA: Marlyne and I consider ourselves full sisters, but there's something interesting about us because while we share the same father, we both have different mothers, so we grew up having five mothers in our home, which was a very positive experience for us, unlike so much negativity that you hear about polygamy. Our experience was totally different.

MARLYNE: We all had common goals, we all believed the same. At some point in the 1960s, 1970s there were people who tried, in the community there, who wanted to change some of the doctrine, some of the things we believe, and there began to be a shift and a rift between the people-- that some people created. We were not willing to give up the principles and the things that we had been born and grown up with. And some of them went along with another way. So that was the point we decided we had to move out of Colorado City, at least not be part of that main body of people, because they had changed things. We were not willing to change.

The people in Colorado City have come up under a different rule now, and that's when they established the FLDS, so we never were part of the FLDS.

PRISCILLA:  And that's important to know, that the people in Centennial Park have never been a part of the F-LDS. People in Centennial Park that we associate with are known as the Work of Jesus Christ. So today people equate polygamy with Warren Jeffs oftentimes and that's just absolutely not the case. There are many, many, many thousands of polygamists who don't even know Warren Jeffs. Have never had anything to do with Warren Jeffs, and we're some of them. I haven't had anything to do with Warren Jeffs in my lifetime. I knew of him, but I don't have a knowledge or personal acquaintance with the man.

MARLYNE: One of the things we have really struggled with is trying to define ourselves, as who we are, what we are, and that we are not what everyone things polygamists are because of what has been in the media. Which brings me to the polygamy summit in 2003. Because of all the negative media and everything out there, the Attorneys General from Utah and Arizona decided they were going to get together and have a big meeting and they invited law enforcement, even from Canada I understand, and they were going to discuss the polygamy problem. I remember reading in the newspaper and I was standing in the kitchen counter reading that in the paper and I thought, 'Well for crying out loud. This has gone beyond...' you know?

PRISCILLA: It just lit a fire in me, and I was to the point where I was so tired of people defining us without asking us what our lives were like and it was like condemnation before investigation in my mind. They had never come in to find out if we enjoyed our lives or not and they were accusing me of being a victim? You said, 'You know what we should do, we should go down there, a whole bunch of us plural wives should go down there and sit on the front row of that summit and we should just look those men in the eye and show them we are not victims of this culture. That this has been a blessing in our lives. We choose to be here. But before the day was over, we had called enough women and everybody had read the newspaper and 100 women had got together, 100 ladies who had not poked their head up out of the sand for how many years?

For almost - for over 50 years trying to protect their families, and we had finally said, 'OK, we are going to show up en-masse and say, we are not victims. We live plural marriage because it's a lifestyle choice that we have chosen. It has been good for us, we're not saying it's good for us. We're not saying it's good for you, but it's good for us, it works for us. And we love it, and our children love it, and we want you to quit calling us victims.

To be able to go down there and stand in front of those people and see the looks on their faces and the shock on their faces that women would... The room was so small all we could do was just line the walls, we just stood... standing room only and all these plural wives were down there and the feeling was wonderful.

MARLYNE: To go down there and to be able to speak. Some of the ladies were not afraid, and they stood up and spoke right out. One of the things I  think was important for me at that point was to be able to have a voice for my mothers who were beaten down by the law, for my father, for my family that were not able to speak and express themselves and I say, 'It's time to get rid of that law.'

And so I would like to say to the world, please consider the old antique laws against our culture. It's time. It's time to allow us to live our lives too.