The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced the practice of plural marriage in 1890. In the mid- to late nineteenth century, however--the heyday of Mormon polygamy--as many as three out of every ten Mormon women became polygamous wives.
In “The Polygamous Wives Writing Club,” Paula Kelly Harline delves deep into the diaries and autobiographies of twenty-nine such women, providing a rare window into the lives they led and revealing their views and experiences of polygamy. Harline considers the questions: Were these women content with their sacrifice? Did the benefits of polygamous marriage for the Mormons outweigh the human toll it required and the embarrassment it continues to bring? She says that “although the mainstream Mormon Church washed its hands of polygamy more than one hundred years ago, you can still hear the voices of polygamous wives who wrote their stories. And in their stories, the conflict between love and duty—like attempting to float in azure skies while gravitationally forced to work a plot of land instead—unfold in Technicolor.”
Paula Kelly Harline has been teaching college writing for over 20 years for the University of Idaho, Brigham Young University, and Utah Valley University. She has also worked as a freelance writer and artist. She lives with her husband, Craig, in Provo, Utah.