If you’re joining us this Wednesday evening for Better Days 2020’s presentation on Utah women’s history, you’re in for a treat. Katherine Kitterman, the organization’s historical director, will be here to share stories about Utah women, especially Provo and Utah County residents, of all different backgrounds who shaped local and national history.
If you asked a typical Utahn, they’d probably struggle to name more than a handful of significant women in Utah history. Better Days 2020 is an organization committed to changing that through art, education, legislation, and activism. Utah women have a long history of political, social, and artistic contributions, and we’re excited that this history is becoming better known.
Today and Wednesday on the blog, we’ll be recommending a few favorite books related to Utah women's history. As you may have noticed, most of the books on the topic focus on white women, especially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the pioneer and settlement eras. This is somewhat understandable, given the prominence of that group in Utah’s history, but current historians, including those at Better Days 2020, are working hard to bring forward the histories of Utah women of all races, religions, and backgrounds. Look forward to some of those fascinating stories Wednesday night.
Emmeline B. Wells is a personal hero of mine and was arguably Utah’s best known women’s rights activist in her day. Utah Territory granted women the right to vote in 1870 (a right the national government rescinded 17 years later), and Utah women became some of the most outspoken advocates in the country for female political rights.
As part of this movement, Wells served as editor of Woman’s Exponent for nearly 40 years, urged Utah’s Territorial Legislature to allow women to serve in public office, developed personal friendships with national suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, walked a precarious line between pro-polygamy Utah suffragists and anti-polygamy suffragists on the national stage, served as president of the Utah Territorial Women’s Suffrage Association, spoke internationally before the International Council of Women, and organized the Relief Society’s grain-saving program that saved hundreds of lives during World War I. In her last eleven years, Wells also served as Relief Society General President, being released at the age of 93, just three weeks before she passed away.
Ulrich won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for History for A MIDWIFE’S TALE, which revolutionized the historian’s field with its remarkable examination of social history. In addition to being a renowned historian (and the person who coined the phrase "well-behaved women seldom make history"), Ulrich herself is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, giving her unique insight into her subject matter in A HOUSE FULL OF FEMALES. Don’t be fooled by the narrator’s mispronunciations of common Utah names and Mormon words if you listen to the audiobook – Ulrich knows what she’s talking about.
Much of published research into Utah women's history has focused on the hotbed of political and social activism that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century, so it’s a nice change to read about the lead-up to that time period. Ulrich is a master of reconstructing a society based on journals, letters, meeting minutes, and even quilts, and you’ll come away from this book with a much more complete understanding of regular LDS and Utah women’s experiences in the early days of polygamy.
WORTH THEIR SALT offers a glimpse into the lives of a wide variety of Utah women, some familiar, others less so. These include Indian rights advocate and diplomat Chipeta, mining queen Susanna Engalitcheff, Catholic nun and education reformer Mother M. Augusta, artist Mary Teasdel, Greek midwife Georgia Lathrouis Magera, actress Maude Adams (who originated the role of Peter Pan on Broadway), journalist and Japanese-American newspaper owner Kuniko Terasawa, and United States Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest.
A variety of professional historians, journalists, descendants, and enthusiasts contributed essays for WORTH THEIR SALT. It’s a collection well worth reading for anyone interested in broadening their familiarity with prominent women in Utah history.
Be on the lookout for another post later this week with more recommended reads on this topic. Whether you're able to attend on Wednesday of not, we hope these books will get you hooked on the remarkable history of Utah women!
I am an avid non-fiction reader, and as such, serious topics sort of come with the territory. While I enjoy the occasional 800+ pages tome about historical events or people, inspiring self-help selections, or the latest book from a scientist much smarter than I’ll ever hope to be, full of words I can’t pronounce and concepts that merit an earnest Google-ing, I also like my non-fiction with a side of comedy.
In a day and age where the headlines are often dark and depressing, we can benefit from the wisdom of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote, "A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing." There are options to suit every person’s sense of humor with authors willing and able to provide respite from the weighty topics of many non-fiction books and use their wit and wisdom to cast the world in a more comedic hue.
When life feels a bit too gloomy, and laughing out loud is what the doctored ordered, reach for a library book with some humor, like one of the options below!
Part comedic memoir, part travel journal, this familiar story of a woman who, after a break-up, embarks on a solo road trip across the U.S., may feel trite or contrived in less funny, and capable hands. Instead, Jacobson creates an honest and relatable ride-along with plenty of self-reflection and laughs along the way.
With a healthy dose of nostalgia for the iconic computer game, this book gleans important life lessons on being an adult from the 8-bit world of The Oregon Trail. Complete with pixelated art work, quips like “It’s still fashionable to dress like a pioneer: you just have to put a bird on it.”, and plenty of pop culture references, this is a book for the generation who played this game growing up and “just can’t even” with adulting.
If you’ve never read a book by David Sedaris, start now with his newest collection of essays! Sedaris has both a keen observational eye to spot the absurdity in the everyday world around us, and a sharp writing style to accent the hilarity that comes with being human. Whether he’s describing ways he’s enslaved to his FitBit, his admittedly odd family gatherings, or the friendly fox who follows him on walks through the woods, there’s always something relatable, heartwarming, or laugh out loud funny to enjoy with every turn of the page.
How can topics like race, feminism, gender, and skin care be funny? Robinson has accomplished just that in this charming and poignant collection of essays. A mix of cultural criticism rolled together with hilarious experiences from her life, this book will not only make you laugh, but will lift you up and help you feel like there is hope for the world after all.
If you’re looking for a clean, family oriented observational comedy book, look no further! In the vein of Jim Gaffigan, stand-up comedian Tom Papa writes about the often ridiculous situations that accompany parenting and family life, and does so without making anyone blush.
With numerous book awards, best-selling comics, and multiple screenwriting credits under his belt, Neil Gaiman is one of the most widely recognized writers still living. You may be familiar with his Newbery-award winning THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, or the beloved STARDUST and CORALINE novels. Some may also be familiar with his SANDMAN comics or even his work with Terry Pratchett on GOOD OMENS.
But this prolific author has many wonderful works that often go unnoticed. Here are a few of Neil Gaiman’s hidden gems.
A fun parody of literary tropes and cliches, walk through this fairy tale with detailed “instructions” on how to get a happily ever after.
One of Gaiman’s oddest short stories, it combines the fantastical monsters of H.P. Lovecraft with the logical world of Sherlock Holmes. Solve the murder of a Victorian “gentleman” in a London ruled by something other than human.
I particularly recommend the audiobook version of this collection of myths. While Gaiman reads, he is able to add humor and personality into familiar heros (and villains), like Thor, Odin and Loki.
An often overlooked addition to Gaiman’s bibliography, this book introduces characters both from superhero comics and Gaiman’s own SANDMAN series. An interesting look at magic, fantasy and growing up. (And the art is great too.)
Unlike the others on this list, Neil Gaiman is mainly the curator (rather the author) of these short stories. They represent a wide range of fantasy authors, from new authors to classics, including (of course) one of Neil Gaiman’s own stories.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS took the world by storm this summer. It was the first movie from a major studio in 25 years to have an all Asian main cast. While just one in a long line of book-to-movie adaptations, Crazy Rich Asians has become popular mainly due to its portrayal of the lifestyles of the extremely rich and its depictions of family drama. The entire series is extremely addicting, so here are five other books that may fill that “crazy rich” hole in your heart.
The Plumb siblings have been watching the trust fund that their father left them soar in value. What was originally meant as a modest mid-life supplement has now become something that the siblings are counting on to solve multiple self-inflicted problems. When their trust fund is endangered, the siblings must come together to make sure the futures they’ve envisioned stay intact.
Stanley Huang has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For years he’s been telling his family that he’s worth a small fortune. Stanley’s son, daughter, and first and second wives are all interested in how much he’s worth for various reasons, and with this diagnosis, it looks the details of his estate are finally about to be revealed.
After spending some time in America, the Zhen family has moved back to China. As they settle into their luxurious apartment in Shanghai, they also join an elite community of Chinese-born, Western-educated professionals. Each member of the Zhen family struggles with aspects of their new life and what they’ve left behind.
The Wangs used to have it all, but then the financial crisis hit and they lost everything. The father, Charles Wang, wants to start over in China in an attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride. His family, however, are proving to be less than cooperative.
Brand-obsessed Jazzy is determined to find herself and her best girlfriends husbands by the end of the year. And not just any husbands, rich ang moh or Western expats. As she pursues her quest to find a white husband, Jazzy faces the troubling incongruity of new money and old-world attitudes as well as gender politics and class tensions.