President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “It is the obligation of every woman of this Church to get all the education she can. It will enlarge her life and increase her opportunities.” The charge—and its attendant promises—is exhilarating, but often daunting. Most women (and men) I know love learning, appreciate beauty, enjoy adventure and challenge, and have a curiosity about the world around them. The decision to pursue education, formally or informally, is generally an easy one. The challenge for most of us lies in deciding where to channel our efforts, interests, and talents. Read More
Like many of you, I was raised in a service-oriented community. Volunteering was not only part of being a good Mormon, it was just good manners. As I’ve grown older, gained more experience, and accumulated items on my to-do list, I’ve had to re-evaluate my philosophy on volunteering. The tricky part is knowing when the time, talents, skills, and know-how you’ve nobly consecrated deserve to be compensated.
If you look at my résumé, you’ll see that my “volunteer work” section almost outperforms my “employment” section. My desire to give back and participate in good causes has always been and always will be inherent, but my reasons for donating my time vary. Sometimes I volunteer because I truly love an organization or a cause and want to make a significant contribution; sometimes I volunteer because I see a great opportunity to grow and develop new skills; sometimes I volunteer simply because I am needed and it’s convenient (if I already manage one Facebook page for an arts org, I might as well manage four).
I’ve volunteered for galleries, art events, museums, magazines, radio stations, and other organizations at one time or another on a fairly regular basis. We won’t even talk about Church callings on top of that. My contributions have ranged from graphic design and layout to writing and editing to marketing, social media, event planning, development, programming—the list goes on and on. All of these experiences have enriched my life, introduced me to wonderful people, enhanced my skills, provided me with valuable experience, and even elevated my standing with my current employer. For these reasons, I still consider each opportunity a blessing, but I’ll admit there were times when I’d come to the office, sit down at my desk, and think: “I do not have time to be here today.”
It wasn’t until a couple years ago I began saying no. The first organization I said no to was a local radio station. I had become a regular cohost for them during their fund drives. I enjoyed it, so I didn’t mind taking an afternoon off two or three times a year to drive down to their studio and talk to listeners on air about the importance of classical music and public programming. I received an email from their radio services manager asking if I would be interested in hosting a new program they were launching. It sounded like a fun opportunity – something that would be a challenge and provide new experiences. The station would need me once or twice a month on Tuesday evenings, but at the time, my weekly schedule was packed with Church responsibilities, rehearsals, social obligations, etc. He approached me because he knew I could handle myself on air and he thought I had a good personality for radio. As much as I wanted to say yes, I had to make a choice. Could I afford to add one more uncompensated responsibility to my schedule? So I asked if it was a paying gig. The answer was no, so my answer had to be no.
I felt oddly good about it. I had been in the workforce and advanced regularly for ten years. I’d spent years developing valuable skills and I finally realized my time was valuable—and worth paying for. I’d already put in my volunteer hours—my résumé was good. I no longer needed to politely accept every request for help. This spurred a courageous spirit in me that was able to turn down a local magazine when they, after reading several articles I had written for an arts e-zine, asked me to write for them as a regular visual arts blogger. I asked if I would be compensated for my writing. The answer was no. I politely declined and suggested other people I knew who might be willing to write for them as a résumé builder.
This is when getting paid for what I had been doing for free began to fall into place. When an editor I had volunteered for heard I turned down the magazine blogging offer, he offered to pay for my services, including the blog writing, as long as my byline identified me as a contributor from his publication. His publication got some visibility on a popular blog, the magazine got a free writer, and I got one more publication to include on my résumé. I’m now paid to manage the publication’s social media, marketing, and music writing staff. It’s not much, but it’s something. A chamber music group also approached me with a proposal that included compensating me for the work I do for them. Getting paid for enjoyable work I used to do for free became a reality.
Are there still times I come to my office wishing I could just go home and take care of the other things building up on my to-do list? Yes. But balancing these things has become easier.
If you are trying to enter the workforce and having a difficult time finding a job that will pay you for what you love, I highly recommend volunteering. If you are bored with your paying job but stay there because it pays the bills, I highly recommend doing what you wish you were doing as a volunteer. If you have time, ambition, and organizational skills, your contributions will become an asset, and if you play your cards right you might eventually find yourself with a salary. I still don’t get paid for everything I do, but I don’t expect that to happen. The important thing is to know what you’re willing to dedicate your time to. If it’s something that fulfills you and brings you joy, volunteering is perfectly fine. We can’t turn all our passions into payments, but we can find a balance.
Laura Durham is a Utah native with a B.A. in Art History from Brigham Young University. She has worked for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums for the past eleven years in the visual arts program managing the Rio Gallery and coordinating traveling exhibits. She served as Vice President of the Salt Lake Gallery Association from 2003 – 2006 and as Program Director for the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll from 2005 – 2010. She’s assistant editor of 15 Bytes (Utah’s Arts Magazine) as well as managing music editor. She sings with a professional chamber choir, Utah Chamber Artists, and assists with their operations and marketing.
Image Credit: “Family Group Reading,” Mary Cassatt, 1901.
A few years back, I was having one of those deep and meaningful life discussions with my husband. He asked me, “How has our marriage been for you? Is it what you thought it would be?”
I responded truthfully, “It’s been wonderful but…I thought there would be more Dickens by the fire.”
Quite truthfully, I thought there would be more Dickens in general. More Faust and Hemingway and Tolstoy, that I would live a gracious, well-plotted, literary life. For certain there would be scads of kids, but they were part of the vision. Each evening my brilliant, beautiful, well-mannered children would gather under my arm for bedtime stories. We would discuss grand idea about the universe and my intellectual thirst would be quenched.
And when we weren’t picnicking in the strawberries fields in white dresses and straw bonnets, I would certainly, most certainly be sitting at my scroll-top desk absorbed in Big Thoughts and beautiful sentences.
Clearly I was born in the wrong century.
And clearly the “Little Women” view of my future was a bit starry-eyed.
That being said, here is what has come true: I read to my children religiously. We listen to classical books on tape. My boys can recite, from memory, half-a-dozen poems, including the lengthy “If” by Rudyard Kipling. We are working our way through Shakespeare. If it sounds too good to be true, know this: poetry happens while jumping on the trampoline or spilling milk at the breakfast table. We shout “O Captain, My Captain!” because it’s better than fist fights in the back of the van. The out-loud reading happens under the cloak of dusk, but it is often on a floor strewn with Legos while children hang upside down from their bunk beds. All I can hope as a mother is that all that good stuff is somehow seeping into the cracks of brain matter between Minecraft and Star Wars.
I am, as Kipling says, trying to “meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.”
What hasn’t happened, the part I can’t seem to get a handle on, is how to create the thoughtful, intellectual life for myself as a mother. I have tried for more than a decade to keep a toe-hold on scholarship, but find it an almost insurmountable task.
I don’t scrapbook. I don’t make jewelry or “Pin.” I don’t sew pillows or decorate my house in banners and cute colors. I have remarkable friends who do those things. Their homes are like works of art. I am astounded by their talents, but those aren’t my talents. My talent is to read tedious literature by deceased writers and find it absolutely fascinating. Where is my board to pin that?
Where is the venue for the intellectual mother? I imagine the settings in certain urban and collegiate areas are quite different, but here in middle America, moms at the park aren’t discussing global events or literature. They’re discussing their kids and clothing sales and the PTA.
For a while I stuck with book clubs, hoping that it might satisfy my intellectual thirst, until I conceded the fact that most books clubs, though well-intentioned, are simply thinly veiled excuses to gather with other women and gossip. The books were nice. They were even interesting! But any sort of thoughtful discussion got in the way of the real purpose for meeting.
Years ago, when my husband was in grad school and I had a house filled with infants and toddlers, I wrote a piece titled “I Miss My Brain.” Back then the internet was still coming to life, and blogs were in their infancy.
I like to think there is, now more than ever, hope for the intellectual mother. I appreciate venues like this one and the Mormon Women Project, where women gather to exchange ideas. Online education, Pathways, and free services like Coursera and Udacity give women more opportunities to keep alive the part of the brain that seems to stagnate for years.
The biggest challenge is time, finding and dedicating the time to meaningful study. Here’s what works for me, especially as my children get older: I am ever an early riser, and the days when I begin my morning with reading or study of any kind, well, that is a good day. I use naptime for writing or study, as well as a chunk of hours after dinner. I pull from classic literature to enhance my education. I remain an optimist about the 20 books on my bedside table. I listen to podcasts while I do yard work or fold laundry. I seek out wonderful friends who don’t mind jogging five miles while also thinking big thoughts. I learn alongside my children in their music study and academics, and find that to be more meaningful than I ever imagined.
It may not be Dickens by the fire, but it works for me.
I would love to know from you: What have you done to stay engaged in your profession or in intellectual pursuits? How do you balance family life with the life of the mind?
Some conversations stick with you. And not in the delightful way that great food sticks to your ribs. More like superglue that irritates your skin and is impossible to remove.
Five years ago I was struggling with all the things a young mother wrestles with. The demands of my three young sons seemed never ending, and I remembered the days, just a few years before, when I taught full time. I had loved my job and was really, really good at it. Praise from students, colleagues, parents, and my principal was generous and frequent. While I loved my babies, I felt my talent and passion languish, and my heart was continually torn and guilty. For so many friends, the answer to this dissatisfaction was to have another baby, but it was clear to me that another baby was the last thing I needed.
It was in this state of mind that the aforementioned sticky conversation took place. I struggled to share my feelings with a sister-friend from church, hoping for some flicker of understanding. I explained to her about my deep desire to have some kind of professional work that brought me joy. My friend shrugged and said, “I guess you’ll just have to find a new passion.”
Find a new passion.
Just like that?
How does that even work?
It seemed to me that it would be easier to cut off my right hand than to not teach again.
Other voices told me the same. You can’t possibly consider going back to work full time before your kids are out of the house. You’ve got to keep having babies until the girl comes. You can’t. You’ve got to. The voices were so loud that my own inner voice went silent, and I limped along, uninspired, trying to run faster than I had strength
Not long after that superglue conversation, something happened that provided me with the only insight I could hang on to for many years. Another friend wrote on her blog about her music students and the lovely art she’d been able to hang in her home and sell. She spoke with deep satisfaction about the difficult pieces she’d been asked to play and sing in church settings and other places. As I heard the joy come through in her essay, I had an a-ha moment: Why should our cultural mores tell me that I needed to give up my passion? Because it was a paid profession? The idea that somebody would say to my friend, “Sorry! No more music! You are a mother now!” is totally ludicrous. Why should it be any different for my own gift? A gift I know comes from the Great Gift Giver Himself.
I’ve hung on to that idea for many years now. I’ve struggled to be content with teaching at church, or passing off merit badges with Boy Scouts, or tutoring, or teaching my children. Through all of it, I have known that my real passion is in the science classroom. And I have tried to patiently wait for that road to open up again.
Two-and-a-half years ago I stood on the cusp of a huge decision. Was I really going to have that fourth baby that seemed so important in validating my membership in the Church? Cheerfully shoulder that diaper bag one more time just to shut up the library lady who shouted down the hallway at least monthly that it was time to have another one? I prayed. And then prayed more. I went to the temple and sought peace about any path forward.
It was then that the answer came, as prosy as can be, to my yearning heart: a webpage explaining the virtues of an online master’s program in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences. All the clarity I’d been seeking burst forth like a ray of sun. I started earning my master’s degree. Despite the myriad difficulties that have come with that decision, I’ve never doubted the original inspiration to go in that direction. My classes have filled me with ideas and happiness and ambition that I haven’t known for years. My degree is about how to modernize a classroom, how to make learning relevant for the children of this generation, and the best teaching practices consistent with current research. I’ve been able to think deeply about how children learn best and have applied much of what I know with students. My studies have given a depth to my natural abilities that is unexpected and delightful.
Sometimes dinner isn’t made. Sometimes I hit the wall. Sometimes the laundry piles up and the floor isn’t vacuumed. But it doesn’t matter, because this momma is following her passion, and I know that I’ve been led to do it. Mothering, it turns out, wasn’t the end of me; it was just one part of me.
Image credit: Zen
Front row: Jane S. Richards, left, Emmeline Wells. Middle row: Phoebe Woodruff, Isabelle Horne, Eliza R. Snow, Zina Young, Marinda Hyde. Back row: Dr. Ellis R. Shipp, Bathsheba W. Smith, Elizabeth Howard, Dr. Romania Pratt Penrose. (Utah State Historical Society)
During the infancy of the LDS Church, female members advocated for themselves and other American women with vigor. They were proponents of women’s education, equal pay, and women’s right to vote.
Emmeline Wells, Eliza R. Snow, Emily S. Richards, the staff of the The Women’s Exponent, along with many other women, declared their right to vote again and again, making great strides for the state as well as for the Church and its members. Politically, their fervent involvement began the process of gaining equal rights for women. Women’s suffrage gave the general Church membership a much needed increase in political power. Perhaps its most significant contribution was giving its female members a political voice and providing an example for future generations of women to follow.
In 1870, in an effort led by Mormon women and supported by President Brigham Young,2 Utah became the second state (though it was a territory at the time) to recognize women’s right to vote, making them among the first women to vote in a national election.1 How I wish I could have been alive for the first vote cast by a woman in Utah!
That right was tragically revoked by the United States Congress in 1887 as a provision of the Edmunds-Tucker anti-polygamy act, which defined polygamy as a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a $500 fine.3
Seven years passed before women were allowed to vote in Utah again. During that time, Utahans continued fighting to restore that right. Utah delegates voted for the inclusion of women’s suffrage in the Utah Constitution,4 effectively granting suffrage. Almost 25 years later, the United States would ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women across the nation the right to vote in all elections. I imagine women in Utah experienced the greatest elation that women across the nation would now join them in voting locally, in addition to being able to vote in the national elections.
I am inspired by the editorials women (and happily, men) of the time wrote advocating women’s rights. The suffrage movement, like many other movements, was not just about the outcome. Hearing or reading the discourse fostered by these movements gave society and each individual within it a chance to consider new views and grow.
Eliza R. Snow, in the July 15, 1872 issue of The Women’s Exponent wrote an article entitled “Women’s Status” regarding the necessity for the government to extend the right to vote to women. She began her argument stating, “The status of women is one of the questions of the day. Socially and politically it forces itself upon the attention of the world.” I would argue that the finer points of the status of women remain among the questions of 2013.
“[A woman] must be preserved from the slightest blast of trouble, petted, carressed [sic], dressed to attract attention, taught accomplishments that minister to man’s gratification; in other words, she must be treated as a glittering and fragile toy, a thing without brains or soul, placed on a tinselled and unsubstantial pedestal by man, as her worshipper. This elevation of status is by courtesy, not by right. Let one of those idols choose to step beyond the bounds which society prescribes, and she is hurled from her position, and flung in the mire of social degradation. What legal rights can she fall back upon? What power has she to work her own restoration? In some of the States of the Union she can acquire and control property, and this is a great step in advance. Yet she is far from possessing the power to rise above untoward circumstances that she would possess, if she enjoyed political rights and influences.5”
Though she was addressing issues of her time – like a woman’s right to own land – her argument for treating women as people, equal under the law, and in the view of the Church, with Celestial potential and a divine inheritance, is still needed, even today. We have certainly made great strides, but there are many who still treat women like “a glittering and fragile toy,” including members of our own sex. But the right to vote and equality before the law gives us a voice and a catalyst for change.
One question naturally arises out of this discussion about women’s suffrage and rights: What am I doing with my vote and my voice?
I hope I am advocating for women and their right to choose a life for themselves that reflects their own ideals, and is full of equal opportunity. I hope I am encouraging women to become educated, so that they can navigate their way through the rhetoric of elections and choose a leader they think will best represent their values. I hope that I am looking for opportunities to challenge my view – even if the alternative makes me sad or angry – and looking for solutions for myself and other women. But most of all, I hope I recognize women’s basic right that was denied before suffrage: To be treated as people with a divine inheritance, who have a right to challenge authority (including whatever authority I feel I have) when it refuses to acknowledge their needs. Because if I can do that, I can make a difference.
Timeline of Utah Women’s Suffrage:
1870: The Utah territory extends women the right to vote
1880’s: Utah’s industrialization. In 1880, Utah’s census stood at 143,963
December 11, 1883: Congressional Representative John T. Caine presents a bill that would make Utah a state. It fails to pass committee.
March 3, 1887: The Edmunds-Tucker anti-polygamy act becomes law, abolishing Utah’s women’s right to vote, among other blows to the territory.
Jan. 10, 1889: Utah chapter of the National Woman Suffrage Association created
October 6, 1890: The church, bankrupt, its lands seized and many members jailed, signs a manifesto written by Wilford Woodruff that ends the practice of polygamy.
May 13, 1895: A three-day conference of the NWSA ends with Susan B. Anthony presiding
1895: Utah’s constitutional convention questioning the inclusion of women’s right to vote leads to a petition of 24,801 for it.
April 18, 1895: Delegates vote for the inclusion of women’s suffrage in the Utah constitution, allowing them to vote in local and state elections.
Jan. 4, 1896: Utah declares its statehood.
August 26, 1920: The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, granting women the right to vote.
1Haddock, Marc. “Utah women voted earlier than most in U.S..” Deseret News, February 8, 2010. Accessed July 1, 2013. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700008024/Utah-women-voted-earlier-than-most-in-US.html?pg=all
2Women of the West Museum, “Utah: Women in Church, Marriage, and Politics.” Accessed July 1, 2013.
3Schindler, Harold. “Federal Vengeance Finally Wears Down Mormon Doctrine Polygamy: Feds Attack LDS Doctrine.” Salt Lake Tribune, October 15, 1995. Accessed July 1, 2013.
4Utah Division of Archives and Records Service. “Utah Constitution.” Accessed July 1, 2013. http://images.archives.utah.gov/cdm/singleitem/collection/3214/id/9
5Snow, Eliza R. “Woman’s Status.” The Women’s Exponent, July 15, 1872. Accessed July 1, 2013.
There’s a lot of pioneering left to do, ladies. So happy Pioneer Day to us all!
Tell us a little about yourself and about your job.
My name is Denise Evans Ward, DNP, ACNP, FNP. I am a mother, wife, and flight nurse. I have been a nurse for twenty-seven years and a flight nurse for eighteen years. I am too old to give my age, but you can guess by my years of experience that I am definitely not at the beginning of my career.
When I started college, I first considered majoring in music, then history and eventually health science. I never considered a career in the medical field until I was married. At that time, I thought it would be a good “part-time” job to have while I was raising my family. This was over thirty years ago and Mormon women were pressured to be full-time, stay-at-home mothers. My son was born while I was in my first year of nursing school. When my son was five months old, my husband was killed in an industrial accident. I was suddenly a widow and a single a mom. My “choice” to go to school now became a necessity. I took the small amount of money I received from my husband’s insurance policy and invested the money into my education. This was the best investment I ever made because it not only gave me a career, but also guaranteed a stable future for my son.
As a flight nurse, I provide medical care for the critical patient during transport. Basically, the helicopter becomes a portable ICU.
My mother is a feminist. She’s a mid-century, never-employed, stay-at-home… feminist. Her own mother had a career, but Mom stayed at home because she chose to, because that interested her, because she felt called to be there. She always taught me that I could do anything I wanted to do, including (but not limited to) motherhood. During my formative years, she told me many times that she didn’t need my father – that she wanted and chose him, but that she didn’t need him. This in no way lessened my respect for my dad; rather, it increased my respect for my mother. I saw her choices as deliberate and, therefore, valid. True feminism, she instructed, isn’t anti-men, but pro-people – and women are people, too.
In the middle of my eighth grade year, it was time for New Beginnings – that always heartfelt, sometimes corny Sunday evening event that ushers in another year in the Young Women program. Young Women had begun painfully for me two years previously, and would end painfully four years later – I didn’t fit in. I never did exactly identify the problem, but I think it had something to do with my desire to avoid cheerleaders and druggies alike, those, unfortunately, being the two prominent demographics in my Mutual group. I had my sights set on something else, something as yet undefined but not at all indistinct. I had few local role models in the generation preceding me, but I clung to them emotionally with all I had; I was wholly determined to never slot into anyone else’s preconceived notions.
So, at New Beginnings, it came as no surprise that the Stake Young Women president spoke about who we young women could become. I listened eagerly, fully expecting to receive an inspiring message about our limitless divine potential. But that wasn’t the message she wanted us to hear. She told us that we should “get an education” – which she defined as graduating from high school – and this was, she assured us, because life can be challenging, what with husbands dying unexpectedly and all. I was disappointed with the low-level banality of this message but, thinking it absurd as 14 year-olds are wont to do, didn’t internalize it.
What I did internalize is this: the victorious addendum. I could feel my mother squirming in her seat. She fidgeted and fiddled for what seemed like a long while, and then: she stood up. In the middle of the meeting. Without being asked. And this is what she said: “I think we should encourage our daughters to get an education – a real one, one that will enable them to make a life for themselves – not because their husbands might die, as if their own potential is a back-up plan, but because their Heavenly Father gave them brains, and He expects them to use them.” And then she sat down.
I truly have no recollection of what was said or done in New Beginnings after that. I was (being fourteen) embarrassed that my mother had spoken out of turn – at church, no less. But I was proud, too, that my mom had the courage to break with tradition for the greater good of leading her daughter – all the daughters there that night – into herself, not the culturally pre-defined self, but the true self, whoever she was, that God intended her to be.
Mom and I do not always agree; our relationship hasn’t always been easy. But one thing I know with certainty is that my mother, a woman whose career path may seem stunted and unfulfilling to some, is as courageous and forward-thinking as anyone who marched on Washington. She didn’t need battles fought for her, but she was willing to fight them for her daughter. Due in part to her example, I’m a working mother. I fulfill both roles with joy, making my own life on my own terms. Life without one or the other kind of work – at home or at the office – is unimaginable to me. And primary in both pursuits is my faith that God has given me a brain and expects me to use it.
I hope my daughters are watching.
Art credit: Mother and Child Taking a Walk | Victor Vignon, unknown date
I would like to write specifically about some pressing economic trends that have led me to think deeply about the importance of supporting my daughters in their educational and future professional goals. My concern is colored heavily by my professional life as a professor who specializes in studying the changing nature of work, human resource management practices, and the labor market. While I hope to write some more in-depth articles that explore important changes in the economy and world of work as they relate to the choices facing LDS families and women, today I want to share in broad strokes three basic facts about the modern US labor market that all women and their families should know. The reality is that young LDS women and families face a very different economic environment than that experienced by their parents and grandparents – and they need to be prepared for it. Read More