Name: Kris Wright
Area of Speciality: I research and write about Mormon women’s history, particularly their participation in Mormon healing rituals as well as the material aspects of ritual life.
One of my favourite resources for learning about Mormon women’s history is a book entitled 4 Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier by Martha Sonntag Bradley and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward. It was published by Signature Books in 2000, and while it is sadly out of print, the entire text can be found at the publisher’s website, making it widely available. 4 Zinas is the matrilineal biography of four generations of Mormon women. It begins with Zina Baker Huntington who converted to Mormonism in New York in 1835, her daughter Zina D.H, Young who married both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and served as the church’s general Relief Society president. We are then introduced to Zina Diantha’s daughter with Brigham Young, Zina Young Card, who along with her husband, Charles Ora Card, participated in the founding of Cardston, Alberta and finally Zina Card Brown who was married to Apostle Hugh B. Brown. Although their husbands are perhaps more well-known names amongst Church members, their story should also be considered vital to understanding Mormon history. While this book tells the story of four women, it illuminates the sweep of Mormon history from the earliest converts through much of the 20th century. It sheds light on the milieu of early Mormons and their conversion experience, the difficulties of implementing polygamy during the Nauvoo period, Mormon migration and colonization, as well as suffrage and correlation. It is a compelling read, told vividly through the use of an extensive collection of family papers including letters, diaries and reminiscences, which allows readers to become intimately acquainted with these four women while remaining grounded in historical evidence.
Zina D.H. Young is one of my favourite actors on the stage of Mormon history – her story is both inspiring and challenging. She has been praised for her obedience and sacrifice, for her generosity and compassion, for her hard work and soft heart. The authors of 4 Zinas note that:
If Zina Diantha were to recount to her daughter stories of what it meant to be female in nineteenth-century Utah, she would tell about cooking and childbearing, menstruation and pregnancy, gods and heroes, angels and devils. She would tell stories about the land and the sky, of the trail west, of Illinois and Missouri—stories of snakes and spiders, horses and cows. Zina would tell her about dressing and undressing; about herself, her mother, and her sister; about grieving and laughing; about healing with herbs and faith; stories about who she was, where she came from, who she was supposed to be. Through the words she used and the images she spun, she would capture what life was and was not. But most of what she told would not be of the traditional history of great men. (Bradley, Martha Sonntag and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward, 4 Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier.Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2000, 485.)
Because I got to know these women, my youngest daughter is named Zina. Her name is a reminder of both the blessings and costs of a faith-based life. When I brought her to church as a newborn, so many members of my ward asked about her name, thinking it was so unusual and wondering where it came from. This struck me as a tragedy — that so many Latter-day Saints were completely unaware of the rich legacy of the name Zina within the LDS Church. I hope that one day, her name will be familiar to many church members. As we learn and tell their stories more frequently, we can better understand the importance of our Mormon foremothers.
** The Zina Card Brown Family Collection has been digitized and is available through the Church History Library Catalog