Mary Lois Walker Morris was a Mormon woman who challenged both
American ideas about marriage and the U.S. legal system. Before the
Manifesto provides a glimpse into her world as the polygamous wife
of a prominent Salt Lake City businessman, during a time of great
transition in Utah. This account of her life as a convert,
milliner, active community member, mother, and wife begins in
England, where her family joined the Mormon church, details her
journey across the plains, and describes life in Utah in the 1880s.
Her experiences were unusual as, following her first husband's
deathbed request, she married his brother, as a plural wife, in the
Old Testament tradition of levirate marriage.
Mary Morris's memoir frames her 1879 to 1887 diary with both
reflections on earlier years and passages that parallel entries in
the day book, giving readers a better understanding of how she
retrospectively saw her life. The thoroughly annotated diary offers
the daily experience of a woman who kept a largely self-sufficient
household, had a wide social network, ran her own business, wrote
poetry, and was intellectually curious. The years of "the Raid"
(federal prosecution of polygamists) led Mary and Elias Morris to
hide their marriage on "the underground," and her to perjury in
court during Elias's trial for unlawful cohabitation. The book ends
with Mary Lois's arrival at the Salt Lake Depot after three years
in exile in Mexico with a polygamist colony.
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