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A View Into Utah Polygamy - Ida Hunt Udall


John Corrill

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The following are excerpts from the biography of Ida Hunt Udall and give a glimpse into Utah Polygamy and it's difficulties (see end of post for reference). I was going to make some of my own comments, but I think they are self explanatory:

...Ida Hunt Udall, a devout Latter-day Saint and a socially gifted woman, who chose marriage as the plural wife of Mormon church leader David K. Udall and spent much of her married life away from her husband and his first wife, on farms and ranches in eastern Arizona

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The following are excerpts from the biography of Ida Hunt Udall and give a glimpse into Utah Polygamy and it's difficulties (see end of post for reference).  I was going to make some of my own comments, but I think they are self explanatory: 

...Ida Hunt Udall, a devout Latter-day Saint and a socially gifted woman, who chose marriage as the plural wife of Mormon church leader David K. Udall and spent much of her married life away from her husband and his first wife, on farms and ranches in eastern Arizona

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Nighthawke: ...the excerpts leave out anything positive therefore giving the wrong impression in many, many instances.

John Corrill: In the thread which spawned this one we have the following exchange:

USU78: You misconstrue the exception to be the rule...neglect rarely happened...

John Corrill: Hardly. Where do you come up with this stuff, USU78?. One does not have to look that deeply into polygamy - in any era - to find neglected wives and needy children. If we need to go into all the documentation on this, my evening is free and I will be happy to post references all night long about the neglect of wives and children in polygamy

Nighthawke:  I'm tired of you not posting any documentation John Corrill, I think it's time you brought something to the table.

It seems that the challenge thrown down by you and USU78 was to provide some additional documentation about the abuse and neglect heaped on the plural wives of the Deseret Era. What did you expect me to provide here? If Ida Udall's biography had not contained a copious amount of the typical abuse and neglect of early Utah plural wives, I would have had nothing to post and would have walked away with my tail between my legs. If this abuse and neglect were the exception, rather than the rule - as USU78 profers - I would have been foiled in my attempt. I didn't have to search the library, book after book, to find the exception. This was the first book I picked up and (*surprise*) it has all the usual, typical, hurtful events of the plural wife. How much documentation is enough before we conclude that polygamy was and is hurtful and abusive and neglectful to women????

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So . . . a XIXth Century plural wife is concerned about the lack of emotional intimacy in her marriage and the fact that her husband is often absent and undemonstrative in his affection when he is there.

USU "Smoke, but no heat here" 78

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John C. said: How much documentation is enough before we conclude that polygamy was and is hurtful and abusive and neglectful to women????

Couldn't the same question be asked about monogamy? Why limit it to polygamy, unless you are proceding from the a priori assumption that it is bad?

Perhaps you could address, John, what makes polygamy intrinsicly worse than monogamy when it comes to the participants involved.

-Allen

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Perhaps you could address, John, what makes polygamy intrinsicly worse than monogamy when it comes to the participants involved.

My point exactly, which our friend flat out refuses to address.

Willa Cather had a lot to say about the loneliness of monogamous women on the frontier. How are reports like the instant one different in any meaningful way from what she made a career out of reporting?

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Hi Allen,

I know you asked John but here ya go. :P

Perhaps you could address, John, what makes polygamy intrinsicly worse than monogamy when it comes to the participants involved.

1. In truly monogamous marriages a woman does not see her husband leave for weeks, months, or years so he can go off and sleep with other women.

2. Intrinsic to polygyny is inequality. A man can have multiple women, a woman must share one man. A man can make sure his needs/desires/wants (emotionally, sexually, physically, etc), are always met through multiple women, a woman must make do with whatever the husband gives her, which obviously is much less than a woman would receive if she wasn't sharing her husband with five or ten or twenty other women.

~dancer~

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What did you expect me to provide here?
Date of the marriage at the very least. I'd like to know the social context of what was going on around the marriage as well as what was going on within the marriage.

Are you claiming there is nothing positive to say about the relationships or polygamy within the entire book?

Because Ida was no longer any competition or threat to Ella, she was at last accepted by her. One of polygamy
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1. In truly monogamous marriages a woman does not see her husband leave for weeks, months, or years so he can go off and sleep with other women.

Is this intrinsic to polygyny? Do all polygynous relationships follow this pattern, or is this an assumption?

Dancer said: 2.  Intrinsic to polygyny is inequality.  A man can have multiple women, a woman must share one man. A man can make sure his needs/desires/wants (emotionally, sexually, physically, etc), are always met through multiple women, a woman must make do with whatever the husband gives her, which obviously is much less than a woman would receive if she wasn't sharing her husband with five or ten or twenty other women.

You assert that the inequality is due to quantity differences (one man gets many mates, while each woman gets only one mate), but then make the cognitive leap that this means that the man can be satisfied (or is more likely to be satisfied) whereas each woman is not. Can you show a causal link between the quantity distribution and the lack of satisfaction? If you can, then you might be on to something.

-Allen

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1. In truly monogamous marriages a woman does not see her husband leave for weeks, months, or years so he can go off and sleep with other women.

I guess we don't have a "truly monogamous" society then, at least according to my country-western radio channel. :P

-SlackTime

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Hi Allen...I

s this intrinsic to polygyny? Do all polygynous relationships follow this pattern, or is this an assumption?

Opps... I should have said, "A woman doesn't have to watch her husband go off for hours, days, weeks, months, years to sleep with other women."

And unless a man is only sleeping with one of his wives I think it is safe to say that yes, it is intrinsic to a man with many wives.

You assert that the inequality is due to quantity differences (one man gets many mates, while each woman gets only one mate), but then make the cognitive leap that this means that the man can be satisfied (or is more likely to be satisfied) whereas each woman is not. Can you show a causal link between the quantity distribution and the lack of satisfaction? If you can, then you might be on to something.

Lets first stick with the intrinsic difference of inequality (man gets many women, woman only gets one man). This, in and of itself, is a big difference between polygyny and monogamy no?

Your second point is valid. I do make the assumption that a marriage relationship is more satisfying (most healthy) for most people when there is interaction, communication, emotional connection, intimacy, expressions of care and love, shared experiences, signs of devotion, etc. etc.

So forget my assumption if it doesn't work for you. :P

~dancer~

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Hi Allen...
Is this intrinsic to polygyny? Do all polygynous relationships follow this pattern, or is this an assumption?

Opps... I should have said, "A woman doesn't have to watch her husband go off for hours, days, weeks, months, years to sleep with other women."

And unless a man is only sleeping with one of his wives I think it is safe to say that yes, it is intrinsic to a man with many wives.

OK. Perhaps I misunderstood your original statement. I asked for things which made polygamy intrinsicly worse than monogamy. You provided the above. I took that to mean that you thought the absense from the relationship (for hours, days, etc.) was what made it worse. I couldn't really understand that, since there are (of course) many monogamous marriages in which the spouses are apart for periods of time.

I now suspect that you really meant that the thing that makes polygamy worse is the reason for the absense--to be with another spouse. If I am truly understanding you now, I would need to disagree that this intrinsicly makes polygamy worse. Why? Because for those involved in such relationships, the reason for the separation is acceptable.

Let me give an example. In monogamy, it is acceptable for the husband to be gone from his spouse for various reasons. Perhaps he is gone for work, for family, or for some other reason. In that event, the wife is separated from the husband and (if the relationship is healthy) she misses him and he misses her.

In a polygamous relationship, the same sort of absences occur, with the notable exception that the husband could be visiting with another of his wives. In the polygamous relationship, this absense--for this reason--is no different than the husband in the monogamous relationship who may be gone for socially acceptable reasons. During the absense, the first wife misses the husband, and the husband (if the relationship is healthy) misses the first wife, even though he is with the second.

In any case, the reason for the separation is not something that makes the healthy polygamous relationship intrinsicly worse than a healthy monomgamous relationship, relative to the individuals involved in the relationship.

Dancer said: Lets first stick with the intrinsic difference of inequality (man gets many women, woman only gets one man).  This, in and of itself, is a big difference between polygyny and monogamy no?

I agree that it is a difference, but is it something that makes the polygamous relationship intrinsicly worse than a monogamous relationship, relative to the individuals involved? I still haven't seen any clear evidence that is the case.

Dancer said: Your second point is valid.  I do make the assumption that a marriage relationship is more satisfying (most healthy) for most people when there is interaction, communication, emotional connection, intimacy, expressions of care and love, shared experiences, signs of devotion, etc. etc.

I agree with you, one hundred percent. But you haven't shown that such interaction, communication, emotional connection, intimacy, expressions of care and love, shared experiences, signs of devotion, etc. are more likely in a monogamous relationship than they are in a polygamous one. The blending of multiple partners into a successful polygamous relationship would be difficult, but on the whole is probably no more difficult than the blending of two individuals into a successful monogamous relationship.

Please don't get me wrong; I am not trying to argue that polygamy is better than monogamy. I will, however, say that many of our feelings about polygamy and its supposed inferiority to monogamy are based on social conditioning rather than empirical evidence.

-Allen

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A couple of random yet salient interjections into this discussion:

1) When I was travelling for business purposes my wife was resentful of the lack of intimacy and time we had together (and so was I). There were no other women or marriages involved.

2) If the persecution of the Saints hadn't been so heavy regarding polygamy and the draconian laws passed against it, the men would have been much more free to visit, acknowledge and support their famillies.

To be certain polygamy has its own challenges, but none that are too far removed from the normal challenges of human intimacy and relations in our current culture.

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Hi Allen,

I now suspect that you really meant that the thing that makes polygamy worse is the reason for the absense--to be with another spouse.

Yes this is correct.

You bring up a good point. :P

INequality in a relationship is worse only if one values equaltiy.

Not spending time with one's husband is only worse if one values spending time with one's husband.

NOT having an emotionally bonded, intimate, exclusive, loving relationship is only worse if one values having an emotionally bonded, intimate, exclusive, loving relationship.

Having one's husband sleep with many women is worse only if one values the intimacy that comes with having an exclusive sexual relationship.

I suppose this speaks to the my belief that if a woman loves sharing her husband GREAT! (I'm being very serious). She would do well with a polygynous husband.

<_<

I think most would observe (and research proves) that the vast majority of women believe it is "worse" for a husband to sleep with multiple women, but your point remains there are those who disagree.

I think research also suggests relationships do best when there is an investment of time, energy, intimacy, exclusiveness, emotional bonding, shared experiences, etc. But again, there are certainly those who do NOT want such a relationship.

I guess we will agree that polygyny is only worse if a woman does not value that which is found in a monogamous relationship.

:unsure:

~dancer~

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I think most would observe (and research proves) that the vast majority of women believe it is "worse" for a husband to sleep with multiple women, but your point remains there are those who disagree.

I'm not sure that I would agree with the above, as you've stated it. Any such study (and I would love to see your citations) could only show that women in a monogamous society prefer monogamy. The social construct of all of this has to be understood and taken into account.

Also, I believe that even women in a polygamous society would view it as bad if their husbad were sleeping with women to whom he was not married. I don't believe that polygamous societies put any less importance on devotion, fidelity, and honor than monogamous societies.

Dancer said: I think research also suggests relationships do best when there is an investment of time, energy, intimacy, exclusiveness, emotional bonding, shared experiences, etc.  But again, there are certainly those who do NOT want such a relationship.

I agree, and I'm sure that most monogamists and polygamists would agree, as well.

Dancer said: I guess we will agree that polygyny is only worse if a woman does not value that which is found in a monogamous relationship.

No, I disagree with what you seem to be saying here. (You can correct me if I am wrong.) I believe that the good, wholesome relationship-fostering elements you cite can be found in both healthy monogamous relationships and healthy polygamous relationships. Can you provide any studies which show that those attributes are not found in both types of relationships?

What I have a problem with is folks holding up anecdotal evidence (like John C. did at the beginning of this thread) and saying "See, polygamy is worse than monogamy." The same tactic could be used with monogamy in general (finding anecdotal evidence of bad monogamous relationships--easy to do on TV every night) and using that to broadly brush monogamy as somehow "bad." Because of our supposed societal norms of monogamy, we easily say "well, that doesn't mean that all monogamous relationships are bad." We then inadvertantly apply a double standard by not doing the same thing with polygamous relationships.

Besides, if committed, monogamous relationships are so great, why do all "civilized" societies around the world seem to be abandoning them in favor of what amounts to serial polygamy? :P (Said with tongue planted firmly in cheek.)

-Allen

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Hi Allen,

Besides, if committed, monogamous relationships are so great, why do all "civilized" societies around the world seem to be abandoning them in favor of what amounts to serial polygamy?

More like serial monogamy with a few dalliances along the way. cool.gif This has been the norm for something like 7 million years actually. For men AND women.

Many are under the very false assumption that most of the world has embraced polygamy. This is incorrect.

The vast majority of humans the world over, while society may allowa man to take multiple women, have been monogamous.

Polygyny, with rare exceptions has been solely the privilege of the wealthy and powerful males... this is true historically and cross culturally. Polygyny is quite rare actually.

I think there are very clear reasons for this. Seems humans have evolved in ways that best provide for children, and allow for the advancement of our species in community and society.

:P

~dancer~

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the typical abuse and neglect of early Utah plural wives, I would have had nothing to post and would have walked away with my tail between my legs. If this abuse and neglect were the exception, rather than the rule - as USU78 profers - I would have been foiled in my attempt. I didn't have to search the library, book after book, to find the exception. This was the first book I picked up and (*surprise*) it has all the usual, typical, hurtful events of the plural wife. How much documentation is enough before we conclude that polygamy was and is hurtful and abusive and neglectful to women????

I'm missing the logic here. Because John happened upon finding one relationship where the people weren't doing very well, I can be sure that this was typical of all??

Well, a lot more documentation than that.

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Hi TOm....

OMG... a man who actually enjoys his wife and doesn't wish for other women.

YAY!

I think you are a first (or maybe second).

You get a golden star! <_<

~dancer~

Perhaps those of us who enjoy our wives and don't desire other women can do so because our wives are not suspicious and jealous? :P

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Opps... I should have said, "A woman doesn't have to watch her husband go off for hours, days, weeks, months, years to sleep with other women."

I have to say here, that if I was commanded to live polygamy, which is the only way I would. In my mind the polygamy would be a failure if I maintained separate houses for my wives. We would have to be one family, not a man with two families. As I see it all the benefits for the woman involve having additional help and companionship in the house.

Anyway, so if I was away from home, I'd be missing all of them.

-SlackTime

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Opps... I should have said, "A woman doesn't have to watch her husband go off for hours, days, weeks, months, years to sleep with other women."

I have to say here, that if I was commanded to live polygamy, which is the only way I would. In my mind the polygamy would be a failure if I maintained separate houses for my wives. We would have to be one family, not a man with two families. As I see it all the benefits for the woman involve having additional help and companionship in the house.

Anyway, so if I was away from home, I'd be missing all of them.

-SlackTime

Different folks did it in different ways. There was a polyg house on Main St. in Brigham where I mostly grew up where there were 2 identical wings with identical sleeping quarters and a central structure where the kitchen, parlor, and common rooms all were. My grandfather used to tell me that there were a lot of houses built like that back in the day.

My own paternal/paternal Great-Grandparents + "Aunt" lived in the same house (no separate wings) in College Ward (Cache Valley) before and after his getting rounded up and sent to Sugarhouse.

The ones where the wives would live in separate houses tended to be quite well-to-do. Few of the old neglectful patriarchal abusers could afford more than one house.

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Perhaps you could address, John, what makes polygamy intrinsicly worse than monogamy when it comes to the participants involved.

This would not only be a great question for John, but also one for the LDS Church itself.

They have obviously found polygamy intrinsicly worse than monogamy by excluding any reference to the polygamous wives of their prophets at this site:

http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/presidents/leaders.jsp

While monogamous marriages are highlighted as "Significant Events" in the lives of all past prophets (beginning with George Albert Smith jr.), polygamous marriages are not even mentioned.

If anyone could provide a more reasonable answer for the notable exclusion of these women, other than the Church's embarrassment and/or avoidance of this past practice, I would love to hear it.

Otherwise, I think John has a very good, logical and church validated position!!!

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Perhaps those of us who enjoy our wives and don't desire other women can do so because our wives are not suspicious and jealous?

So you are saying you don't want other women?

That makes two... You get a golden star too!! <_<

(I'm counting guys on the board NOT men I know in real life who do not go for the whole multiple women idea).

Or did I misunderstand you?

I'm not sure of the meaning of your post... are you suggesting the women who had to share their husbands were not enjoyed by their husbands because they were jealous and suspicious?

Hmmm...

That sounds sort of cruel but maybe I'm not understanding... (since you seem like a pretty nice guy)! :P

~dancer~

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Perhaps those of us who enjoy our wives and don't desire other women can do so because our wives are not suspicious and jealous?

So you are saying you don't want other women?

That makes two... You get a golden star too!! :unsure:

(I'm counting guys on the board NOT men I know in real life who do not go for the whole multiple women idea).

Or did I misunderstand you?

I'm not sure of the meaning of your post... are you suggesting the women who had to share their husbands were not enjoyed by their husbands because they were jealous and suspicious?

Hmmm...

That sounds sort of cruel but maybe I'm not understanding... (since you seem like a pretty nice guy)! :P

~dancer~

Sorry I was being petulent (sp?) because of your declaration that there were only a few men who loved their wives and didn't desire another. (I should have kept my sense of humor). <_<

I have honestly felt that I would be called to live the Principle some day- but I do not "desire" another woman (if that makes sense).

I think intimacy could be built with another family but it certainly wouldn't be easy, and I don't know how it could be done with the limited time and resources available to us in this life without a lot of compromise on the part of everyone. I also happen to be married to my best friend, and the romance is something we built on top of the friendship, so my ideal of marriage tends to be very pragmatic. (It doesn't keep me from enjoying a romantic relationship with my bride though.)

Paradox- Gotta love it!

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