Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Reviews: Pioneer Women and A Multicultural Portrait of the Move West.

These two books are both geared towards young people, most likely middle school age.  And they both do not have very positive things to say about Mormons.

The book "Pioneer Women: The lives of Women on the Frontier" Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith, University of Oklahoma Press, 1996, is the more balanced book with regards to Mormons, but it mostly focuses on the question of polygamy  It does present a fairly balanced story with one exception.  It starts a sentence, since a goodly percentage of Latter-day Saints had two or more wives..."  I think polygamy was the exception rather than the rule and only a minority of Latter-day Saint men had a second wife, and very few more than two.  It also presents an anti Mormon cartoon.  To the books credit is does label it this way.  It shows the several wives reacting to a Mormon bringing a new wife home.  Of course the new wife is younger than the other women.  In fact the current wives were part of the decision making process in marrying another wife.  The Priesthood was also a part of the decision making process, and permission from the Priesthood was a requirement for a polygamous marriage to be sanctioned by the Church.

To the book's credit, it does have some positive comments about Mormons.  One is in regards to suffrage for women.  Utah as a territory granted women the right to vote very early.  (After Wyoming the first territory to do so.)  This is downplayed as a way for Mormons to maintain power as non Mormon men were more likely single.

The second book, "A Multicultural Portrait of the Move West,"  Petra Press, Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1994, is pretty much a hit piece as far as the Mormons are concerned.  The author had a definite slant to her comments with regards to Native Americans and Mormons and often writes as fact things that were more rumor and unfounded accusations.  She writes of the Danites going up and down the state murdering people.  She does not provide any evidence to back this up.  She also says Mormons "challenged" the Constitution by practicing polygamy.

It is disparaging  that books such as this are promoted to young people, and that controversial statements are presented as fact, without any documentation.  So if someone wanted to red about different groups of pioneers, I would suggest the first book about Pioneer Women, and leave the other on the shelf and seek information elsewhere as it is not documented, and presents opinion as fact.

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