We’re pleased to have Professor Claudia Bushman’s reflection on the pink issue of Dialogue, for which she wrote the introduction and served as guest editor. In “Women in Dialogue: An Introduction,” Professor Bushman describes the gathering of the coterie of Boston-area Mormon women who met with some regularity to discuss feminist issues. These women considered the dominant model of womanhood in the LDS church and examined its scriptural and historical origins. As a result, they “argue . . . for acceptance of the diversity that already exists in the life styles of Mormon women” (8). Poignantly Professor Bushman queries, “Does it undercut the celestial dream to admit that there are occasional Japanese beetles in the roses covering our cottages?” (6). The group’s questioning reveals the need to understand the complexity of the Mormon woman’s heritage (see 7). With each generation, Mormon women continue to confront this complexity and struggle for women’s liberation anew. Please welcome Professor Bushman.
Elizabeth invited me to say a thing or two, which I am happy to do.
The Pink Issue is forty years old! That’s two generations. That’s considerably longer than I was old when I worked on it.
I’ve told this story many times over the years, and I will begin with the most important lesson from the whole business. WRITE! It’s the best way for powerless people with no money to make a difference. With something written, and it helps to be published, too, a document will be reinterpreted over and over in the coming years.
I should have written an article for the Pink Issue, but I couldn’t face it. I had nothing to say. I was no writer. I had already written an M.A. thesis but that had been extracted word by painful word from my unwilling mind. Getting out an introduction to the Pink Issue was all I could do–aside from endless correspondence, negotiating, and editing.
The Pink Issue came to be because the cell meetings of our little LDS feminist group were contentious. I thought that we might get on better if we had a project that was of mutual interest. So when Gene England, Dialogue’s editor, was visiting us once, I asked him if he would entrust an issue to our group of women. He agreed without a delay, without a condition. He was a great encourager. Our group worked together on the project and cemented a lifelong friendship and cooperation.
I was interested to see Amanda finding continuing issues for Mormon women in the Pink Issue. By the time we turned in the material, Gene had retired, to be replaced by Robert Rees. Bob did not like our articles, which he considered provincial, too limited, too housewifey. The real LDS female issues, he informed us, were patriarchy and polygamy. Well, they weren’t our issues, and I was shocked and stung to have our issues, our pain and anguish, so cavalierly dismissed. Still, his comments sent us on a search for past women of our tradition and we did discover and write about a heritage that most Mormons still don’t know anything about.