Claudia Bushman on the Pink Dialogue

30 Jul

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.


7 Responses to “Claudia Bushman on the Pink Dialogue”

  1. amanda5245 July 30, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    Thank you so much for contributing this. I’m a bit surprised by Bob Rees’ comments. A lot of feminist work has been done unpacking relationships in the home. I wonder what the response to the Pink Dialogue was among men in general. One of the things that bothers me about my graduate school experience is how little the men in my cohort attend the graduate workshops we have set up in our program when it is a women who is presenting. Although a few males came to my presentation last semester, there were quite a few presentations by my female colleagues in which there wasn’t a single man present. Likewise, the women’s history breakfast at SHEAR had few men present. On the one hand, the lack of men creates a space in which women can talk to and with each other. On the other, I wonder how engaged men are with the scholarship women write. I find it troubling that people can be in a graduate program and say things like “I don’t do gender.” I think I’m going to start saying things like “I don’t do slavery” and see what reaction I get.

    I also wonder about the church’s position on feminism today. When I am in Michigan, I get chided for not being feminist enough. When I am in Utah or Idaho, I get chided (not by everyone but enough to concern me) for being too radical and for buying into that gender stuff.

  2. symphonyofdissent July 30, 2010 at 2:08 pm #


    Thank you so much for your post. I am very interested in your thoughts on how things have changed in the church over the past forty years? Also, have you been able to see the member videos and profiles on I see the fact that they are highlighting working women rather than stay at home mothers a significant step. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that and on the progress (or lack thereof) women have made in 40 years.

  3. girly americanist July 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this and for being to willing to share your experience with the next generation of scholars. I’m a colleague of Amanda’s who works on religion and sexuality in early america and on a recent road trip she shared the Pink Issue with me. It is an impressive example of feminist culture and networking! I am always impressed by the ways women came together to create ‘zines, reading groups, and literature in the pre-internet age.

    Coming at this from more of a women’s studies perspective, it seems like Boston in the late 70- early 80s was a fruitful time for feminist groups of all kind. I’m wondering to what extent you were influenced by or interacted with other groups interested in feminist spirituality? Was there a kind of “sisterhood” across religious lines and a willingess to be open to LDS women at this time? At the same time I recognize the obvious need for LDS women to have a space to examine and recover their history.

  4. Interested Scholar July 31, 2010 at 3:19 am #


    Thank you for your insightful comments!

    Interested Scholar

  5. Claudia Bushman August 4, 2010 at 1:42 am #

    I am not surprised to see few men interested in women’s studies and women’s issues. The inferiority of women is deeply ingrained in the general culture and particularly in LDS culture. What women do is just not very interesting to them. Men in the time saw The Pink Issue as part of the preaching woman syndrome, remarkable that women could do such a thing at all.
    Have things changed in the last 40 years? Not much. Any one who has been through the orthodoxy wars knows that women depart from the proposed role at their peril. That doesn’t mean that they can’t of shouldn’t do it, but there is usually a price to be paid.


  1. Virtual Oases | - August 7, 2010

    […] Exponent II, guest edited an edition of Dialogue devoted to “women in dialogue.” You can read Claudia Bushman’s retrospective on the Scholaristas blog. If you’ve never read the Pink Issue, you can access it […]

  2. The Invisible Hands of History | Scholaristas - August 19, 2010

    […] lives in straight-forward, engaging, and distinctive voices. Reflecting on Claudia’s earlier post, it seems like perhaps such a collection of ordinary, honest accounts by LDS women is the best […]

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