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John Simkin

Family Life

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I have just come across this passage from Fanny Stenhouse's book, A Lady's Life Among the Mormons (1872).

I thought it might be useful when studying the family.

Soon after my arrival in Salt Lake City, I visited a family where there were five wives, three of whom I met on my first visit. They were all three intelligent women; but it pained me very much to see the sorrow depicted on the face of the first wife. She appeared to me to be suffering intensely while I was there; for the last wife, who seemed to be a thoughtless, lively girl, was jesting with her husband, toying with his hair, and fussing with him in general, in a manner which I felt at the time was quite out of place, even had she been his only wife. Under the circumstances, it was to me terribly offensive; and I felt that, if I had been the first wife, I should have annihilated her, could I have done so.

My sympathies then were all with the first wife. In fact, they have been always so, to a very great extent. But I also feel deeply for young girls, who contract such marriages from a sincere conviction that they are doing what is right, and what will be most pleasing in the sight of God. Then there are women who ignore religion, and every thing else, in the matter; all they think about is getting the man they want. These women are devoid of principle, and invariably cause trouble.

My whole soul was drawn out toward the lady whom I have just mentioned, when I saw how deeply she was suffering. I felt as it I wanted to throw my arms around her and speak words of comfort, if one in misery could console another; and resolved to become better acquainted with her. I did so, and we became very friendly. She told me of her sorrows. She thought it was very wicked of her to feel as she did, but she could not help it; and she told me that when she saw her husband so happy with the other wives, it was then that she felt most miserable, and could not hide her feelings from him. At those times, he would "sulk" with her, coming in and out of the house for days together without noticing her, and showing more than ever his fondness for the other one. She said, "I bear it as long as I can, and then I beg of him not to treat me so, as I can not live without his love."

I asked her how she could continue to love him when he treated her so?

"Oh Mrs. Stenhouse!" she said, "when he treats me at all kindly, I am satisfied. When he smiles on me, I am only too happy. When I cease to love him, then I must be dead; and even then," she added, "I think I should love him still!"

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