Sunday, November 25, 2007

Political Confession

Although I have no intention of voting for either Mitt Romney or Hilary Clinton, I have a confession to make. Sometimes I entertain the thought of supporting Romney, just to see what it would be like to have a Mormon president. And at times I am tempted to seriously consider Clinton, just to see what it would be like to have a woman president. And there are times when I daydream just a bit about a Mormon woman President of the United States.

One of my heroines is Mormon woman politician Martha Hughes Cannon. Her story fascinates and intrigues me. She is best known as being the first woman ever elected as a state senator in the United States on November 3, 1896. She ran as a Democrat, handily defeating her husband, Angus Cannon, the Republican candidate. (Did I mention she was his fourth polygamous wife?) You can read more about this fascinating woman here,and many other places on the web if you know how to use google. As I've learned about Martha and her life, I've pondered several questions:

  • How was Martha, a lifelong career woman and mother of three, able to gain political support from predominantly Mormon Salt Lake County residents?

  • Was the Church's position on careers for mothers less defined in the late 1800's than it now is?

  • What kind of relationship did Martha have with her husband after living in a polygamous marriage, living in exile in Europe for two years, and running against him as a member of a different political party?

  • Why aren't YW and RS manuals packed with stories from the lives of women like Martha, Ellis Shipp, and Minerva Teichert, women who combined successful family life with accomplishments of their own?

  • Within Mormon culture today, is there a possibility for a Mormon woman president? Do we provide enough encouragement to our young girls for them to believe that this is attainable and/or desirable?

Read the following quote by Martha Hughes Cannon:

"Somehow I know that women who stay home all the time have the most unpleasant homes there are. You give me a woman who thinks about something besides cook stoves and wash tubs and baby flannels, and I'll show you, nine times out of ten, a successful mother."

I identify with this quote because, even though I spent many years as a stay-at-home Mom, the best times were those times I had something to think about, something I was involved in beyond the home. These causes energized me so that I was able to be a better mother. When I had "something to think about" I did a better job at the cookstove and the baby nappies. I don't think a woman must have a paying job to find motivating interests. I also think there are many women who are quite different from me and Martha Cannon in that they can find satisfaction without competing commitments to their wife and mother role.

We are all very diverse, yet I continue to wonder: can we celebrate the accomplishments of LDS women today if they fall outside the umbrella of traditional wife and mother? Would you vote for a Mormon woman President?


Loyd said...

wow. so much i didn't know! thanks for the post

woundedhart said...

What a great post! I love that quote, and all your questions are so perfect. I've only been a home-mom for 6 years, but the entire time I've had to keep my sanity by picking up new hobbies, reading, and running. If I didn't have those things that are not kid-related, I would certainly have a break-down, and I would feel much less of a person, if that makes sense. So even though my activities fall under the category of "crafty" I still feel like they are beneficial to my family as a whole.

As to your presidential question, I would certainly vote for a Mormon woman, as long as she had the same political opinions as I do! I admit to being curious, as you are, what it would be like to have a Mormon president, but that's not enough of an incentive for me. :)

mraynes said...

I love that quote...I almost whipped it out in the Mother's Lounge yesterday when I was lectured for not staying home with my baby.

You ask some very interesting questions. I think Martha benefited from the polygamy era where it was more acceptable for some women to be politicians, doctors, etc. It seems that early Mormons had a much more flexible view on gender roles than we do today. I mourn that we don't speak of women like Martha Hughes Cannon or Minerva Teichert, I think it is such a disservice to the women of the church to try and shoehorn all of us into one prescribed role.

As for the possibility of a Mormon woman president, I think it's possible but not because of encouragement from the church. I would definitely vote for a Mormon woman even if our opinions didn't match completely. For a Mormon woman to succeed in politics she would have to be an out of the box thinker and we need more of those types in government.

Bookslinger said...

If you would vote for a Mormon,
and if you'd vote for a black person,
and if you'd vote for a woman, for president, then...

write in Gladys Knight! :-)

brooke said...

i think i'd be far more inclined to be active in the church if women like Martha were celebrated. it's a shame what the current culture does to women who don't fit the mold.

journeygal said...

I'd never heard of any of the women you mentioned in this post - it's so nice to read about them! Thanks for introducing us to them.