First Advisor

Nancy Porter

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in English




Mormon women -- United States -- Diaries, Frontier and pioneer life -- Utah, Frontier and pioneer life -- Arizona



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 109 p.)


This study discusses diaries by three Mormon women on America's southwestern frontier. These diaries cover a period stretching from 1880-1920. The study explores how these diarists (in a culture that was and remains highly communitarian and which valued, for women, the primary roles of helpmeet and mother), leave the imprint of individual as well as cooperative consciousness in private writings. As authors, diarists display remarkable persistence in maintaining and elaborating on a daily text. Since diaries are a type of private writing engaged in even by women who--because of education, social class, or life circumstances--do little other writing, women's diaries offer significant clues to women's writing strategies and goals. Most study of women's diaries positions these texts as footnotes to history or the literary canon. This study discusses the interplay between persona, tone and style, a diarist's life experience (pioneering, for example) and Mormon expectations for women. Consistently positioning women as helpers in building a millenial kingdom, Mormonism deemphasizes the very act which keeping diaries encourages them to begin: placing the self in a position of (literal) authority. In these diaries, the writers have been able to include or omit what they choose from daily narrative, signaling meaning through shifts in style or tone. As writers, these women function as authorities in their individual and communal lives. Three diaries form the core of this study. The Udall diary is taken from a published version edited by her granddaughter, Maria S. Ellsworth. The Chase diary comes from the University of Utah's archives, from among papers of the diarist's husband, George Ogden Chase. The Willis diary was edited from manuscript and donated for this study by Kim Brown, who supplied photocopies of both her typescript and the original Willis manuscript.


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