Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870” as Want to Read:
A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  828 ratings  ·  239 reviews
A look at the world of early Mormon women whose seemingly ordinary lives belied an astonishingly revolutionary spirit, drive, and determination revealed through more than two dozen nineteenth-century diaries, letters, albums, minute-books, and quilts left by first-generation Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, the never-before-told story of the earliest days of the women of Mor ...more
Audio CD
Published January 10th 2017 by HighBridge Audio
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A House Full of Females, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Deborah "Some words travel a winding path to their meanings, causing language users confusion over what they actually mean. A word whose definition or usage i…more"Some words travel a winding path to their meanings, causing language users confusion over what they actually mean. A word whose definition or usage is so hotly contested that it never fails to draw attention to itself is called a skunked term. It may be that language users will resolve the problem over time, but until then, what's a writer to do? Today, the story behind fulsome and what to do with this stinky term." - Erin Brenner

I not sure what prompts your question. I read it because I have read other books by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and I liked them. I am also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I have polygamist ancestors.

I now have a better understanding of these early times in the church instead of just brushing the surface.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  828 ratings  ·  239 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women's Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, history
"Well-behaved women seldom make history"
- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


My wife and I named our only daughter Emmeline after Emmeline B. Wells, the 5th president of the Mormon Church's relief society. The reason we felt strongly about using that name was Emmeline B. Wells was both a strong Mormon, a writer, and an early feminist and suffragette. She advocated for a woman's right to vote and edited the Women's Exponent in 1872. She was also the 7th wife of Daniel H. Wells, a Mormon apostle and later mayo
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Not my favorite. It was horrifically sad, tragic and dismal. No doubt the research was extensive, but like most nonfiction books of this nature, it definitely had a slant. Omit this, spend 4 pages on that, barely mention this, yada yada, yada.

I know, it is just a pet peeve of mine....but I like my nonfiction the same way I like cheesecake. I prefer the whole thing and not just a slice....and that is what this felt like. It was just a slice of the story.

This also felt really long, probably beca
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, history
This is the kind of historical project I would dream of taking on: studying a large collection of journals of every-day people and weaving them together to tell a story about life in a certain society. I loved learning what Ulrich skillfully pieced together.

Utah's pioneer women were criticized and pitied for being victims of polygamy with its apparent patriarchal sublimation, but in truth they were some of the most independent and powerful women of their era. Yes, they did bow in obedience to t
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At last. A book on Mormon history that not only includes women, but focuses on women, treating them as complete subjects who led rich and varied lives full of loss, pain, and stalwart faith. I especially loved reading about the many accounts of women administering healing blessings to their fellow sisters. And how sick I felt reading about how Eliza R Snow's forgotten diary would have burned if someone had not pulled it from the burn box because it looked interesting. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich does ...more
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is about much more than polygamy and women's rights, although you'll learn much about those things here. A House Full of Females is a compulsively readable cultural history of the first forty years of the Latter-day Saint experience told from the ground up. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich expertly weaves together scraps from diaries, letters, and other day-to-day records created in ink, cloth, memory, and other materials—all of which are used to examine the development of Mormon theology and cu ...more
This is a book I will read again. It is full to the brim with my people. All the lines from which my father descended were these, many-wived men and one-husband-at-a-time-women. Their convictions were deep and their commitment to being a peculiar people even deeper. Until it wasn't. There are so many stories riddled through my family lines that have missing or turned facts, with wholly disingenuous outcomes that it was a relief to have the words of a real, live scholar on my specific people. Wha ...more
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, lds
Others can do a better job evaluating Ulrich's arguments, but I'll say that her book is invaluable in its reconstruction of Mormon women's lives between 1835 and 1870. What engaged me most was the staggering variety of these women's experiences and their adaptations to the vicissitudes of life, including remarriage, housework, and social organizations. ...more
Shaina Robbins
Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this less than I wanted to, but it was still an impressive and much needed work of history. A decent amount of scholarship has been done about the intersection between polygamy and women's rights between the late 1860s and the 1890s (a FASCINATING time in Mormon women's history), but there hasn't been much written about the lead-up to those years. Ulrich's work fills that gap. Unreasonably, I was a little disappointed that A House Full of Females didn't cover 1870 on, since it would be w ...more
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The most impressive part of this large book was the meticulous research and general gathering of artifacts- diaries, poems, letters, quilts, and daguerrotypes, that was required to produce such a detailed look into polygamy and early feminism within the Mormon church. I had the opportunity to attend a lecture and reading with Laurel and her enthusiasm and no-nonsense responses to difficult questions ("Do you really believe Joseph Smith saw Jesus Christ?") definitely influenced how much I enjoyed ...more
Morgan Taylor
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really appreciated this book. It was a deep social history which I haven't really read before, so it took me some time to get through. It was refreshing to read an early history of the women of the LDS church written by a historian who attempted to deliver unbiased facts the best she could. It was heartbreaking to realize what depth of struggle these women experienced. Growing up I heard the stories of physical hardship and sacrifice, but its sad to realize that there is a whole part of emotio ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a very scholarly work minutely detailing the lives of some of the Mormons who, due to religious persecution, left the eastern United States for Utah. After 387 pages of reading I am left with no clear idea of why people found Mormonism so appealing, leaving home family, friends and sometimes non-Mormon husbands behind. Also it was never made clear what Mormon women derived from plural marriage or, in view of the fact that Mormon women did not greatly outnumber Mormon men, what happened t ...more
Conor Hilton
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating history that focuses on the lived and day-to-day realities of women in early Mormonism. Women's voices are centered throughout the text as it draws from their journals and other writings to paint a picture that's less interested in the grand, sweeping shifts and movements and more defined by the every day lived experiences of people, especially women, in the early Church. The book is crammed with interesting details and anecdotes and well worth your time. Occasionally I lost sight ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A women’s history of the Mormons from 1835-70. Ulrich, a Harvard Mormon historian, masterly sorts through contemporary documents, journals, and materials to emphasize female voices during a period dominated by male authority and sources.

We cover so many interesting episodes. The foundation of the Relief Society was originally motivated to be a strictly humanitarian organization. Joseph repurposed it, making it a moral society, introducing priesthood ordination, and encouraging women laying on ha
This is primarily a narrative history of a central group of Mormons in the mid-19th century. It traces their trials and triumphs from joining the faith, creating communities in the Midwest, the migration westward, and settling in the Utah territory. It also provides travels across the world as some of the main characters set off on missions to England and Hong Kong, among other places.
Ulrich's "in" to the narrative is the lives and roles of women in these formative years of mormonism and mormon
Man, this was so impressive. I'm amazed by the sources and stories Ulrich found to pull from, given the difficulty of preserving and finding records/letters/diaries kept by average women. She does such a great job of helping us see what life was like for these pioneer women and how much they sacrificed and accomplished, often on their own (with husbands away on missions or spread between plural families). One thing that stood out to me was how often families lost babies and children to illness a ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I was a little disappointed in this book. I so admired Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale and looked forward to reading this one especially after watching an interview with her about it but have to disagree with her position about Mormon women's independence during the early years of the church. I think she is somewhat biased as a lifelong Mormon. While it is true that women throughout the country had little autonomy, the only reason Mormon women were able to have some leadership was because their husban ...more
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
This was an interesting read. Yes, it read like a history book, but I thought the author did a great job writing what occurred in the early history of the church without bias or sugar coating it. I learned some things, made some connections and had insights into some aspects of early church history that, at times, made me a little uncomfortable, but I'm Ok with that. I came away with a renewed reverence for those women! I admire their strength. I like a book that gets better and better the furth ...more
Lisa Butterworth
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This really is an excellent book, full of really solid research and tons of information, I just had the unfortunate circumstance of reading during the trump/kavaugh travesty, and so emotionally all this very good history landed on my heart as a great big "men are terrible and have been hurting us for always and I'm really sick of it and please make them stop, they're never gonna stop". And so, this book filled me with sadness and admiration for my very strong foremothers and anger and so many th ...more
This book was an in-depth look at the rise of plural marriage in the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a particular emphasis on the views of the women who practiced it. I wish I'd found the time to write a better review right after reading it. At the time, I wanted to think it over a bit before writing something, and then the holiday season overtook me and here it is nearly 2 months later and my memory fails me.

The significant take-away from this book, for me, was getting to
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Unless you are an independent scholar who likes to peruse primary sources in all your spare time, you will probably find something in this volume that you didn't know or consider before regarding plural marriage. Ulrich allows the reader to reach their own conclusion, if they can. Though it may not change your opinion of the practice or those who practiced it, this book will definitely add nuance to your understanding of them.
Some of the things I found most interesting were the facts about the s
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With a controversial title it was less “thrilling” in nature, yet better than expected for understanding the daily lives and thoughts of pioneer women. I found this to be a page turner and easy to read while summarizing 50 years of history and hundreds of journal entries. Cohesive and informative. It was perspective changing to read their journey west as we deal with “Covid-19.” I had greater insight and understanding of JS and BY and found myself rooting for the RS to return. Favorite part was ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A House Full of Females is a history exploring Mormon polygamy as it unfolded, written by one of our country's foremost historians. Laurel based the book on journals and letters of women (and some men), writings that were recorded as the marriage system developed, with the intent to understand people's true and immediate reactions to it. As a modern Mormon woman confronting a history of polygamy (as we all must), I am so glad Laurel wrote this book and glad I read it. It's uncomfortable history, ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-books
I was happy to find this book in an audio edition and learned a lot as I listened. I should just be grateful that a niche book like this made it to audio, but I found myself super annoyed at the incorrect pronunciation of most of the LDS jargon. It seems like as an audio reader/narrator of a book like this, getting those words right would be a priority. At best it diminished my enjoyment and at worst I couldn’t figure out the word she was saying.
Kristen L
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Staunchly 4 stars. A book full of intertwining histories and events many Mormons are familiar with but never quite told through this lens. Many of these events are interconnected and made Mormon and Church History more rich in my opinion. The practice of polygamy is always an eyebrow raiser and this was no exception. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich tells the story as objectively as possible and presents multiple views that laud the practice and those that walked away. For anybody curious about a woman's ...more
Ron Tenney
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a spellbinding account of the women that participated in the early growth and dissemination of the LDS Church. The trials and obstacles they faced were overwhelming. Their grit and determination were more than equal to the task.
Laural Thatcher Ulrich has honed her skills over years of recounting the great lives of ordinary people. I took pleasure in seeing a closeup view of the faith of my childhood.
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this history. I love the author’s voice and I love the incredible research that was put into this book. I always love when I can accurately see a different time period through an author’s words. Although it felt a little choppy in parts, the research was exhaustive and so welcome. I’ve always felt annoyed at the dominant narrative of the Church regarding polygamy & this book helped clarify the truth of what went on in the mid-1800s, how the women on both sides of polygamy fe ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I learned to love history books as a kid when I read historical fiction and wanted to know what was 'true' in those books. I've always been fascinated to hear stories of how people lived and this book is made up of women's stories from the beginning of the LDS church. I knew a little bit of the story from historical novels (dating back to one I still remember from 7th grade by Annabel & Edgar Johnston!). We are lucky that the journals of some of the women and men who lived through these times ar ...more
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a little hard to review, probably because I love Thatcher-Ulrich so much. It honestly wasn't quite as interesting as I hoped it would be. It seemed like a lot of the same thing over and over again. It was extremely thorough and very much a historian-written book, not in any way a faith-based book. I know a lot about Mormon history and there was a lot here I didn't know. I enjoyed the insights into prominent Mormon leaders. I felt like you could really see them as humans struggling with n ...more
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one I marked up like crazy with happy faces, frowny faces, angry scribbled notes, you name it! It is very comprehensive for the time period. I read a lot of Mormon history but I didn't know too much about those early years in Utah. I particularly enjoyed the stories of women in San Bernardino, CA and how they managed polygamy there as well. (Hint: Not so well.) A lot of the stories are from letters between men and women as the men served missions abroad. (I never knew LDS missionaries we ...more
Steven Peck
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I will never think about polygamy and the Mormon Church the same way. Hearing it from the voices of women who experienced it was was remarkable. Their stories told from journals and letters gave a sense of immediacy and heft to their accounts. I hope the history continues. I think historians will have a better sense of this book's import because it assumed knowledge of the church's historical framing that many times went beyond mine and I would have liked a better contextualization of how these ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier
  • Mormonism and White Supremacy: American Religion and the Problem of Racial Innocence
  • The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church
  • Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith
  • Boomers: The Men and Women Who Promised Freedom and Delivered Disaster
  • No Unhallowed Hand: 1846-1893 (Saints, #2)
  • The Stranger She Loved: A Mormon Doctor, His Beautiful Wife, and an Almost Perfect Murder
  • Watchman on the Tower: Ezra Taft Benson and the Making of the Mormon Right
  • The Blackbird Girls
  • Thaddeus Stevens: Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter for Racial Justice
  • The Hamilton-Burr Duel (Flashback Four #4)
  • Anna & Solomon
  • Brigham Young and the Expansion of the Mormon Faith
  • Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes
  • Our Subway Baby
  • Silent Souls Weeping: Depression—Sharing Stories, Finding Hope
  • Ok Boomer, Let's Talk: A Millennial Defense of Our Generation
  • Peace for a Palestinian
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University. She is the author of Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Early New England, 1650-1750 (1982) and A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (1990) which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1991 and became the basis of a PBS documentary. In The Age of Homespun ...more

Related Articles

  Historian Alexis Coe's new book, You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, arrived in U.S. bookstores in February. Coe...
152 likes · 31 comments
“We have some of the meanest spirits among us on earth. The net has halled in good and bad,” 0 likes
“In a signed affidavit, William Law affirmed that Hyrum Smith had read to him a revelation “so called” that authorized certain men to have more than one wife. Jane Law added her own statement, explaining that the purported revelation “set forth that those women who would not allow their husbands to have more wives than one should be under condemnation before God.” Their statements were powerful because they were simple, straightforward, and true.” 0 likes
More quotes…