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Before the Manifesto

The Life Writings of Mary Lois Walker Morris

Melissa Lambert Milewski

Publication Year: 2007

Mary Lois Walker Morris was a Mormon woman who challenged both American ideas about marriage and the U.S. legal system. Before the Manifesto provides a glimpse into her world as the polygamous wife of a prominent Salt Lake City businessman, during a time of great transition in Utah. This account of her life as a convert, milliner, active community member, mother, and wife begins in England, where her family joined the Mormon church, details her journey across the plains, and describes life in Utah in the 1880s. Her experiences were unusual as, following her first husband's deathbed request, she married his brother, as a plural wife, in the Old Testament tradition of levirate marriage.

Mary Morris's memoir frames her 1879 to 1887 diary with both reflections on earlier years and passages that parallel entries in the day book, giving readers a better understanding of how she retrospectively saw her life. The thoroughly annotated diary offers the daily experience of a woman who kept a largely self-sufficient household, had a wide social network, ran her own business, wrote poetry, and was intellectually curious. The years of "the Raid" (federal prosecution of polygamists) led Mary and Elias Morris to hide their marriage on "the underground," and her to perjury in court during Elias's trial for unlawful cohabitation. The book ends with Mary Lois's arrival at the Salt Lake Depot after three years in exile in Mexico with a polygamist colony.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. v


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pp. vi

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pp. vii-xiv

If not for the voluminous writings that Mary Lois Walker Morris left behind, she might only be remembered as a woman much like many others, but Mary Lois wrote detailed accounts of her life—a four-inch thick memoir, day books containing daily accounts of forty years, and an eighty-page book of poetry. ...

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pp. 1-50

After enduring a ship voyage from her native England to an unknown life in America, a long walk across the plains to Utah, the death of her first husband when she was only nineteen, and the loneliness of a plural marriage, Mary Lois Walker Morris may have thought that she had overcome the major challenges in her life. ...


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1835–1887 Sketch Of The Life Of Mary L. Morris

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pp. 53-201

In presenting these few collected thoughts, in the form of a sketch of my humble life as I have tried to live it, I do not claim for them any literary merit, or poetic fire:—but I do claim for them the dignity of truth and correct principles. ...


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1879 “Had a Host of Callers”

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pp. 204-240

1st Spent the day at home qiuetly. Cousin Wm. C. Morris called in the morning had a pleasnt chat. Albert Unger in the afternoon. the children went to a party held in the Court School house. In the evening Addie accompanied Mr. David [Joseph] Williams1 to a party in the Ward Hall. ...

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1880 “I Can Earn a Triful”

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pp. 241-288

Thursday 1st arose at seven W. mild sun shineing brightly. Attended Fast Meeting at ten a.m. a spirit of peace seemed to prevail through the day having remembered the Poor liberaly as a Ward. Spent the p.m. in reading, spent the evening very pleasantly reading for the Children. After they had retired conversed with ...

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1881 “Conclude to Trust in God”

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pp. 289-326

Saturday 1st arose at 7. more fresh snow thawing and snowing but very mild Did housework till 11.30 called on Sister Eccles who is still sick, and her Daughter Libbie [Elizabeth Eccles]. spent the afternoon very plasantly reading. Effie sent for Addie to come over at 4.30. She has gone to a party with Ed and his Sisters Lizzie and Emma. ...

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1882 “Felt Most Acutely My Baby Was Gone”

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pp. 327-357

Sunday 1st arose at 7. W. lovely spent the day at ohme. Addie attended S.S. and p.m and evening meetings. Apostles M.F. Lyman and J.H. Smith addressed our Ward meeting. received a newyears call from Cousins Wm C. and Diantha Morris also Miss Jones retired about 11 ...

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1883 “Arose from My Pillow to Behold a Great Fire”

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pp. 358-384

Monday 1st arose at 4. had a good time reading Deseret News and Exponant till 7. Did housework received calls from Cousin Wm C. Morris Mrs Baker Sister Souter Bro D Edwards and Bp Pollard. retired about 10.30. ...

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1884 “To Take Charge of the Primary Department of the Ward”

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pp. 385-419

Tue 1st arose at 7.30. W. cold and clear, attended to home affairs, my Soninlaw was our first caller. Then Cousin Wm C. Morris and his son Willy, also Mesrs George M. Cannon, and L.M. snow. Also Bp. Pollard who spent several hours with us. Addie takes her Father to a leapyear Ball this evening in the 14th Ward. ...

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1885 “My Husband Has Thought It Wisdom to Absent Himself”

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pp. 420-456

Thu 1st arose about 6.30. W. clear and cold, attended Fast meeting a.m. had a good time; Sky cloudy at 4 p.m. At 5. paid a visit to Prest A.M. Cannon. My Husband, his other Wife, my Daughters Effie and Addie my Soninlaw Georg M. Cannon were in attendence. Bro A.M. Sisters Mina Sarah and Aunt Sarah and ...

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1886 “Going South in the Morning”

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pp. 457-495

Fri 1st arose about 7. snow on the ground, day mostly clear, also cold; spent the day at home, attending to home affairs. My Nephew’s Wm C. and Richard P. Morris called this p.m. also my Neice Rebecca Jones. Spent the eve in reading the Evening News. retired about 10.

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1887 “Went to Court to Testify in Favor of My Husband”

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pp. 496-532

Sat 1st arose about 6.30 W. lovly like spring did homework most of the day. Recived an early call from Elias Morris and Peter Tibbs. My Nephew Wm C. Morris p.m. spent the eve in reading Nephi attends a party this eve. Our old friend and neighbour Dirk Bockholt died to day sudenly about 11. a.m. I feel thankful that I have ...


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1902–1905 Exile in Mexico

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pp. 534-574

About this time I was advised, if able, to go into exile with my daughter. This I was willing to do and would have gone to prison also, rather than betray my brethren or bear witness against them. I left home in a hurry as most people do when taking flight. It was on a Saturday and my little grand-daughter Effie ...


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pp. 575


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pp. 576-584

Biographical Register of Names

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pp. 585-628


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pp. 629-639

E-ISBN-13: 9780874215472
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216448

Publication Year: 2007