Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights

The story of the modern battle over the Equal Rights Amendment from its 1970 passage by Congress to its ultimate defeat in 1982 is an important one in the history of American women. Inextricably linked to this fight were Mormon members and leaders, who represented the mobilization of religious organizations against its passage. It can be argued that, next to Phyllis Schlafly’s Stop ERA movement, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exhibited the strongest voice to defeat ratification. In spite of the Church’s official stance against the amendment, a significant number of Mormon women supported ERA. Pedestals and Podiums is the story of Mormon women and leaders against ERA who confronted their pro-ERA Mormon sisters. In the telling, Bradley has explored some of the emotional, political, and religious damage during the ERA movement that still lingers close to the surface of Mormon society. Bradley has provided an important contribution to women’s history, political history, and the New Mormon History. This work is a riveting and well-researched volume that I recommend as a must-read for any student or professor interested in the history of Latter-day Saint women.

Although Bradley herself is an admitted feminist and ERA supporter, she has sought to tell this story with balance and fairness to both sides, especially in representing each camp’s realistic perceptions of the ERA. She suggests that proponents and resisters alike drew upon historical Mormon women as examples to support and justify their points of view, and thus “women on both sides of the battle over the ERA believed they were fighting for a better world for all women.” Still, the prolonged ratification effort highlighted opposing ideologies such that Mormon women found themselves divided. Pro-ERA women feared for the failure of women’s equality if the ERA was not passed, while those opposed feared that its ratification would lead to the destruction of stable families and traditional motherhood.

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