In 1983, the relatively new Utah Women’s History Association met in the Salt Lake City Public Library and proposed that a volume on the history of Utah’s women be written. In 2005 that goal finally came to fruition when two members of that organization, Patricia Lyn Scott, a section manager at the Utah State Archives, and Linda Thatcher, the Historic Collections Coordinator for the Utah State Historical Society and former president of the Utah Women’s Association, published Women in Utah History: Paradigm or Paradox? in connection with the Utah State Historical Society.
Scott and Thatcher have compiled a series of essays from an all-star cast of historians, and the result is the most comprehensive look at the experience of Utah women yet. While the study of Utah’s women has burgeoned in the past several decades, most works have focused on individual women or distinct groups of women. This book surveys the experience of a much larger category, from polygamous and monogamous Mormon women to Protestant and Catholic women to a variety of ethnic groups of women. It also examines the evolution of their lives within a multiplicity of contexts, from the progression of their legal status to the changing roles they have assumed in the work force to their involvement in farm life, education, scholarship, arts, and politics.
Any serious scholar of women’s history, Utah women’s history, or Utah history in general will want to read this book. It celebrates the contributions Utah’s diverse groups of women have made to the state’s history and its ultimate thesis is this: that while Utah women’s experience has differed from that of other women in the American West, it has also been representative of the experience of other women in the American West. Paradigm or paradox? Scott and Thatcher’s answer is, simply, both.