Courage - in spite of it all

by Jo Giles, UNMC public relations | March 21, 2013

A handwritten letter - particularly from your mother - might contain words of wisdom.

But for Anna Eliza Young, Brigham Young's 19th wife, her mother's letter contained these words: "Your death would be preferable to the course you're taking."

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Anna Eliza Young
The story of Young, her decision to speak out against polygamy in the Mormon religion, and other women trailblazers were featured in UNMC's annual Women's History Event, held March 6 as part of the Diversity Lectures and Cultural Arts Series and co-sponsored by the Nebraska Humanities Council.

Through stories, songs and poetry, Deb Carpenter-Nolting and Lyn Messersmith shared life lessons of brave women who weren't afraid to make unpopular choices. Women like:

  • Pearl Hart, the only woman stage coach robber in Arizona;
  • Mari Sandoz, Nebraska author who wrote about the harsh realities of the west; and
  • Baby Doe Taylor, a miner who had an affair with an older, married man.

Carpenter-Nolting even shared her battle with breast cancer and told the audience about how she found the courage to divorce her husband.

"We have to listen to our heads and our bodies. We don't have to do the prim and proper thing or do what society wants us to do," she said.

For Anna Eliza Young, it wasn't until later in her life that her mother understood her decision to leave Brigham Young. It was then that she learned ... "the cost of good behavior is too high."

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