Wife No. 19 was originally published in 1875. Ann Eliza Young was Brigham Young’s 19th wife. The book is an expose of Mormonism and the life of bondage that the practice of polygamy forced women to endure.
I thought this book would be an interesting read because polygamy has, in recent years, become a topic open for discussion. On one hand there are TV shows like “Sister Wives” portraying polygamy as a valid lifestyle. On the other hand we have stories of Warren Jeffs and his absolute dictatorship over women’s lives. I’m not here to take a stand on one side or the other but I did find this book fascinating as a historical document. U.S. history classes don’t often have much to say about the Mormons and the settlement of Utah, and Ann Eliza Young’s retelling is quite detailed and comprehensive. She does spend a lot of time detailing some of Brigham Young’s schemes to benefit himself financially on the labor of his followers, but you can sense how these people often had no choice but to go along with Brigham’s schemes because they were so beholden to him.
I really enjoyed the book. Ann Eliza knows how to tell a story and I had no reason to doubt the accuracy of her account of events. It did however bother me some that in places she becomes rather vitriolic and I wondered if there might be some exaggeration. I find it hard to believe, sitting here in the 21st century that people could be so completely deceived. But these events took place in the 19th century and many of the Mormon followers had little or no education. In fact, Brigham Young opposed all efforts to introduce public education in Mormon communities because he said that if the children were educated they would not be good workers.
If you love your history in a narrative form, like I do, than I think you will really enjoy this book. Ann Eliza Young was able to eventually leave the Mormon Church with her 2 children. She spent many years as a public speaker, detailing for the general public the truth of the Mormon beliefs and lifestyle. So pick up a copy of this book and take a walk down history lane. Wife No. 19 (Paperback). This book is available on Amazon.