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A lithograph of Ann Eliza Young,
sometime between 1869 and 1875

Ann Eliza Young (née Webb) (1844 – date unknown) was one of Brigham Young's fifty-five wives and later a critic of polygamy.[1] She spoke out against the suppression of women and was an advocate for women's rights during the 19th century.[2]

Webb married Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), when he was 67 years old and she was a 24-year-old divorcee with two children.[1] Although she later called herself Young's "wife no. 19", and others have referred to her as his "27th wife", she was in fact the 52nd woman to marry Young.[3] She filed for divorce from Young in January 1873, an act which attracted much attention. Her bill for divorce alleged neglect, cruel treatment, and desertion, and claimed that her husband had property worth $8,000,000 and an income exceeding $40,000 a month. (Young countered that he owned less than $600,000 in property and that his income was less than $6000 per month.)[4] She was excommunicated from the LDS Church on 10 October 1874.[3] The divorce was granted in January 1875 and Brigham Young was ordered to pay a $500 per month allowance and $3000 in court fees.[3] When Young initially refused, he was found in contempt of court and sentenced to a day in prison and a $25 fine.[3] The alimony award was later set aside on the grounds that a polygamous marriage was legally invalid.[3]

Ann Eliza Young subsequently traveled the United States and spoke out against polygamy, Mormonism, and Brigham Young himself.[5] She testified before the U.S. Congress in 1875; these remarks were credited with contributing to the passage of the Poland Act which reorganized the judicial system of Utah Territory and made it easier for the Federal Government to prosecute polygamists.[2]

In 1876, she published an autobiography entitled Wife No. 19. In it she wrote that she had "a desire to impress upon the world what Mormonism really is; to show the pitiable condition of its women, held in a system of bondage that is more cruel than African slavery ever was, since it claims to hold body and soul alike."[2] Her account was the basis of Irving Wallace's 1961 biography, The Twenty-Seventh Wife, and of David Ebershoff's 2008 novel, The 19th Wife.

After her divorce from Young, she married non-Mormon Moses R. Deming.[3] She became estranged from her family, including her children (a grandson told biographer Irving Wallace that neither of her sons had contact with her after they reached early adulthood). Members were often discouraged against association with "apostates." A 1907 article on the 30th anniversary of Young's death updated the public on his then surviving widows and stated that Ann Eliza was divorced again and living in Lansing, Michigan. In 1908, she published a revised version of Wife No. 19 entitled Life in Mormon Bondage. After its publication, she disappeared from the public eye and historical records. Neither the date nor the location of her death or her burial place are known. Today, however, her witnessed account of the "horrors of polygamy and masonry" is readily available in paperbook or as a (free) e-book download.

See also



  1. ^ a b "Brigham Young's Wives and His Divorce From Ann Eliza Webb". Utah Lighthouse Ministry. Accessed March 10, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Cullen, Jack B. "Ann Eliza Young: A Nineteenth Century Champion of Women's Rights." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Western Speech Communication Association (Albuquerque, New Mexico, February , 1983).
  3. ^ a b c d e f Johnson, Jeffrey Odgen. “Determining and Defining ‘Wife’ — The Brigham Young Households”, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 20, no. 3 (Fall 1987) pp. 57-70.
  4. ^ Linn, William Alexander. The Story of the Mormons from the Date of their Origin to the Year 1901 (New York, 1902). Book VI, Chapter 21: "The Last Years of Brigham Young"
  5. ^ Troy Taylor. Forest Farm House at Old Deseret Salt Lake City, Utah. Haunted Utah at Accessed March 10, 2007.

Additional reading



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