Louie B. Felt

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Louie B. Felt
Photo of Louie B. Felt
1st General President of the Primary
June 19, 1880 (1880-06-19) – October 6, 1925 (1925-10-06)
Called by John Taylor
Successor May Anderson
Personal details
Born Louie Bouton
(1850-05-05)May 5, 1850
South Norwalk, Connecticut, United States
Died February 13, 1928(1928-02-13) (aged 77)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37″N 111°51′29″W / 40.777°N 111.858°W / 40.777; -111.858 (Salt Lake City Cemetery)
Spouse Joseph Felt
Parents Joseph Bouton
Mary Rebecca Barto

Sarah Louise ("Louie") Bouton Felt (May 5, 1850 – February 13, 1928) was the first general president of the children's Primary organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) between 1880 and 1925.

Early life[edit]

Louie Bouton was born in South Norwalk, Connecticut, the third child of Joseph Bouton and Mary Rebecca Barto. Her parents had become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints several years before Louie's birth. In 1866, the Bouton family travelled to Utah Territory to join the gathering of Latter-day Saints. On the journey to Utah, Louie met Joseph H. Felt.[1] On December 24, 1866, Louie and Joseph Felt were married at Salt Lake City. Joseph Felt was the eldest son of Nathaniel H. Felt.[2]

Louie was not able to have children, and she suffered periods of great loneliness while her husband left Utah to work as a missionary for the church. Later, Louie encouraged her husband to live the Latter-day Saint law of plural marriage. Joseph married Elizabeth Mineer in 1875 and Elizabeth Tidwell in 1881. Louie got along well with Joseph's other wives and found great pleasure in caring for the children of her "sister wives".[1]

During the government attempts to prosecute polygamists, Felt twice left Utah Territory to avoid testifying in court against Joseph.[1] In 1918, 11 years after her husband's death, Felt was described as having been an exemplary wife fulfilling the role of a helpmeet to man.[3]

Involvement in the Primary Association[edit]

On September 14, 1878, Louie B. Felt was chosen by Eliza R. Snow to be the president of the Primary Association in the Salt Lake 11th Ward of the church. On June 19, 1880, Felt was selected as the first general president of the Primary by John Taylor, who was then the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the acting church president. Felt was set apart by Taylor, who was assisted in the blessing by Eliza R. Snow.

Among Felt's accomplishments as leader of the Primary are the following:

  • the beginning of annual reports from local units (1881);
  • the inauguration of annual officers' meetings (1889);
  • the creation of The Children's Friend magazine (1902);
  • the dividing of Primary children into junior, senior, and intermediate age groups (1902);
  • establishment of the Primary Annual Fund (1902);
  • annual general conferences for all Primary workers (1902);
  • programs for enlistment and better attendance at Primary;
  • the birth of the Primary Children's Hospital (1911);
  • increased emphasis on quality teaching and teacher improvement establishment; and
  • the spread of Primary groups into every stake and many missions of the church.

On October 6, 1925, Felt stepped down as general president of the Primary due to failing health. Her first counselor and close friend May Anderson succeeded her. Felt died in Salt Lake City of a cerebral hemorrhage.[4]

Same-sex relationships[edit]

Louie Felt (right), and fellow church leader May Anderson (left), with whom she had a 40-year intense relationship. Whether or not this relationship involved physical intimacy is unknown, as all evidence either way is circumstantial.

Felt had intense and committed relationships with other women, and some historians have suggested that one of these relationships was romantic.[5][6] At the age of sixteen, Louie became the first wife of Joseph Felt, said to be "a tender, thoughtful, loving and devoted husband".[7] whom she married in 1866 at the age of sixteen. According to a biographical sketch published in 1919 in Children's Friend, Louie "fell in love with" Lizzie Mineer in 1874, and encouraged her husband to marry her as a plural wife, in part to bring children into the family (Louie herself was infertile), and this marriage took place in 1876.[8] In 1881, when Joseph married Elizabeth Liddell, Louie "opened her home and shared her love."

In 1883, Louie met May Anderson, and their friendship soon "ripened into love", according to an anonymous biographical sketch of Anderson in The Children's Friend, which described their new relationship as follows:

"Those who watched their devotion to each other declare that there never were more ardent lovers than these two. And strange to say during this time of love feasting,[9] Mary changed her name to May because it seemed to be more agreeable to both".[10]

Joseph Felt did not marry Anderson, but in 1889, at a time when Louie was ill, May moved in.[10] As a polygamist, Joseph had two houses, and it is unclear where he spent most of his time.[1] It has been suggested that Joseph lived in his other home after May moved in,[6] though this conclusion is based on circumstantial evidence.[1] The actual living arrangements of Joseph Felt are difficult to verify because after the 1890 Manifesto polygamous families often sought to obscure their living arrangements.

After Joseph's death in 1907, Louie and May continued to live together, sleeping in the same bedroom, for 40 years until Louie's death. They were referred to by others as the "David and Jonathan of the Primary", a term they embraced.[10] (The biblical relationship has never been interpreted as a sexual relationship by the LDS Church, but as one of fraternal love.)

May never married. After the death of one of Joseph's junior wives, Louie raised their children. At her funeral she was described as being "devoted to her husband and to his children. She was a good house-keeper, a real home-maker. Her devotion to her husband was the kind that helped him to stand by his ideals of right."[11][12]

Though acknowledging a lack of direct proof, some historians speculate that Louie and May could have been what in modern times would be called lesbian partners.[6][5] This is based largely on the seemingly erotic connotations of their biographies that appeared in Children's Friend; for example, the statement that while the couple was working on Primary matters, "when they were too tired to sit up any longer they put on their bathrobes and crawled into bed to work until the wee small hours of the night".[6] Other Mormon historians argue that female-female sexual intimacy would have been regarded as sinful at the time, and argue for a presumption that their relationship was purely platonic.[1] Other researchers have been non-committal on the issue; one has stated only that Anderson "was as close to President Felt as any woman could be".[13] Both sides acknowledge, however, that the relationship between Louie and May was an intense one, and that they shared a deep love for one another.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f George L. Mitton and Rhett S. James, "A Response to D. Michael Quinn's Homosexual Distortion of Latter-day Saint History: Review of Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example by D. Michael Quinn", FARMS Review of Books 10:141–263.
  2. ^ Orson F. Whitney. History of Utah: Biographical. (Salt Lake City: G. Q. Cannon and Sons, 1904) p. 548
  3. ^ Children's Friend (Oct. 1919).
  4. ^ State of Utah Death Certificate
  5. ^ a b Connell Hill O'Donovan (1992) 'The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature': A Brief History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1830-1980 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books).
  6. ^ a b c d D. Michael Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth Century Americans: A Mormon Example (University of Illinois Press: Urbana).
  7. ^ Adelaide U. Hardy, "Living for a Purpose," Children's Friend (Dec. 1918): 476.
  8. ^ "Louie B. Felt", Children's Friend, 18:410–11 (Dec. 1919).
  9. ^ Referring to early 20th century dictionaries, one commentator argues that one meaning of the word "love feasting" is "a meal taken in token of brotherly love and charity". Vella Neil Evans, Women's Studies, University of Utah, at the Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996-08-16, audio tape no. 238. This refers to the early Christian Agape ceremony, similar to the Eucharist, which was practiced by early Methodists. See "Love-feast", Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed. 1989.
  10. ^ a b c "Mary and May", Children's Friend, 18:420–421 (Oct. 1919).
  11. ^ Kerr, Children's Friend, p. 99 (Mar. 1928).
  12. ^ Deseret News, 1928-02-15, sec. 2, p. 1.
  13. ^ Conrad A. Harward, A History of the Growth and Development of the Primary Association of the LDS Church from 1878 to 1928, Master of Arts Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1976, at 190.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
First President of the Primary
June 19, 1880 (1880-06-19) – October 6, 1925 (1925-10-06)
Succeeded by
May Anderson