September 15, 1880 issue
|Editor||Louisa Lula Greene (1872–1877)
Emmeline B. Wells (1877–1914)
|Headquarters||Salt Lake City|
Woman's Exponent was a periodical published from 1872 until 1914 in Salt Lake City. Its purposes were to uplift and strengthen women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and to educate those not of the Mormon faith about the women of Mormonism. Although it was not an official publication of the LDS Church, it was closely tied to the church, especially to the Relief Society. The number of women in the Relief Society that subscribed to the Exponent was approximately ten percent, but the influence of this paper reached more people than those who subscribed because it was used for discussion between women in venues such as Relief Society.
Throughout the time of its publication, the newspaper covered many topics. It was a strong voice in support of woman's suffrage. It also actively supported plural marriage, which was a religious practice of the LDS Church. Home and the overall role of women were also frequent topics. In addition to these social and political topics, the Exponent included poems and stories, tidbits of humor or wisdom, and current news. Even though it was a private publication, women of the Relief Society were actively encouraged to subscribe, as well as contribute to the paper.
The original editor of the newspaper was Louisa Lula Greene, who accepted the position with the approval of her great uncle — Brigham Young, the president of the LDS Church. She was succeeded as editor in 1877 by Emmeline B. Wells, who would later become general president of the Relief Society. Wells served as the publication's editor for 37 years until it folded in 1914. Facing increasing financial pressures in the early 1900s, Wells unsuccessfully lobbied the Relief Society General Board to adopt the newspaper as its official publication. With their rejection, the paper was forced to close. The Relief Society Magazine, a separate publication and an official publication of the LDS Church, began publication in January 1915.
After the consolidation of the Relief Society Magazine into the Ensign in 1970, an independent publication calling itself Exponent II was started in 1974 by several Cambridge, Massachusetts-area women including Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Claudia Bushman. Produced by a non-profit organization unrelated to the LDS Church, this newspaper focuses on the concerns and experiences of some Mormon women from a feminist perspective. The Exponent II magazine is published quarterly and is currently edited by Aimee Evans Hickman and Emily Clyde Curtis.
The Exponent Blog
With the blessing of the Exponent II editorial board, Caroline Kline, Jana Remy and Deborah Farmer established a blog presence for Mormon feminism, called The Exponent in January 2005. More than two dozen permabloggers were soon added to the blog and it features a post nearly every day, including Relief Society lesson materials written from a Mormon feminist perspective.
- Bennion, Sherilyn Cox (Summer 1976), "The Woman's Exponent: Forty-two Years of Speaking for Women", Utah Historical Quarterly 44 (3)
- Bennion, Sherilyn Cox. (1993), "Sisters under the Skin: Utah's Mormon and Non-Mormon Women and Their Publications", BYU Studies 33 (1): 111–130.
- Thomas, Shirley W. (1992), "Woman's Exponent", in Ludlow, Daniel H. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan Publishing, p. 477, ISBN 0-02-879602-0, OCLC 24502140
- Women's Exponent (PDF scans) courtesy of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.