Chelsea Shields

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Chelsea Shields
Born November 1981
Nationality United States
Other names Chelsea Shields Strayer
Education Bachelor of Anthropology, 2004, BYU; Master of Anthropology, 2009, Boston University; Dual PhD, Biological Anthropology and Cultural Anthropology, 2017, Boston University[1]
Alma mater Brigham Young University, Boston University
Occupation Anthropologist, activist, TED Fellow
Known for Women's rights activism; religious gender inequality (specifically in the LDS faith)
Spouse(s) Michael Strayer (2005-2015)
Children 1 daughter
Website Chelsea Shields

Chelsea Shields (born November 1981) is an American anthropologist, women’s rights activist,[2] and TED Fellow[3] Shields and her work have appeared on broadcasts and publications including TED, Infants on Thrones, TechInsider, and Feminist Mormon Housewives.

Shields was born in Provo, Utah to Heidi and Eric Shields and raised in a conservative Mormon family in Tooele, Utah and Gresham, Oregon.[4] She graduated from Orem High School (Orem, Utah) in 2000 and Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) in 2004 with a degree in Anthropology and African Studies. Shields married Michael Strayer in 2005; they divorced in 2015.

Professional life[edit]

Religious gender inequality[edit]

Shields is best known for her activism to combat religious gender inequality – specifically in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Shields gave a TED Talk on the topic of Religious Gender Inequality at the TED Fellows Retreat in September 2015 eventually entitled, "How I'm Working for Change Inside My Church." She is also a contributor featured in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings.[5]

Shields is President and co-founder of Mormons for ERA, a group dedicated to the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.[6] She is a co-founder and former board member for Ordain Women, a group dedicated to creating increased access to administrative and ecclesiastical decision-making capacities for women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the ordination of women to the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.[7][8] She is also on the board of the Sunstone Education Foundation, an organization that discusses Mormonism through scholarship, art, short fiction, and poetry.

Social susceptibility[edit]

Shields’ academic work focuses on the concept of social susceptibility or why human bodies have evolved to be susceptible to social manipulation. Shields argued that grounding human behavior in social adaptations and viewing biocultural interactions in sickness and healing from an evolutionary perspective reveals important discoveries in placebo and ritual studies, religion, pain, stress,[9] emotions, empathy, and social inequality. Shields spoke about how these sociocultural, biological and evolutionary concepts clash at the 2013 TED Fellows Retreat in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, where she used an Asante ethnographic case study of bonesetting to elucidate socially mediating pain mechanisms.[10]


Shields is currently a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but does not attend services and is no longer a believer in Mormon doctrine or scripture.[citation needed]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • TED Fellow, 2009–present[11]
  • Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Grant, 2009[12]
  • Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation Fellowship, 2009
  • Boston University Women’s Guild Scholarship, 2012[13]
  • Boston University Graduate Research Abroad Scholarship, 2011
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, 2007



  1. ^ "Our Students Chelsea Shields Strayer". Boston University Anthropology Department Graduate Students. Boston University. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  2. ^ "" Check |url= value (help). Youtube. We are Women Rally. 
  3. ^ "TED Fellow Chelsea Shields". Ted. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  4. ^ Eng, Karen. "Why Belonging Matters: Fellows Friday with Chelsea Shields Strayer". tedblog. TED. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  5. ^ Brooks, Joanna; Steeblik, Rachel; Wheelwright, Hannah (2015). Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (1 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0190248033. 
  6. ^ Francis, Roberta. "Obama, Romney and The Equal Rights Amendment". HuffingtonPost. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  7. ^ Frey, George. "Mormon Women's Group Leader Excommunicated for Church". Getty Images. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  8. ^ Fletcher Stack, Peggy. "Mormon Women Want to Attend Mormon Priesthood Meeting in October". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  9. ^ Hahn, Devin. "Body Beat". BU TODAY. 
  10. ^ Shields Strayer, Chelsea. "Social Susceptibility; Why our Most Painful, Joyful and Memorable Experiences Exist in the Social Domain". 
  11. ^ TED Fellow profile
  12. ^ Shields Strayer, Chelsea. "Grantees". The Wenner-Gren Foundation. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  13. ^ "2012 BU Women's Guild Scholarship Winners". 

External links[edit]