One trip through Rexburg, Idaho, or any amount of time spent there, reminds visitors of the methods of honoring the institutional, religious, and pioneering heritage of western settlements, in ways that often emphasize the prominence of male actors in that history, and the absence, or lesser importance, of female actors. Rexburg, like most Mormon pioneer towns, is possessed of place names as a “Who’s Who” of male church, educational, and pioneer leadership. Indeed, male founders are evident in everything, from the name of the town and neighboring towns (Rigby, for example), to the counties of Jefferson, Madison, and Fremont, down to local Smith and Porter Parks, and most especially in the campus buildings at one of the Church’s three flagship educational institutions, Brigham Young University-Idaho, formerly Ricks College. Of course, the names of Ricks College and Rexburg both come from Thomas E. Ricks, often memorialized both as the town’s founder, as well as the direct ancestor to many of the area’s residents. However, if asked to name one of Ricks’s six plural wives, most townspeople— myself included—would fail miserably at that exam. Still, at least his legacy lives on, even after Ricks College became a renamed university in 2000.
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