How Joseph Smith Gave Women Voices, Rights as a Judge

On Joseph Smith's birthday, we wanted to share a piece of his history you might not have known.

Although the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Dec. 23 birthday is appropriately overshadowed by the celebration of Christmas, it’s also appropriate to reflect briefly on his life and contributions. Happily, a recently published article — John S. Dinger's “Judge Joseph Smith and the Expansion of the Legal Rights of Women: The Dana v. Brink Trial,” in the Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 42, No. 4, October 2016 — opens a fresh window on him.

We’re accustomed to think of Joseph, who founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as seer, church leader, victim of persecution and martyr. Now we can appreciate what Joseph Smith’s performance as a secular judge tells us about him.

In October 1842, Margaret Dana was expecting her seventh child. Her previous pregnancies had gone well, and she anticipated a routine delivery by the respected Nauvoo midwife Patty Sessions in November. On Oct. 22, though, Dana became ill with pain, fever and diarrhea. Dr. William Brink was summoned, not to deliver the baby but to help with the mother’s illness. However, after a painful internal examination, Brink determined that Margaret’s baby was dead and improperly positioned, that her water had broken, and that he needed to induce labor.

Lead image from Deseret News
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