Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on Mormon Women, Quilts, and Identity in 1857

For those of you who don’t subscribe to American Historical Review, you missed out on a wonderful treat in their first issue of this year. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, pulitzer-prize winning historian and professor at Harvard University, published some of the earliest fruits from her recent work on Mormon history in the nineteenth century.

Titled, simply enough, “An American Album, 1857,” Ulrich demonstrates her keen insight and inquisitive approach. She opens thus: “Sometimes the best way to approach a big topic is to focus on a small one. I would like to address a very large topic—conflict over marriage in the nineteenth-century United States—by considering a single object, a quilt made in the Territory of Utah in 1857.” Sounds simple enough, right? She continues: “I would like to convince my fellow historians that focusing on a single artifact can yield unexpected insights. Like other forms of micro-history, an object-centered inquiry enlarges details, allowing us to see connections that might otherwise be invisible” (1).

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