Her most famous quote, “well-behaved women seldom make history,” is misattributed to everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna and is one of the Internet’s go-to phrases to apply to radical women throughout history.
But when Laurel Thatcher Ulrich penned those words in 1976, she was writing about well-behaved Puritan women celebrated in funeral sermons. This small article, working to celebrate the little-noted and rarely talked-about average women in the past, is representative of her work as a whole. On Thursday at 7 p.m. she will speak in the Gould Auditorium at the Marriott Library on the importance of letters and diaries for proving insights into the oft-ignored and overlooked lives of women.
Heidi Brett, the library’s marketing and public relations director, said she and other staff in the library are excited to have a well-renowned scholar and historian like Ulrich stopping at the U, especially one who researches little-known women’s history.
“I think it’s very important to recognize the contributions that women have made that are not always noted,” Brett said. “We’ve got the Hillary Clintons of the world, and they’re really obviously doing really great things in promoting of the women’s cause, if you will, but there’s lots of quiet work being done by women everywhere and was being done.”
Ulrich is coming to campus as a part of the special collections’ Aileen H. Clyde 20th Century Women’s Legacy Archives annual lecture series. The purpose of this archive is to collect and display the specific histories and contributions of women throughout time.
“We are so fortunate to have Dr. Ulrich coming here and taking the time to talk to us about the importance of women’s actions, but also the importance of preserving and making people aware of the contributions of women and the contributions of women of all sectors,” Brett said.
Ulrich’s works include A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812; Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History and Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650–1750.
Additionally, much of her work focuses on women within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Currently, she is working on A House Full of Females: Mormon Diaries, 1835-1870, to be released in Jan. 2017.
Ulrich’s connection to Utah extends beyond her work within LDS history — she had part of her education at the U.
“We’re very fortunate that Dr. Ulrich is supportive of the university and is in touch with the university still,” Brett said. “It’s just a great connection for us to have here at the library but also for the university to have.”
The lecture, “Beyond Letters and Diaries: Unexpected Sources in Women’s History,” is free and open to the public.