Stephen Carter is the editor of Sunstone Magazine. And yes, he is carrying a Balloon Moroni.
It’s always fun to find personal heroes among one’s ancestors. For example, my great-aunt May Swenson and my great-uncle Paul Swenson were both writers, and it was because of them that I took up the craft myself.
When I started reading “Suffrage,” I realized that I was going to find a new hero: Ruth. She’s the fourth of five wives in a polygamous family living in early Utah. And she’s a suffragette. She looked into the future, saw the bright possibility of voting rights for women, and decided to fight for it. As I read about Ruth’s struggle, she reminded me of the energetic people who ran Sunstone before I was even aware it existed, looking into the future of Mormonism, seeing the possibilities, and fighting for them. Some of the possibilities they started campaigning for twenty and thirty years ago are coming to fruition today.
But as I continued reading, I became fascinated with Frances, the second wife, a generation older than Ruth. She’s the practical one. The one who finds outside work when times get hard. The one who takes care of the children while Ruth is out campaigning. The one who makes sure food is on the table.
She and Ruth butt heads a lot: the liberal and the conservative. But by the end, I saw that I would emerge from this play with an unexpected hero. Some of Frances’s opinions grated on me, her resistance to new ideas chaffed, but there was no doubt in my mind that without her, Ruth and her cause would have had no foundation. At the same time, without Ruth’s passion and energy, Frances would have been laboring into a darker future.
That’s the genius of SUFFRAGE. It helped me appreciate the symbiotic relationship between the liberal and conservative elements of Mormonism. Yeah, sometimes the conservative people in my ward can be maddeningly patriarchal, they sometimes campaign against ideas I think are enlightened, but by gum, they also keep the community intact and functioning. They maintain the baseline I’m trying to riff on—even if my chord progressions jangle in their ears.
So I’m pleased to publish SUFFRAGE in the next issue of Sunstone: a play about why the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee.
I’m going to go do my home teaching now. As soon as I’m done signing the petition to let women give prayers in general conference.
Jenifer Nii’s SUFFRAGE receives its world premiere at Plan-B Theatre Company April 4-14, featuring April Fossen and Sarah Young, directed by Cheryl Ann Cluff. Click here for tickets and more information.