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Today in the Bloggernacle: Famous Mormon women inspire BYU professors to write 'Women of Character'

Published: Monday, Oct. 24 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

BYU professors Mary Jane Woodger and Susan Easton Black talk about famous LDS women.

Emily W. Jensen

Marie Osmond, Emma Smith, Barbara B. Smith.

Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would recognize these well-known Mormon women. But what about Maud May Babcock, Mary Field Garner and Lilia Wahapaa?

And do most Mormons know that murder mystery writer Anne Perry, "One Stroke Painting" guru Donna Dewberry and political commentator Angela Buchanan (sister of Pat Buchanan) are all Mormon?

Culling from Mormon women from 1830 to now, Brigham Young University professors Susan Easton Black and Mary Jane Woodger wrote “Women of Character: Profiles of 100 Prominent LDS Women” and spoke about their findings for the Mormon Women’s History Initiative book event Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

Black and Woodger were walking through the Joseph Smith Building at BYU together a few years ago when they decided to each look up 50 famous LDS women and write a book. They took turns speaking about some of the women they chose and why they were/are famous.

“One you may not know is Maud May Babcock,” Woodger said. “At the University of Utah, she starts physical education classes, she gets involved in theater and produces over 800 musicals and plays, and we even have prophets talking about classes they took from Maud May Babcock.”

Mary Field Garner was the last living person to have known the Prophet Joseph Smith. Black said she lived to be 107 and spoke in testimony meetings across the Intermountain West. Everyone wondered who would be the last person to say, “I knew Joseph,” and it ended up being Garner.

Lilia Wahapaa grew up in Kauai. “She was born 26 years before Abraham Lincoln became the president and was on Oahu during Pearl Harbor,” explained Woodger, which was a span of 115 years. Wahapaa, one of the first converts of George Q. Cannon, was the Relief Society president on Kauai from age 53 and was finally released at age 91. Wahappa was “the stability on that island. It’s just amazing to see her life woven into the growth of the church in Hawaii.”

Opera singer Ariel Bybee, who is also profiled in the book, favored the audience with a stirring rendition of “Still wie die Nacht.”

"It is so rich in the church," Woodger said of sharing the stories of women. "Writing this book was such a wonderful opportunity to see these 100 women who had made such a difference.”

The next book event sponsored by the Mormon Women’s History Initiative is scheduled for February 2012 and will feature the inaugural volume of “Women of Faith in the Latter Days,” edited by Assistant Church Historian Richard E. Turley and Brittany Chapman.

Emily W. Jensen updates "Today in the Bloggernacle" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, presenting the best from the world of LDS-oriented blog sites. Her extended "Bloggernacle Back Bench" appears on Tuesdays.

Email: ejensen@desnews.com

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