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Unity is strength." Given that her husband only nominally participated in the lives of these women, I believe this quote must be interpreted in the context of Rich's Lesbian continuum.
Even more to the point is Ellis' statement, also from her journal, about "how pure and heavenly is the relationship of sisters in the holy order of polygamy." That these women not only shared a husband, but also surnames, lives, hopes, education, political views, economic status, child-rearing, etc., indicates a depth of homosocial and homophilic intercourse typifying the "Lesbian" relationships (in Adrienne Rich's definition) of Victorian Mormonism.
Despite the fact that Joseph Smith deified, eternalized, and pluralized heterosexuality through polygamy and temple ritual, early Mormon women found that their bodies, sensuality, and desires were neither tamed nor contained by obedience to the institution of polygamy.
The potential for female homosocial relationships is found among the polygamous "sister- wives" of Milford Shipp. His first wife, Ellis Reynolds Shipp, earned a medical degree at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1878.[Below is a "10th anniversary" revised and greatly exanded version of what was published in 1994 by Signature Books.] "The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature": A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980 by Connell O'Donovan 1994, 2004 In this essay, I attempt to analyze how Mormon leaders have confronted and tried to eradicate first sodomy and later, homosexuality - and conversely, how Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Mormons have responded to their religion.This was possible only because her sister-wives cared for her three children in Utah while she was studying back east, pooling their resources to pay her tuition.Her sister-wives also wrote her encouraging letters, while she described those of her husband as "harsh", "bitter and sharp". Shipp returned to Salt Lake City, she set up a thriving medical practice and made enough money to send her other sister-wives through medical college or midwifery training.