ALL the News about
Mormons, Mormonism
and the LDS Church
Mormon News: All the News about Mormons, Mormonism and the LDS Church
Posted 19 Nov 2001   For week ended November 16, 2001
Most Recent Week
Front Page
Local News
Arts & Entertainment
·New Products
·New Websites
·Mormon Stock Index
Letters to Editor
Continuing Coverage of:
Boston Temple
School Prayer
Julie on MTV
Robert Elmer Kleasen
About Mormon News
News by E-Mail
Weekly Summary
Submitting News
Submitting Press Releases
Volunteer Positions
Bad Link?

News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church

Sent on Mormon-News: 14Nov01

By Kent Larsen

New York Times Raves about LDS Historian's Latest Book

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- A review by Yale historian John Demos in this week's New York Times Book Review raves about the most recent book by LDS historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, calling the book, "The Age of Homespun," "remarkable" and an invitation to "reflect deeply and reconsider fully" in a time of cultural reckoning. Demos calls Ulrich a "supremely gifted scholar and writer" who in this book has "truly outdone herself."

According to Demos "The Age of Homespun" ventures off in "a new and highly original direction" by putting physical objects produced in the home, such as textiles and furniture, at the center of her study. These objects are enshrined in myth as an entire way of life, that still today, according to Demos, has an emotional hold that remains undiminished. This view of the early U.S. lifestyle is called on in debates on "family values" and homeschooling. It surfaces in the production of quilts to memorialize those that have died from AIDS and even appears in Hillary Clinton's claim that "it takes a village to raise a child."

But Ulrich doesn't just describe the 'homespun' objects. She uses "a deeply creative process of analysis and contextualizing" to give 14 different objects meaning by joining them to "the experience of the people who produced, owned, used and preserved them. It is, finally, the connections that make her investigation so unusual and rewarding," says Demos.

Ulrich's work is also "grounded, as it must be, on a total mastery of innumerable physical details, up to and including the procedures used in making each object." These details appear, for example, in her description of spinning wool into thread, which Ulrich writes, "Some writers refer to ... as unskilled work. They have obviously never tried it."

She adds this knowledge of each object to detailed research into local and family history, genealogy and folklore in order to bring each object and its connections to life. Demos says what might have been dull description becomes easy reading because of Ulrich's talented writing. "Ulrich is a hugely accomplished prose stylist; she fills ''The Age of Homespun'' with wit and playfulness, lightening what might otherwise become dense and difficult reading."

While Ulrich, who is a professor of history at Harvard University, doesn't directly discuss Mormon objects in the book (most of the objects are from New England, covering the period from 1676 to 1837), those she does discuss are also present in Mormon history (including both Mormon quilts and furniture, which are the subjects of their own books). Furthermore, her use of family, local history and genealogy resonate with most LDS Church members.

The praise for Ulrich's book isn't unfamiliar territory for her, either. In 1991 she won both the Bancroft Prize, the most prestigious award for the study of history, and the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in history for her book "The Midwife's Tale." That book was subsequently made into a PBS special.


'The Age of Homespun': Learning About the Past From Objects
New York Times 11Nov01 A2
By John Demos

See also:
The Age of Homespun
More about "The Age of Homespun : Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich at

A Midwife's Tale
More about "A Midwife's Tale : The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich at


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information