Summarized by Rosemary Pollock
Documentary Aims to Take Objective Look at Mormon Women
Salt Lake Tribune 30Oct99 A4
By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Utah native, Tasha Oldham, will explore the
beliefs, realities and challenges of Mormon women in her new
documentary film, "Sisters in Zion." Oldham will also disprove the
notion that Mormon women have been duped, wanton, misguided,
housebound, constantly pregnant and uniformly submissive, a belief
that was expressed in early propaganda films such as, "Trapped By the
Mormons" and "Mormon Women and Depression."
"From my experiences of meeting various kinds of people of different
backgrounds and cultures, the majority of them hold one thing in common;
they are ill informed about Mormons yet fascinated with the faith,"
Directing the movie, Oldham took to the streets of Los Angeles where
she interviewed random pedestrians about what they knew about Mormons.
Most agreed that all are "still polygamist, they are drugged, with no
voice in the church or in their lives, and they don't work," Oldham
With an opinion that the church has a male-only priesthood, many
believed that women were weak and powerless. "Mormon women may not hold
the priesthood, but they are a strong voice who have an important role
in the church and community," she said.
Rivaling the national norm of working women, Mormon women who work
outside the home come close to 75 percent, according to BYU sociologist
Marie Cornwall. "If Utah is any example, Mormon women haven't been that
different from the rest of the nation since the late 1980's," Cornwall
"The way most families have coped with economic changes is to have
fewer children," said Cornwall. "Mormon women are doing that somewhat
but it (family size) is still well above the national average."
Tamu Smith of Provo is among the women who will help explode the myth
that women who are home with children are not strong. At 2l, Smith took
custody of her nine sisters when her grandparents became too old to care
for them. Three weeks later, she married and soon found herself
pregnant with her first child. Smith, an LDS convert, is now 26 and
still presides over the lively family of girls. She credits her success
to her religion and how her faith has given her the ability to cope.
The film will be introduced by historian Jan Shipps and an Apostle
from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mostly female
crew is headed by cinematographers Tahlee Booher of Salt Lake City and
Nancy Schreiber of California. Schreiber, has recently been named, "one
of America's hottest women cinematographers" by MovieMaker magazine.
"What I know about Mormonism is hearsay," Schreiber said. "I went to
school with someone who became Mormon, and I was always curious about
her life, how it changed." She says she is looking forward to "going
into the community and see the truth." "The documentary camera never
"Sisters of Zion" received partial funding from the Utah Humanities
Council, Eastman Kodak Film and private donors, reports Steve Epperson,
program director. "We were impressed by Oldham's efforts to present an
objective and well-rounded view of contemporary women." "Funds to
complete the film are still being sought," Oldham said. "We need enough
money to travel across the country interviewing the most interesting
Mormon women we can find."