Mormon Women

We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another, and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together.
Lucy Mack Smith

It is easy to believe you are small, even insignificant in the world.  I've done a fair share of wondering in the deepest parts of my heart, where I had assumed there was simply no one else around those places to whisper a good word to my doubts and fears.

I live in a quiet place. Somedays, I only talk to 10-month old son, Remy, the three nine-year old boys in my courtyard, and my husband when he gets home from school. But in my heart, women I hadn't known until now are slowly filing into those deep places. They are my friends, better yet, my advocates.

They seem to nod to me, tell me to keep going, to work hard, to speak up, that I am good, even better than I think I am. We even celebrate together. I met these women one at a time.  I am getting to know them through their words.  Some through stories told by others, some typed out in books they’ve composed, and others in speeches spoken in front of many people.

I was inspired to take up this project after I had painted a similar series of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of the church.  I didn’t feel right about offering a painting of fifteen men for people to put in their homes without a companion of equally influential and important women to put up alongside it.  I felt like the men in the first painting would agree with me.  As the idea for the mormen women artwork formed I realized that there really wasn’t any resource or visual gathering of these women.  It made me sad to think that in many mormon households there are prominent photos and paintings of mormon men, but rarely are we exposed to mormon women.  I thought a lot about myself as a youth, and even now, as a young mother in a new city, I wondered which women I could invite into my own life and hopefully the lives of others to bless, uplift and inspire.

For me, this project of compiling Mormon women visually in one space is important because as Mormon women we are a nexus of history, accomplishment, change, challenge, faith, and story, yet so often these women have no voice in our daily lives because we don’t talk about them.  When I first had the idea for this project I asked on Facebook for feedback about prominent Mormon women.  A good portion of the responses were the author of the Twilight series.  While I’m sure that Stephanie Meyers is a lovely person, I was sad to realize that many incredible women are lost to us simply because we do not know or hear about them.  I want these paintings to be a catalyst meeting many more strong and beautiful women of the Mormon Church, both in our history and with our contemporaries. I have read and researched these women night and day, and the more I read, the more women I find.  I’ve found a new resolution to love myself while still expecting much of myself while reading the words of Chieko Okazaki; proof that our writing does make of difference through the example of Emmeline B. Wells; courage to make art about my religious convictions through Minerva Teichert; more reason to stick up for what I believe in through Esther Peterson; peace in working hard and moving forward the best way I know how through Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. 

I want the stories, the words, the faces of Mormon women to be in our lives. I realize that the images on this work are by no means comprehensive.  I want our Young Women to learn about these women at Wednesday night activities and camp, I want Remy to respect and love them and then in turn, I want us to love ourselves more because we know about them. I want these women to continue to teach me daily so I can better know how to teach others around me.  I don't want this artwork to simply be a tribute to these women, although it is partially that.  I want this artwork to celebrate that within the gospel there is a place for women who do grand and public things, but there is also a place for women who do equally important work that is quiet and may never be known publicly.  I want the artwork to inspire Mormon women to be better, but also to realize that they are already probably better than they think they are.  I want us to be able to celebrate collective accomplishments, both large and small.  Perhaps the most important part of the painting is the space left to insert your own photograph.  

I am grateful now to be learning in depth about these women, but it makes me sad that it has taken until so recently. Why had I not heard some of their names before? I think I could have found solidarity and confidence in my youth had I known these stories. I cling to them now. I vacillate between feeling so excited about this project that I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder, how can I get this to every woman I know, and then there are times of extreme self doubt where I think 'silly silly silly, no one cares'.

Funny though, it seems to be precisely in those times when the words I've been reading seem to take life, and I picture these twenty-four women all in my living room, eating warm bread and honey, looking lovely and telling me, 'Go ahead, do the things you feel you should do.'

*To purchase packs of 25 Mormon Women cards, go here:


Krisanne said...

I absolutely LOVE this. It is inspired. Thank you, thank you.

Star haus said...

Beautiful in every way.

Shelly said...

I honestly haven't been this touched and inspired in the longest time, Ash. My heart is FULL. Can I just say that I cried through my entire reading of the inspired quotes that you chose? I think everyone needs to see and read it -- woman and man and youth and child. This made me want to be stronger. This really made me happy today especially, on my thirty-fourth anniversary. I believe Heavenly Father guided you in doing this.

So beautiful. I love you!

tallia said...

I love this so so so much!

Lanée Jensen said...

This is really great, Ashmae. Any chance you'd be interested in sharing the project with the Young Women in our ward? They could really use some inspiration and especially positive LDS role models.

Cait said...

I found my Christmas present.

Deja said...

My heart! How is your soul so good?! I am telling everyone. Will you tell us what you've been reading so we can read too?

ktb said...

Amazing! Truly. As an LDS woman, I long to learn about, hear about and be inspired by my female predecessors. I am so amazed by the legacy of women in the Church--they are independent, strong, smart, revolutionary; women who are not afraid to be different and to speak up for what is important to them. And I agree wit Deja: I'd love to know what you've been reading about these women!

Thank you! This is beautiful in so many ways.

Heather said...

I just discovered your blog and you are so AMAZINGLY talented! Love your work and your blog!

Anonymous said...

I love it. You picked some great woman. There obviously so many to pick from but one that I love is Elaine Cannon. She said so many great and inspiring things but one of them was "Never forget that you have the spark of divine in you."

Thanks for inspiring us and sharing with us.