This is a biographical study of Elizabeth D. Kane (1836-1909), travel writer and wife of Thomas L. Kane, non-Mormon friend of the nineteenth-century Mormons of Utah. Primary source materials are mainly Elizabeth's fourteen diaries (spanning the years 1853 to 1909), letters and narrative accounts. Elizabeth was greatly influenced by Thomas, while maintaining her independence. She was interested in religion and feminist issues, and those interests, combined with her marital relationship, shaped her life's direction. Thomas Kane's interest in the Mormons also influenced Elizabeth's religious and feminist views, and she initially struggled with accepting Thomas's work for them because of their practice of polygamy. When Elizabeth went to Utah in 1872, her religiosity, feminism, and marriage provided the context in which she wrote her travel accounts, Twelve Mormon Homes (1874) and A Gentile in Utah's Dixie (1995).
Elizabeth and Thomas had a companionate marriage. Theoretically they were equal partners, but Thomas often acted as Elizabeth's mentor, introducing her to well-known feminists, encouraging her to attend medical school and develop her writing talents. Religion was important to her, particularly as she tried influencing Thomas to join her Christian (Presbyterian) faith. Elizabeth thought about the Women's Rights movement and wrote her own ideas regarding women's role, endorsing feminist concepts like voluntary motherhood and addressing issues like polygamy and the double moral standard.
This study analyzes Elizabeth's travel accounts which provide information on rural Utah and Mormon polygamous women from the perspective of a trusted outsider. During her Utah visit, Elizabeth changed from being resentful of the Mormons because of Thomas's devotion to them, to being friendly towards them. After Thomas's death in 1883, Elizabeth worked as a local leader in the Women's Christian Temperance Union and was a prominent citizen of Kane, Pennsylvania, the town which she and Thomas founded in the 1860s.
This study is important to women's history because Elizabeth represents how many nineteenth-century women became more independent and socially conscious. It is significant in Mormon history because of her her travel accounts and because her writings provide information on the important relationship between Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Barnes, Darcee D., "A Biographical Study of Elizabeth D. Kane" (2002). Theses and Dissertations. 4504.
Elizabeth D. Kane, religion, feminism, anti-polygamy, non-Mormon, Mormon associations, writer, biography