Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » What Happens to English Girl Converts Who Emigrate to Utah

What Happens to English Girl Converts Who Emigrate to Utah

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 31, 2011

From London Outlook, January 21, 1921:

The periodical revival of the ‘Mormon scare’ in the London newspapers brings down upon the credulous Englishman the amused scorn of our American friends. ‘Girl Victim of the Mormons: Lured to Worse than Death in Utah: Mother’s Agony,’ are the headlines in a journal lying before me.

This is all utter and complete poppycock.

I was in Salt Lake City myself two years ago, and while I sympathize with any English girls who are induced to go there, it is for other reasons than those adduced by the anti-Mormon fanatics. …

The present-day Mormons are not objectionable because they are wicked, but because they are too good. There is probably no such religious city in the Western world as Salt Lake City; the most harmless and innocent amusements are frowned upon. It has recently, I am told, become illegal even to smoke a cigarette in Utah!

If English girls have become converts and gone to Utah and their relatives have not heard from them, I hazard the guess that the victims have died – of boredom.



  1. Killer last paragraph, love it- thanks!

    Comment by Anne (UK) — August 31, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  2. Heck, I’m not English, and not a girl, and was born in the church, but if I hadn’t got out over three decades ago I too might have died of boredom.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 31, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

  3. I love it. Thanks for making me laugh today.

    Comment by Keri Brooks — August 31, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  4. Ha! Very funny. Sounds like it was about time for a Utah Office of Tourism.

    Comment by Researcher — August 31, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

  5. I’ve often thought boring was a fate worse than death.

    Mark, the one thing Utah has going for it is that housing prices are still half of what they are here in the Seattle area. Now if only the jobs didn’t pay half as much, as well.

    Comment by kevinf — August 31, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  6. Ha!

    Happen to know the identity of the author? A newspaper editor, or is this just a letter to the editor?

    Comment by David Y. — August 31, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

  7. It’s unsigned, David; this is one of a great many letters in English newspapers that year when “A Mormon Maid” was playing and Winifred Graham and others were hot flashing over the herds of English girl converts being spirited away to Utah by those nefarious missionaries (one of whom was my own grandpa, bwa-ha-ha!), and it seemed like anybody who had an opinion on Mormons could have their words published somewhere.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 31, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

  8. Now, now, Ardis! No reason to rag on Ms. Graham just because she was at that time in her life. (Was she?)

    Maybe she was a [crab] all her life. :)

    Comment by Mark B. — August 31, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

  9. love it!

    Comment by Martin — August 31, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  10. Is it sexism/agism/whateverism when it’s my own demographic?

    Seriously, when a man of any age hyperventilates with the lurid speculations of Winifred Graham, I suspect there’s a perverted, prurient, voyeuristic interest. When it’s a woman, especially of Ms. Graham’s age, I suspect jealousy that she is not the object of the supposed interest of those virile young men. I accept that people could be genuinely concerned about what they believed was the fate of these girl converts, without having a subconscious sexual involvement, but in that case I expect the discussion to be more rational and logical and less lurid.

    But then, I’m not Freud. I only play him online.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 31, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

  11. I was hoping to read about young girls jumping out of the SLC temple tower into the Great Salt Lake and swimming to freedom and safety.

    Of course my favorite has always been Mark Twain who said he was once totally against polygamy, until he saw how homely Mormon women are, and then understood it was an act of mercy…..Course the Mormon men back then were even uglier….

    Comment by Rameumptom — September 1, 2011 @ 9:49 am

  12. What I find odd here is the date. Was there any significant immigration of “English girls” to Utah past 1910?

    I know that the gathering (at least the Church-sponsored part) had wound down by 1900, and that some immigration continued after that, but I’ve always assumed that it was little enough by the 1920s that there wouldn’t be complaints like this any more.

    Was the Outlook just reacting to cultural memory?

    Comment by Kent Larsen — September 1, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  13. Also, A Mormon Maid is listed in imdb as a 1917 production. Was it still playing in England then? Were there distribution delays that lasted that long?

    Comment by Kent Larsen — September 1, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  14. 1920-21 was a very difficult time for missionary work in England. You’re right that there was very little emigration, but Winifred Graham (a novelist who made it her mission in life to warn the world against the sinister infiltration of English homes by the evil Mormons) was speaking and publishing regularly to great notice about the “hundreds” of English girls — virtually all convert emigrants were young girls, doncha know — who were being shipped out of English every year and never heard from again. Missionaries — who were just returning to England following the war — were mobbed, and meetings were broken up by rowdy crowds. The “Mormon Maid” was still being shown.

    There were dozens upon dozens upon dozens of letters in every English newspaper I’ve looked at during these years, either accusing the Mormons of the most sensational outrages, or defending them through personal experience. This letter is an outlier only because it’s funny — it’s very much part of a great host of such letters at just this time.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 1, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  15. Britain in those years suffered from several concurrent crises:

    * Labor strife. Britain had won the war but did not feel like it. The decade would see several serious strikes, and many feared/looked forward to a Bolshevik revolution similar to what had occurred in Russia; it is not an accident that an author published in 1920 a book called The Coming Revolution in Great Britain.
    * Social costs of war. So many British men died in the war–60,000 killed or wounded on the first day alone of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916–that there were almost two million more women than men of marriageable age. The “excess two million” were correctly told that many would never marry. (One would think that missionaries would be praised for performing a public service, by their alleged behavior of helping to unload excess eligible Englishwomen onto America.)
    * Ireland. The 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence saw savage fighting and atrocities on both sides, as the British government unsuccessfully sought to retain what had been a part of the Britain for more than two centuries.
    * India. The 1919 Amritsar Massacre was probably what caused India to irreversibly head toward independence from Empire, as opposed to some sort of dominion or home rule status.

    With trouble home and abroad, perhaps it is not surprising that such false rumors and stories about missionaries spread so widely.

    Comment by Yeechang Lee — September 2, 2011 @ 9:44 am

  16. Thanks for that context, Yeechang Lee. I can easily believe that under those unsettled conditions, being fearful of something seemingly alien, or boosting your own psychological position by stomping on something seemingly lesser, would be a way of coping. Mormonism fits the bill either way.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 2, 2011 @ 10:11 am

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