Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Elizabeth Kane Meets the Madonna Dolorosa

Elizabeth Kane Meets the Madonna Dolorosa

By: Amy Tanner Thiriot - July 21, 2014



In the early 1870s, Brigham Young invited his ailing friend Thomas L. Kane to spend the winter with him in St. George, Utah Territory. Kane headed west from Pennsylvania with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two young sons. During their trip, Elizabeth wrote a journal and sent regular letters home to her father filled with witty and sometimes biting portraits of the people she met in Utah. These accounts of her trip are available in two books: Twelve Mormon Homes and A Gentile Account of Life in Utah’s Dixie.

Elizabeth regularly visited with the women in St. George. Here is her description of one of the women she met, and as with many of her sketches, she either uses a pseudonym or does not name her subject.

But even here in little Saint George I have met one charming Bostonian with a face like Carlo Dolcin [sic] Madonna Dolorosa. She is not of the original Mormon converts, and is a lady in cultivation of mind, and as graceful in speech as in every movement of her limbs. She is the least little bit too much given to the Atlantic Monthly Emersonianish Boston way of talking for me. I am when in her company, mentally held up by the hair of my head and obliged to walk on my tiptoes. I confess that I prefer to converse with her on practical matters such as the government of the Indian peons on the large ranche [sic] she owned in Spanish California, and the cultivation of the vineyards and orchards there and here. She relinquished her estate there for her faith, and wears a calico gown and toils in a little one story house all whose drudge-work she does herself.

As part of the Eminent Women Project, I have been slowly using the clues Elizabeth embedded in her descriptions to identify the pseudonymous or unnamed women in A Gentile Account of Life in Utah’s Dixie.

Here are the clues in her portrait of the “Bostonian with a face like Carlo [Dolci’s] Madonna Dolorosa.”

  1. The woman lived in a small house in St. George in the early 1870s
  2. She was from Boston
  3. She looked like a Dolci Madonna
  4. She joined the Church later, perhaps after the 1840s, and did not participate in the Mormon overland pioneer trek
  5. She moved to California late enough in life to have retained New England mannerisms, but may have lived there before it became a state in 1850
  6. She (and perhaps a husband) owned property in California and employed Indian workers
  7. She moved to Utah due to her membership in the Church and suffered financially for the decision

The easiest place to start reviewing the options is the 1870 United States Census. This brings up a handful of names of women from Massachusetts living in St. George:

  • Eleanor Dodge
  • Mary Eardley
  • Augusta Hardy
  • Augusta Jackson
  • Luema Lamb
  • Mary Lewis
  • Lydia McClellan
  • Minerva Snow
  • Elizabeth Snow

A few minutes serves to eliminate most names; for example, Mary Eardley was too young, “Augusta” Hardy is really Augustus Hardy, Lydia Knight McClellan didn’t live in California, Mary Lewis was from New Bedford rather than Boston, etc.

While whittling down the list, I also added one name. “Augusta Jackson,” as she’s listed in the census, was born in Boston in 1844 and is too young to be the woman in the story, but her mother, Caroline Augusta Perkins Joyce Jackson, was from Boston although she was born elsewhere in New England.

The final short list of options includes Eleanor Dodge and Caroline Jackson, and the next step is to see whether Eleanor or Caroline best fits Elizabeth Kane’s description.

But first, here are two Carlo Dolci paintings, Vierge au lys, called “Madonna Dolorosa” in Farrar’s Life of Christ in Art, and Mater Dolorosa.



Eleanor Malone was from Boston. Her father was Irish and her mother was from an old New England family. She married Walter Dodge in Wisconsin before he went west to mine gold in California. Walter found his business ventures to be more successful than mining and became wealthy. Eleanor joined Walter in California and they were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1853. Walter later reminisced, “Now comes the turning point of my life so unfavorable. I joined the Mormons and it cost me a quarter million dollars to be a good saint.” (Source.) He helped build up a number of settlements in Utah and was noted for his contributions to Southern Utah horticulture. He eventually left the Church and became a spiritualist.

Like many early St. George pioneers, the resources were scarce, and the Dodge family probably lived in a small house surrounded by vegetable, fruit, and flower gardens. When Elizabeth Kane was visiting St. George, Eleanor was in her forties and had a newborn son and was expecting her eighth child, who missed being an Irish twin by a week. I have not been able to find a picture of Eleanor to see whether she looks like a Dolci Madonna, but here is a picture of her daughter Eleanor Dodge Brown.


Here’s a summary:

Lived in St. George? Yes
Small household? No
Boston? Yes
Dolci Madonna? Possibly
Joined Church later? Yes, 1853
Overland Mormon Pioneer? No
Moved to California? Her husband may have been in California by himself until she joined him in the early-1850s.
Owned land there? Yes
Moved to Utah? Yes


Caroline Augusta Perkins was born in New Hampshire but lived in Boston. Here is a picture of her with a granddaughter about the time Elizabeth Kane visited St. George.


Caroline was baptized in 1842. She and her first husband, John Joyce, sailed to San Francisco with Sam Brannan in 1846, so they did not cross the plains with the pioneers. Caroline eventually left her alcoholic husband in California and took her two daughters to Utah in the 1860s. She remarried Alden Jackson. They had no children. Caroline was in her mid-forties when Elizabeth Kane visited St. George.

Her daughter “Augusta Jackson” turns out to be Augusta Joyce Crocheron, familiar as the author of Representative Women of Deseret and other literary works. (Biography including information about her mother here.)


Here’s the summary for Caroline Perkins Joyce Jackson:

Lived in St. George? Yes
Small household? Yes
Boston? Yes
Dolci Madonna? Yes
Joined Church later? 1842
Overland Mormon Pioneer? No
Moved to California? Yes, by ship in 1846
Owned land there? Yes
Moved to Utah? Yes

* * *

So, what do you think? Which of the women was Elizabeth Kane’s Dolci Madonna? Eleanor Malone Dodge or Caroline Perkins Joyce Jackson? Share your choice and the reasons for your choice in the comments.



  1. Interesting. I am leaning toward Eleanor Malone, but only because Caroline Augusta Perkins’ bio here does not indicate the kind of California property that Elizabeth Kane describes. Of course a lack of evidence does not mean something did not exist.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — July 21, 2014 @ 10:02 am

  2. I’m with Bruce–Eleanor Malone seems a much closer match. I do wonder about your “small household,” though. Elizabeth Kane said she lived in a “little one story house”–which she may well have done, eight children and all. (And those children would certainly have added to the drudge work that she did all by herself!)

    I am afraid, though, that the “Atlantic”–they dropped “Monthly” from their title ten years ago–has lost its power to change its readers’ speech into some sort of Emersonian Boston dialect. I’ve been reading it for years and still talk like a country boy from central Utah.

    Comment by Mark B. — July 21, 2014 @ 10:34 am

  3. Thought I left a comment earlier. Then the blog wasn’t coming up, could have eaten my comment, and I don’t know if it’s my computer or the server.

    Anyway, briefly, thanks for your input, Bruce and Mark. After going over all the background including the linked information, I’m fairly sure of the identification, but am honestly interested in additional opinions. I know it’s summer and Monday, so a slow day, but after anyone who wants to can share their ideas, I’ll explain my solution, and since a few of you will have puzzled over this yourselves, I think you’ll be in a better position to agree or disagree with my conclusion.

    Comment by Amy T — July 21, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

  4. I’m torn. Not sure which would be the best candidate, but after reading Caroline’s story from her daughter’s viewpoint, I find her an equally likely candidate. Both of these women’s husbands appear to have been well off, and sacrificed to leave California for Utah. Elanor appears to have been more involved in agriculture, but Caroline talks about sending seeds and herbs to Utah while living in San Francisco. And as a lawyer in San Bernardino, Caroline’s husband may well have owned orchards and vineyards on the side.

    Can’t decide. I will wait to see what you think.

    Comment by kevinf — July 21, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

  5. I’m wondering why you think Eleanor Malone, though having eight children, necessarily didn’t live in a “little one-story house.” At least as I read your summaries, that seems to be the factor in Eleanor’s life that isn’t consistent with the clues in Elizabeth’s journal.

    Comment by Meg Stout — July 22, 2014 @ 2:15 am

  6. This writeup resulted in some confusion over my use of the terms house and household. At the time of this account, except for a few houses that were also used as public buildings — for example, the Erastus Snow Big House which was used as a hotel, or Orson Pratt’s home which was used as a store — pretty much all the settlers lived in makeshift shelters or small adobe houses built on foundations of black volcanic rock. (See the WCHS section on Washington County Homes. Two good examples of early homes are the Jones Adobe and the first Cottam home.)

    Also I figured out pretty quickly that my writeup relied on the reader being familiar with Elizabeth’s writing style. If the woman Elizabeth Kane was describing had had small children in the home, Elizabeth should have mentioned that.

    So, after I narrowed the list down to two women, I concluded Eleanor Malone Dodge was the woman meant, regardless of the lack of children in the account. The description of the family property in California seemed pretty definitive.

    Then I read Augusta Joyce Cocheron’s history from Representative Women of Deseret, and my identification immediately switched to Caroline Jackson. The mother Augusta described sounded like the same woman Elizabeth described.

    In any case, I decided to reread Elizabeth’s book this morning. She described a dinner given by the St. George Gardening Club in January 1873, and included this note: “[In] Utah fashion too, the Vice President of the Club was a woman, the Madonna-faced wife of the County Court Clerk.”

    That confirms the identification as Caroline Augusta Perkins Joyce Jackson since her husband, Alden A.M. Jackson was the County Clerk.

    Thanks to all who shared your thoughts.

    Comment by Amy T — July 22, 2014 @ 7:56 am

  7. Every once in a while someone will talk to me about research and writing history, and they Just. Won’t. Get. It. “Why don’t you just go to the library and look it up in a book?” they ask.

    This has been a wonderful illustration of why you can’t just look it up in a book, and shows the detective skills needed by a historian. You might notice that *I* wasn’t brave enough to publicly claim a solution to this puzzle! I admire those of you who were!

    Brava, Amy!

    Long, long ago, Caroline Jackson made a very brief appearance at Keepa. In this post Caroline helps the main character prepare food and bedding for Thomas Kane, as Kane traveled from San Bernardino to Salt Lake City in 1858 to help resolve the Utah War. Surely Kane and the Jacksons remembered their earlier acquaintance — I wonder if they talked about it during that visit in St. George?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 22, 2014 @ 8:56 am

  8. Nice, Ardis! I’d forgotten that story. Thanks for adding that.

    Alden Appolos Moore Jackson was quite a character himself. He was a colonel in the Mexican War, has a city in California named after him (Jackson), and served faithfully as clerk of the probate court, so I’ve seen his name dozens or hundreds of times on court records.

    One additional note about the Kane account: the historian who’s done the most work in identifying these pseudonymous or unnamed people and providing context to the diary is, of course, Lowell “Ben” Bennion. See, for example, his Juanita Brooks lecture from 2006.

    A Bird’s-eye View of Erastus Snow’s St. George

    Comment by Amy T — July 22, 2014 @ 9:32 am

  9. Ardis, you’re a good enough historian to know that Elizabeth Kane’s “Madonna Dolorosa” could be a composite, so that a match to a real person may not be possible. Still, it’s fun to see if a real match can be found.

    I have no real opinion on which of your candidates matches best.

    Comment by Vader — July 22, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

  10. What a great example of the Historian-as-Sleuth at work! Thanks Amy.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — July 22, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

  11. Vader, most if not all of Elizabeth Kane’s unnamed hostesses throughout her travels in Utah can be identified as specific, recognizable, individual women. She doesn’t seem to have used composites — she seems far more interested in an accurate record of her travels, minus names for privacy, than in creating “types” or composites. Ben Bennion hasn’t had much difficulty in identifying those mentioned in her books, and I don’t doubt that Amy is right to expect to be able to identify the “Madonna Dolorosa.”

    One thing I’ve learned about the difference between historians and genealogists is that historians are very often lazy and assume that unnamed figures cannot be identified. Genealogists know that in a small society like 19th century Utah, given skill and patience, it *is* possible to identify people. Mike Quinn, Leo Lyman, and others were familiar with an 1857 letter that became the heart of a 2005 UHQ article I wrote on the John Tobin ambush. None of those previous historians gave a thought to identifying the unnamed released prisoners mentioned in that letter. Using genealogical skills and the types of records genealogists think to use, I identified those released prisoners in under ten minutes (not counting time it took to order materials to be delivered from closed stacks). The big boy historians should have done that, too, but they didn’t know how.

    I’ll back Amy’s identification all the way. She’s a genealogist.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 22, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

  12. And just to rub it in that those with genealogical skills can often run circles around those whose skills are limited to the typical historian’s skills, check out this old post:

    The Case of the Missing Pioneer.

    Historians have been trying to solve that puzzle for many years, mostly by asking each other “Do you know what happened to William A. King?” Put someone with genealogical skills on the trail, and see what happens.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 22, 2014 @ 4:33 pm

  13. Thanks, Gary, and thanks, Ardis.

    Vader, as Ardis notes, Elizabeth Kane’s characters are real people, not composites. She was a diarist, not a novelist. Her reporting is accurate and highly readable.

    I just realized I didn’t link to her St. George book. There’s a copy online courtesy of the University of Utah.

    A Gentile Account of Life in Utah’s Dixie

    Anyone who has any interest in Utah history or pioneer-era church history should be familiar with her two little books.

    Comment by Amy T — July 22, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

  14. One more note on this old post; I recently saw a series written by Augusta Joyce Crocheron in the little-known Church publication, The Contributor, sharing her family’s experiences in California. Augusta’s stories further confirm the identification here.

    “California Memories.”

    Comment by Amy T — September 23, 2014 @ 8:43 am

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