Brigham Young, Joseph Smith's successor as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had a tremendous number of wives.
Ann Eliza Webb, after she decided to divorce Young in 1873, published an exposé entitled Wife No. 19. A later biography of Ann Eliza Young termed her The Twenty-Seventh Wife. It turns out that she was actually wife No. 52 or thereabouts.
Recent studies, including my own, have found 55 well-documented marriages. There are several debatable cases, but most readers will agree that anything over 50 is rather extravagant as far as marriage is concerned. Brigham Young was probably the most oft-married man in 19th-century America.
The sheer variety of Brigham Young's marriages makes it difficult to make sense of them. He married -- was sealed to, in Mormon parlance -- young (Clarissa Decker, 15) and old (Hannah Tapfield King, 65). He married single women and widows. Perhaps most unusually, he was sealed to his first two mothers-in-law. Perhaps most controversially, he married women who were already married, some to Mormon men in good standing.
Augusta Adams, disappointed at being one of many, wrote scores of letters to her husband complaining of financial and sexual neglect, expressing jealousy of other wives, and even swearing at Young. Still, when outsiders portrayed Mormon women as slaves of their husbands,
.Lydia Farnsworth begged Young to marry her. In 1855, she met with him and expressed her "conviction that I belong to you." Two years later, she repeated her desire "to be sealed to you for Eternity." Young curtly dismissed her entreaties. "[W]hen I wish to have any woman sealed to me," he upbraided her in a letter, "I shall reveal the fact. I am not guided by revelations coming through any woman." For unknown reasons, he later changed
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