The collection pertains to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), its legislation, ratification process and the many other complex issues involving the pro-ERA movement, and anti-ERA groups. The collection deals, for the most part, with Alice Allred Pottmyer's, Hazel Davis Rigby's, and Maida Rust Withers's involvement in the organization Mormons for ERA, the organization itself, and the involvement of Mormons for ERA in the national debate over ERA. A substantial amount of material relates to the LDS Church and its official stand against ERA. One of the main focal points of the collection is the excommunication of Sonia Johnson from the LDS Church.
Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives Manuscript Collection
Merrill-Cazier Library Utah State University 3000 Old Main Hill Logan, UT 84322-3000 Phone: 435 797-1663 Fax: 435 797-2880 Email: email@example.com
Collection materials are in English.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008
Mormons for ERA was officially organized during the winter of 1978. The co-founders of the organization were Hazel Davis Rigby, Maida Rust Withers, Teddie Wood, and Sonia Johnson. Mormons for ERA was a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. The organization was officially incorporated April 11, 1980.
Sonia Johnson was voted the first president and main spokesperson for the organization on May 7, 1980. On December 11, 1982 she officially resigned as president, but still remained on the Board of Directors. Alice Allred Pottmyer was a member of the organization (she prepared many of the press releases) and succeeded Sonia Johnson as president on December 11, 1982.
The original Board of Directors were as follows:
Hazel Davis Rigby-Treasurer
Ronald K. Rigby
Teddie Wood (resigned Jan. 27, 1981)
The Board of Directors as of 1985 are as follows:
Hazel Davis Rigby
Ronald K. Rigby
Function of the organization: By 1978, 35 states had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Three more states needed to ratify in order to make it part of the US Constitution. Mormons for ERA were a pro-ERA organization that worked, rallied, and lobbied for the ERA to be ratified in those states that had yet to do so. Their major activities included: formal and informal relations with the media, lobbing legislators, informing and educating the public on ERA issues, and debating ERA issues in public forums. One of the obstacles Mormons for ERA saw as a threat to the Equal Rights Amendment was the LDS Church's stand against the Equal Rights Amendment (they formally opposed ERA Oct. 22, 1976), and the Church's support of anti-ERA lobbing efforts.
In 1978 the time period within which ERA needed to be ratified was quickly approaching. Congresses took an unprecedented step and extended the time for ratification by three years to 1982. During the well publicized hearings on the extension, Sonia Johnson was called to testify on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment before the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights on Aug. 4, 1978. On that day, Sonia Johnson and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah (who was a member of the LDS Church and who also opposed the ERA bill) clashed on the issues of ERA and also the LDS Church's opposition to it.
After the extension was passed by congress, Mormons for ERA continued to campaign for ERA. But the significant turning point in the groups activities and media coverage came in November of 1979. The LDS Church called Sonia Johnson into an L.D.S. Bishop's court. Bishop Jeffery Willis presided over the hearing to determine whether or not Sonia should be excommunicated from the church. Despite the many testimonies on behalf of Sonia and the support vigils outside the hearing, Sonia Johnson was officially excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on December 5, 1979. This act alone propelled Sonia Johnson and Mormons for ERA into the national media spotlight and the heated national debate over ERA.
Ultimately the Equal Rights Amendment failed by three states to ratify and has never been passed by Congress again. Mormons for ERA continued to function as an organization for several years after, but by about 1987 funds and interest had began to diminish. Subsequently, the organization finally disbanded.
BIOGRAPHY--ALICE ALLRED POTTMYER
Alice Allred was born in South Dakota but spent her early years as an active Mormon youth growing up in Texas in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Her father was transferred to Washington, D.C. during the summer of 1954. Alice attended Brigham Young University and received her B.S. degree in Journalism. During her time at BYU she became friends with Maida Rust Withers and Hazel Davis Rigby (later to be founding members of Mormons for ERA).
Alice worked for 12 years in Washington D.C. as a trade and professional editor. She married James Pottmyer and in 1972 left work and had her first baby, Laura. Their next child, Stephen, was born in 1975. With her young children at home, and caring for her ailing mother-in-law, she would occasionally do part time editing jobs from her home. She wrote articles and produced Dialogue magazine for five years. She wrote numerous articles for Sunstone magazine, was twice an Arlington delegate to the Virginia Democratic Convention, volunteered for Arlingtonians for a Better County, was a member of the PTA, was a leader for the Girl Scouts, and worked for the church public communications department.
Alice had long supported the Equal Rights Amendment, and in 1975 the issues of ERA began to heat up. With the increasing anti-ERA activity from conservative groups, including the Mormon church (the church formally opposed ERA Oct. 22, 1976), Alice's friends from BYU, Maida Rust Withers and Hazel Davis Rigby, along with Teddie Wood and Soina Johnson co-founded Mormons for ERA in 1978.
Although Alice was not a founding member, she did a great deal of background work for the group. She organized and gave background information to the media about the organization and their activities, including their lobbing efforts, their views on the complexities of ERA issues, and their debates on ERA issues in public forums. She also developed the press kits that were given to the media. This proved to be an invaluable task once the media coverage exploded when the Mormon Church excommunicated Sonia Johnson on December 5, 1979.
On December 11, 1982 Alice Allred Pottmyer succeeded Sonia Johnson as president of Mormons for ERA and also took over the newsletter. She functioned as president until 1987 when the funds and interest had begun to diminish.
BIOGRAPHY--HAZEL DAVIS RIGBY
Hazel Davis grew up in Salem, UT and was an active member of the Mormon community. One of her childhood friends was Maida Rust (Withers); they both attended BYU. Hazel received her B.A. from BYU and then went on to receive her M.A. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She married Dr. Ronald K. Rigby (Department of Defense, Naval Sea Systems Command). Hazel met Sonia Johnson in 1961 while both were attending graduate school, along with their husbands, at the University of Minnesota.
Her husband began working at the Department of Defense, Naval Sea Systems Command, and she began teaching and became head of the Business Dept. at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA.
In 1978 she co-founded the organization Mormons for ERA along with Teddie Wood, Maida Rust Withers, and Sonia Johnson. She was treasurer. In November of 1980 Mormons for ERA were holding a demonstration in front of the Washington Temple in Washington State. A scuffle erupted between the demonstrators and anti ERA supporters. Subsequently, the police were called and Hazel was one of several demonstrators who were arrested. In the years following, Hazel played other important roles in Mormons for ERA activities and development.
BIOGRAPHY--MAIDA RUST WITHERS
Maida Rust was born October 13, 1936 in Kanab, Utah. She was the youngest of eight children born to Isabelle Martina Luke and Woodruff Rust. She was raised in Salem, Utah as a member of the Mormon Church from which she was a sixth generation pioneer descendant. She graduated from Spanish Fork High School in 1954. She then attended Brigham Young University where she received her B.S. in Music and Dance in 1958. She completed her M.A. in Dance from the University of Utah.
She began her teaching career at Purdue University. By this time, Maida had married her husband Lawrence Arlen Withers (born in Rexburg, Idaho). In 1963 Maida took a teaching position at Howard University for one year. During that time she marched with the other Faculty members (she being the only white female faculty) to the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King was giving a speech.
At the end of that year, she accepted a position in the Department of Theater and Dance as an Associate Professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. During her career at George Washington University, she has directed the M.F.A. dance program, taught advanced dance, dance and movement improvisation, choreography, and performance art theory. She also severed on the Board of Directors of Washington Projects for the Arts for eight years, and severed a three year term on the Kennedy Center Education Committee.
On September 19, 1964, Maida and her husband had their first child, Kristin Withers. Almost five years latter they had their second child, Lawrence Luke Withers, May 28, 1969. Two years later, April 15, 1971, they had twins, Eric Pratt and Marc Pratt Withers. Despite her young family at home, Maida's professional and creative career began to shine. In 1974 Maida founded the critically acclaimed dance troupe Maida Withers Dance Construction Company.
During the early seventies, she became increasingly involved in the social and political issues of the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement. In 1975, the issues of the Equal Rights Amendment began to heat up. It was during this year that Maida Rust Withers and one of her friends, Teddie Wood became active participants in the pro-ERA movement. But with increasing anti-ERA activity from conservative groups, including the Mormon church (the church formally opposed ERA Oct. 22, 1976), Teddie Wood, Sonia Johnson and Maida, along with one of Maida's close childhood friends, Hazel Davis Rigby, Co-founded Mormons for ERA in 1978.
During the 80's Maida's focus on social reform turned to environmental awareness. The social issues of the past and her activism in the Equal Rights movement prepared her for her passionate environmental activism. In 1992 Maida Rust Withers and her dance troupe participated with other international artists for ecology at the historic United Nation's Conference on the Environment and Development. Maida Rust Withers continues to tour nationally and internationally with her dance company and uses dance as interpretive means for environmental awareness. She has created over 35 distinctive works for the stage and video, and subsequently she has received a myriad of prestigious awards and accolades from her peers, critics, and the public.
The Mormons for ERA collection consists of the papers donated by Alice Allred Pottmyer, Hazel Davis Rigby, and Maida Rust Withers, who collaborated in the founding of "Mormons for ERA" in 1978. The collection contains 25 boxes that includes: correspondence, newsletters, pamphlets, financial records of Mormons for ERA, bulletins, minutes, testimonies, speeches, papers, congressional records, legal records, press kits, news clippings, photos, books, and memorabilia. The papers in the collection span the years 1977 to approximately 1993, with the bulk of the papers dating between 1979-1983.
The collection was treated as a whole, but each of the three women's papers were kept in their own separate collection, thus, the materials have some overlap and inter-connection between each of the individual donors' papers. The collection is divided as follows: Box 1-15 contain the collection of Alice Allred Pottmyer, boxes 16-20 contain the collection of Hazel Davis Rigby, and boxes 21-23 contain the collection of Maida Rust Withers. Within each of the three collections, the papers have been divided into five main subcategories: Personal information, Mormons for ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Sonia Johnson.
The correspondence was arranged as follows: Outgoing correspondence arranged by chronological date and incoming correspondence arranged alphabetical by last name. The correspondence is mainly divided into personal correspondence and the correspondence as it relates to the organization Mormons for ERA (example: contribution correspondence).
Items within the collection pertain to the Equal Rights Amendment, its legislation, ratification process and the many other complex issues involving the pro-ERA movement, and anti-ERA groups (including the LDS Church and members of the US Congress). The papers deal, for the most part, with the women's involvement in the organization Mormons for ERA, the organization itself, and the involvement of Mormons for ERA in the national debate over the Equal Rights Amendment. A substantial amount of material relates to the LDS Church and it's official stand against ERA. One of the main focal points of the collection is the excommunication of Sonia Johnson (first president of Mormons for ERA) from the LDS Church. This act alone propelled Sonia Johnson and the organization Mormons for ERA into the national media spotlight and the heated national debate over ERA.
Use of the Collection
Restrictions on Access : Restrictions
Open to public research.
Restrictions on Use : Copyright
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Utah State University Libraries, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.
Mormons for ERA, 1977-1983. (COLL MSS 234). Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives Department.
Organized into subcollections for each donor: Alice Allred Pottmyer, Hazel Davis Rigby, and Maida Rust Withers. Each subcollection is divided into the following subcategories: Personal information, Mormons for ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Sonia Johnson.
Acquisition Information :
Donated by Alice Allred Pottmyer, Hazel Davis Rigby, and Maida Rust Withers.