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on April 7, 2005
If I could I would give this book 3 ½ stars. Johnson is a decent (albeit verbose) writer, and her story is gripping. Once you pick up the book it is hard to put it down. Though she occasionally tries to explain Mormon colloquialisms and customs in layman's terms for non-Mormons, she writes from a profoundly Mormon experience, and I think it would be hard for a non-Mormon to fully appreciate the cultural subtleties in some of her stories.

Pros: Johnson's writing is illuminating. I was surprised at how something as simple as putting the shoe on the other foot made me consider in a new light traditions I had taken for granted. E.G., What if male missionaries could not baptize the people they converted and had to ask a woman to do the baptizing for them? How would men feel if the Church openly worshipped Heavenly Mother but only rarely spoke of the existence of a Heavenly Father in hushed and demurred tones? How would single men react to the Relief Society patronizing them with a speech assuring them that female leaders knew that some of their hearts yearned to be married and that if they were not fortunate enough to marry and sire children in this life they would have the opportunity in the hereafter, contingent upon their righteousness? Anyone with half a brain would concede that men would not like it one bit! Neither does Johnson; neither do I.

Cons: Johnson suspects sinister motives of most men in and out the Church, but considering the conspiring cabal that worked to excommunicate her, who could blame her? I personally think that most men are simply oblivious to the adverse effects of patriarchy and don't honestly intend to insult women. Many male church members are sincerely trying to comfort a single, 40-year-old woman when they tell her that she will find a soulmate in the afterlife if she doesn't find one on earth. These men don't realize that the reason they are even in the business of "comforting" this woman is that they themselves created a system that allowed (nay, encouraged!) this woman to pin all of her hopes and happiness, all of her dreams and desires, upon being someone else's wife and someone else's mother, rather than becoming a strong individual herself. Furthermore, some of what Johnson describes as her haze of living under patriarchy seems like severe depression. The Church has never embraced psychology, even openly telling its members that if you pray and fast enough God will help you through any trial. This ignorant mentality was even worse in the late 1970s. Clearly, injustice is prevalent in the Mormon Church; however, I think Johnson sometimes blurs the lines between her anger at Mormon injustice and her own mental anguish.

To me, the most disturbing part of the book (besides the cheeky confrontation between a hotheaded Orrin Hatch and a composed, coolheaded Johnson) was the detailed account of the Church organizing lobbying groups and political action committees to campaign against the ERA under direction from current Church President, Gordon Hinckley. The Church has recently engaged in similar tactics in promoting anti-gay marriage legislation, and the secrecy with which the Church organizes is unnerving. While many other churches are aboveboard and openly announce their political involvements, the LDS Church claims to shy away from politics while sneakily orchestrating supposedly "grassroots movements," which it tries to pass off as mere groups of "concerned citizens" banding together.

Overall, a compelling read. I was, however, left with a strong feeling that "the bigger they are, the harder they fall." I think that because Johnson wholly bought into patriarchy as a child and young woman the more disillusioned she became when she exposed its faults.
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on May 5, 2004
First of all, to everyone who deems it necessary to attack the author of this book: shame on you. This is a place for reviews on the BOOK, not the author.
On that note, I found Sonia's book to be a delightful read. It's nice to finally read Mormon literature from a woman's perspective. Although a bit outdated, I felt that I could relate to most of what she wrote (both concerning the Mormon church, and not). She did get a bit out of hand with the "labeling" of ALL men. I'm sure that from her experiences, men have been less-than-human. Not all men are that way, though.
Not once does she attack the doctrine of the religion; only the hypocricy of most of the members [with whom she came into contact]. Her story may seem a bit exaggerated, but I don't believe it is. I went ahead and did some research on Sonia, the ERA, etc., and I found her book to be dead on the facts.
I've found myself treating Sonia's book like I would a history book. I've learned things about the Mormon church that I never even knew of when I was a member; all of which rings of some form of truth.
If you're looking for an interesting, compelling book based on one woman's experience within the Mormon church, you needn't look any further.
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on February 5, 2001
I originally read this book when I was ten years old, and a Mormon. God only knows how I actually got ahold of it. I suppose I didn't really know what to make of it at the time. Each time I have read it since, it has more resonance. Most people simply have no idea of what really goes on in the Mormon church. They think it's a nice, sunny, family-oriented religion. They do not know that the ideas of natural inferiority of women and superiority of men are integral parts of the religion, perhaps THE most integral. They do not know that African-Americans were not admitted into the Aaronic priesthood until 1979. They do not know that men are still allowed to store away multiple wives for the afterlife (and that sounds bizarre because it is.) Even many converts do not necessarily know these things. Sonia does come across as bitter and angry throughout much of this book, I agree. But if we don't get angry about certain things, exactly what are we on this earth for? Now, more than ever, this classic book reminds us that there is a time to be angry. I really wonder what Sonia is doing now, and I hope to hear her voice on the current political situation.
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on April 1, 2001
This books rings so true to me. Her experiences as a Mormon directly correspond to what I have seen in the Mormon church - the belittling and disempowermemt of women - amounting almost to unconcern with what women really want or need. After her feminist awakening, Sonia was completely non-tolerant of being treated as less-than-human. This is where she ran into trouble with the Mormon church - who basically wanted her to sit down and shut up (i.e. follow the prophet blindly, not report church hypocrisy to the press - specifically in their attempts to cover up the fact that (male) church leaders were organizing Mormon women to lobby against the ERA and then requiring the women to say that they were just concerned citizens - not an organized group). The depths to which her church leaders sank (blantantly lying; attempting to discredit her by saying she was insane, mentally unstable, merely publicity-hungry; using women to front for male decisions) are depressing but completely believable.
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on March 22, 2004
Sonia's story is a look into the experience of an individual's religious background. Sonia realized that she wasn't going to stand to be treated like she wasn't equal and did something about it only to be met with judgements and accusations of insanity, instability, and other very negative, unchristian actions. This is the sad part about the book, the very same people that went to the Church, who preached and listened to the good word about being a good christian, did not practice it after they left the parking lot. Just look at the strong words used in the "reviews" of this book. This is a story written by one person sharing their experience with the world. There may be more people out there who feel the same way. If so, who cares? Why would someone waste their energy to fill out reviews completely attacking the PERSON instead of giving a straight review of the BOOK? If you feel that you aren't being treated well and see hipocrisy around you, read this book. It will inspire you to be brave and get out. Get out and move on and find something that works for you. I did, and it feels great and I found comfort knowing that someone went through such a horrible ordeal and had the courage to change their situation and write about it. Good show; well done!
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on August 14, 2000
Sonia Johnson is a brilliant, incredibly courageous and insightful feminist, as this book (as well as all her subsequent books)reveals. Her powerful sense of personal integrity and authenticity is remarkable, standing unshaken in the face of numerous untruths, betrayals, and manipulations by her spouse, the Mormon church, and society at large. Most of us travel through life taking baby steps, inching forward slowly and with trepidation -- but, in one short life, Sonia has traveled a million miles, taking many bold, daring leaps into the unknown, revealing a depth of character -- and an originality -- that few have ever achieved. And yet, she does not claim to be special; rather, she says we all have this capacity. What she truly is is a catalyst, a trailblazer, showing us women by her example what is possible when we have faith in ourselves and love for ourselves: that we too can scale the heights and walk new roads with our heads held high, courageously testing the waters of our hearts and souls. Through reading this book, I have come to resonate with Sonia's grand vision of life -- for she is a true visionary, a heroine, a Joan of Arc of the present day. Certainly she is the most original, far-seeing -- even mystical -- feminist I have ever encountered in writing. My life has been immeasurably enriched by the wonderful ideas contained in this unique book. Whenever I feel self-deprecating, discouraged and depressed (about life in general, and especially about being female in a patriarchal world!), I reread Sonia's words, and I always feel so much better -- heartened, even exalted and ennobled. Her words gently remind me I am not crazy, contemptible, and "less-than" --that what I am has beauty and power. This is what we women the world over desperately need to hear and to believe about ourselves (lord only knows we have internalized enough terrible lies about who we are, and I for one am sick of it. I now completely refuse to listen to sexist nonsense about who I am...and I have Sonia in part to thank for this wonderful sense of self-empowerment). Sonia Johnson's life has profoundly reached out and touched mine, and for that I am deeply grateful. I highly recommend this wonderful read to all those who truly care about women -- to those who dare to believe we can have a beautiful, magical, and noble world.
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Sonia Johnson (born 1936) is an American feminist activist and writer. She was an outspoken supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and in the late 1970s was publicly critical of the position of the Mormon Church (of which she was a member) against the ERA. She eventually was excommunicated from the church for her activities. She has become a popular feminist speaker, and author of several other books (e.g., Going Out of Our Minds: The Metaphysics of Liberation), The SisterWitch Conspiracy,The Ship That Sailed into the Living Room: Sex and Intimacy Reconsidered,Wildfire: Igniting the She/Volution).

She states, "Why I ever trusted men is quite beyond me." (Pg. 31)

She observes, "From this letter I can see that my feminism was also pushing to be born." (Pg. 58) She suggests, "Perhaps the reason I had not encountered a feminist until ten years into the women's movement and forty-two years into my life was that I was a Mormon---which provides substantial protection from reality." (Pg. 89)

She asserts, "Polygamy is the ultimate depersonalization of woman, even if you are God's wives." (Pg. 241)

She notes, "Since Paul was obviously left in the bleakest ignorance... I choose to go with the Head Man. I am an ardent fan of Jesus. You can have Paul." (Pg. 244) She concludes, "The truth is, I was not SANE until I was a feminist." (Pg. 367)

Obviously a controversial book by a controversial figure, this book is nevertheless fascinating reading for anyone interested in the LDS Church and feminism.
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on October 21, 2014
My name is Collette and I purchase books from Amazon.

This is an incredible book by an incredibly courageous, brilliant woman who took on a terribly sexist institution. Ms. Johnson's insights into the dynamics of sexism and patriarchy is outstanding -- she is right-on and I agree with this book 100 percent. Women who slam this book are their own worst enemies, and they don't even know it. Thankfully, more and more women are wising up -- in Mormonism, for example, there are more and more exposes like Sonia's being written all the time, and a burgeoning feminist movement made up of Mormon women is alive and well.

I love you, Sonia Sister!
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on April 20, 2004
This book is somewhat dated now, as the Church has gotten a little more "PC" over the years, but it still offers some interesting insights into the Mormon woman experience. It's quite readable, and her story is compelling. However, it is one-sided, to say the very least, and not a totally accurate picture of the LDS Church's part in the ERA opposition or its attitudes toward women in general. It's an anecdotal history, told from her perspective. She describes some pretty clueless and condescending (male) church leaders, who are totally believable characters as far as I'm concerned, but not as representative of LDS men as she'd have you believe. (Yes, even the old-fashioned ones.) I also suspected a few "spins," such as when she laments having her temple recommend confiscated; she claims to have been planning to attend the temple the following morning to get spiritual strength for her church court. She may have been planning to attend the temple, but I strongly doubt that it was to get spiritual strength from an ordinance ceremony that is not exactly silent on the issue of defined gender roles!
This is a good book to read as a supplement to other historical accounts of the Mormon/ERA controversy. Sonia Johnson's personal experience lends color and humanity to the story. To be enlightening, however, it needs to be kept in perspective. Read it in conjunction with books by authors who are less biased--or at least biased in a different direction.
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VINE VOICEon June 21, 2014
I read this book many decades ago - probably about the time it came out. I devoured it. I am not a member of the Church, but I found the novel compelling, and the interactions with Senator Hatch were instructive in many ways. As the Church of LDS has more and more voices rising up saying, "We are not who we should be, or who we should be," this book becomes an interesting read. Folks inside the Church know what the Church is capable of - observers from the outside, interested observers, should add this work to their knowledge base.
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