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HEYWOOD, Martha Spence

Born 8 March 1812, Dublin, Ireland; died 5 February 1873, Washington, Utah

Wrote under: Martha Spence

Married Joseph L. Heywood, 1851; children: two

Martha Spence Heywood emigrated to the U.S. in 1834, supporting herself by sewing, making hats, and teaching. Keenly interested in religion, she traveled as an Advent preacher before joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1849. A year later, she made the overland journey to Utah and became the third wife of a polygamist. Mormon leaders sent the couple to settle Nephi in central Utah, where Heywood's two children were born. In 1861 Heywood relocated in southern Utah. She continued teaching and hat-making until her death at age sixty.

Heywood wrote poetry and letters and kept a diary. She was also active in the founding of several literary and cultural organizations. Although the few extant examples of her poetry show little talent, her diary and letters reveal her as a keen observer capable of rare frankness and introspective insight. Her diary for 1850-56 demonstrates her ability to place events in perspective.

Traveling to Utah after her conversion to the Mormon church, which was controversial at the time, she wrote: "Liberty of conscience and action I have had for years and it has placed me where I am. In embracing Mormonism I followed the dictates of my own judgment, in opposition to that of my best and dearest friends." Independent of mind, Heywood chafed at the suggestion of Joseph Heywood's first wife that she remain in Salt Lake City following her polygamous marriage to Joseph and called it "an interference in my affairs." The unusual social relationships and conditions created by polygamy on the Western frontier, such as long absences from a spouse and the self-sufficiency of women, are well documented in Heywood's writings. So too is her intellectual hunger for plays, lectures, readings, conversation, and classes, which she considered "a higher order of amusement than Balls."

Her eyewitness accounts of historical events are highly valued. To a well-known incident of the Walker War (1853-54) in Utah she brought another view, differing from the official account asserting the slain Native Americans acted aggressively and were killed in self-defense during a "skirmish." Heywood wrote: "Nine Indians coming into our Camp looking for protection and bread with us, because we promised it to them and without knowing they did the first act in that affair [the earlier murder of three whites] or any other, were shot down without a minute's notice." Present-day historians give Heywood's account greater credence.

For the early years of Utah Territory, Heywood's diary remains one of the richest sources of information on social conditions, polygamy, the difficulties of communal living, life in isolated towns, and the indispensable role of women in Mormon settlements.

Other Works:

Not by Bread Alone: The Journal of Martha Spence Heywood (1978).

The papers of Martha Spence Heywood are in private possession of family members in Holbrook, Arizona.


Ursenbach, M., "Three Women and the Life of the Mind," in Utah Historical Quarterly (Winter 1975).


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Heywood, Martha Spence

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