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Richards, Louisa (Lula) Greene

RICHARDS, Louisa (Lula) Greene

Born 8 April 1849, Kanesville, Iowa; died 9 September 1944, Salt Lake City, Utah

Also wrote under: Lula, Lulu, Lula Greene Richards

Daughter of Evan M. and Susan Kent Greene; married Levi W.Richards, 1873; children: seven

Louisa Greene Richards was the eighth of 13 children born in a temporary settlement of the Mormon church. After leaving Iowa in 1852, Richards' family lived in several Utah communities before settling permanently in Smithfield. Educated primarily by her father, a respected schoolteacher, Richards later enrolled for a term at the University of Deseret, Utah. She taught school briefly before moving to Salt Lake City in 1872. She married in 1873 and bore seven children, three of whom died in infancy.

Contributing poems to local newspapers as early as age fifteen, Richards was appointed editor of the Smithfield Sunday School Gazette, a handwritten weekly paper devoted to moral admonitions and homilies reflecting conventional sentiments. Richards's early poetic efforts led to an invitation to become founding editor of the Woman's Exponent, a Mormon women's newspaper published in Salt Lake City. In five years as editor, Richards established the tone and format of the paper that would play an influential role in the activities of Mormon women for 42 years (1872-1914).

Richards was sympathetic to the women's movement of her time and editorialized frequently in the Exponent on its developments. Despite disclaimers by the paper's prospectus, woman suffrage became an issue treated extensively by Richards. Her editorials were perceptive, forthright, and unequivocating, especially when defending the practices of the Mormon faith.

After leaving the Exponent, Richards became editor of the "Little Folks" department of the Juvenile Instructor, a Mormon Sunday school periodical. She also contributed poems and stories to other local and church publications while serving for over 25 years on the general board of the Primary Association, a church-sponsored organization for young children.

Richards belonged to a coterie of local literary women who wrote typically unrestrained romantic celebrations in verse and prose of life, virtue, and faith in a divine creator. She compiled her writings under the title Branches That Run Over the Wall (1904), a collection in three parts. The first part is a poetic rendering of selected Mormon scriptures; the second, a group of poems and stories based on the author's personal experiences and reflections; and the third, a group of children's pieces. Many of the poems were composed for musical settings. Domestic life and virtuous living are the dominant themes.

Richards cannot be characterized as more than a pleasing versifier. Her images are predictable and her verses often rhythm-bound, the whole suffering from the sentimental effusiveness of the period. As part of a large number of parlor poets produced by Victorian acceptance of the propriety of "scribbling women," Richards and her peers represent a substantial facet of the 19th-century, literary world. Their significance derives not from the quality of their contribution, which is decidedly uneven, but from the strength of their broad commonality, distinguished less by regional characteristics than by common themes and style. That Richards possessed another literary dimension as a journalist, more substantial and durable than her poetic efforts, attaches a specific importance to her place among popular Utah women writers.

Bibliography:

Arrington, L., "Woman Journalist of the Early West," in The Improvement Era (1969). Gardner, H. R., Life of Levi Richards, 1799-1876, Some of his Ancestors and Descendants (1973). Greene, G. K., Daniel Kent Greene, His Life and Times, 1858-1921 (1960). Madsen, C. C., " Remember the Women of Zion: A Study of the Editorial Content of the Woman's Exponent, a Mormon Woman's Journal," (thesis, 1977).

Reference works:

Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 1830-1936 (1936).

Other references:

Juvenile Instructor (1931, 1950). Relief Society Magazine (1925, 1928). Young Woman's Journal (1891).

—CAROL CORNWALL MADSEN

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