Before moving to Creston in August, I had heard many different stories from a variety of people about the Blackmore family and the community of Bountiful.
As someone who has spent most of his life in Ottawa, polygamy was a topic that was rarely discussed. To hear about polygamist leader Winston Blackmore and his 150 children across more than 20 wives was a revelation indeed.
Prior to meeting with Mary Jayne Blackmore, the daughter of Winston, much of my knowledge about her family was derived from word of mouth and reading media reports. But as we talked, my preconceived notions and ideas about the Blackmores were called into question.
The vision I had of Bountiful was a place that was completely shut off from mainstream society, where women and children were governed by men and had little to no say in their lives. However, speaking with Mary Jayne revealed that women in the community are able to develop a sense of independence and choice.
Her unique upbringing and her world travels helped carve out her own understandings of independence, faith and womanhood. She really is her own person.
She spoke with pride and joy when discussing her upbringing in her community of Bountiful. Again, my limited knowledge told me children in Bountiful — like their mothers — lacked opportunities to live normal lives. Yet, Mary Jayne cherishes her childhood and cared about her family and the relationships she cultivated while growing up in Bountiful.
It requires a lot of courage and strength for someone like Mary Jayne to write her own story about her life as a woman in the Blackmore family. No matter your stance on the Blackmores, it’s important to listen.
Telling her own story challenges mainstream narratives and notions, but it also gives us more insight and perspective into the environment of growing up as a Blackmore in Bountiful.
In a time where women’s rights and voices are yet to be fully and equally recognized, it’s crucial that we support women and the stories they tell — especially for men. The challenges, barriers and misogyny that women face in society are far greater than those of their male counterparts, and we can learn how to become better allies by seeking to understand them.
It’s crucial that we take the time to listen to perspectives that are unfamiliar to us. For me, much of Bountiful and the Blackmores were shrouded in the mystery until meeting Mary Jayne and reading excerpts from her memoir.
Choosing to challenge your own biases and learn more about missing perspectives not only allows for greater understanding, but it helps grow your character as well.
Aaron Hemens writes for the Creston Valley Advance.
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