Historic hire at Mormon-owned BYU: scripture prof who is a young mom

THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

Published: August 27, 2013 04:57PM
Updated: August 28, 2013 09:43AM

Brigham Young University’s ancient-scripture department has hired its first married woman with young children as a tenure-track professor.

Amy Easton-Flake comes to the Mormon-owned school with a doctorate in American literature and women’s studies from Brandeis University — plus a 2-year-old, a 6-month-old and plans for more children.

“No married woman with small children has ever, ever been hired in a tenure-track appointment in the College of Religious Education at BYU,” writes Valerie Hudson, a former BYU professor who now teaches international affairs at Texas A&M University.

“It was widely understood that there was a prohibition against this,” Hudson writes in the summer 2013 issue of Square Two, a Mormon-related journal, “for a ‘righteous’ LDS mother of small children would not be working outside of the home — and only ‘righteous’ LDS women would be welcome to teach and thus serve as a role model in the College of Religious Education, which supplies religious instruction to every single BYU student.”

Ironically, a married woman with small children could work as a secretary in the department, Hudson writes, “and that has certainly happened many times over the years. But you could never work as a tenure-track professor.”

This same policy — and irony — against married women with children under 18 is in place in the LDS Church’s Seminary and Institute programs, she notes, “which have likewise ‘let go’ any married woman teacher who becomes pregnant, or, indeed, refused to hire young married women in the first place with the rationale that they would eventually become pregnant and would have to be terminated.”

A young mother can teach seminary as a volunteer, but not as a paid worker.

Hudson sees the hiring of Easton-Flake as coming on the heels of choosing Camille Fronk Olson in 2011 as the first female department chair in the College of Religious Education — and a harbinger for the future.

“Surely those programs cannot now justify maintaining a different standard than that of BYU, can they?” she writes. “Doesn’t BYU set the standard?”

Peggy Fletcher Stack