Ann Eliza Young 1844–after 1908

Thomas Houseworth (1828–1915)
Albumen silver print, c. 1875

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

When Ann Eliza Webb married Brigham Young in 1868, she became the Mormon leader’s nineteenth wife. Their marriage was short-lived, however, and five years later Ann Eliza filed for divorce. She claimed that her husband, who had fifty-six children, did not pay enough attention to her two sons from a previous marriage.

While the divorce was proceeding in court, Ann Eliza began a multicity lecture tour in which she detailed her life in a polygamous marriage, as well as her opposition more generally to Mormonism. Her lectures coincided with an increasing interest in women’s rights, and her outspoken views against her former faith helped influence congressional legislation aimed at outlawing plural marriages.

In 1876, she published a popular exposé about Young and Mormonism that chronicled her experiences as “Wife no. 19.” After Brigham Young’s death the following year, her notoriety waned.