It’s like an accident–I know I should turn away, but I can’t help looking. That’s how I feel about “Sister Wives.” I know it’s voyeuristic, I know it’s trashy–but I can’t help watching the show. Part of my fascination is that I am a descendant of polygamists. My great-grandfather, James H. Hart, had three wives. At the same time. He lived in Bloomington, Idaho, and each wife had her own house. Here is a photo of him:
My great-grandmother, Sabina, was the second wife. Just like Kody Brown’s first and second wives, my great grandfather’s first wife could not give him a lot of children–well, she got pregnant a lot, but she either miscarried, or her children were sickly and died in infancy.
I watched Meri, Brown’s first wife, talk about her jealousies of the new fourth wife (Robyn) and I thought of my great-grandfather’s first wife, who had similar emotions when James married my great-grandmother (Sabina). She wrote in her journal “How can I bear it? He promised he would help me bear it.” It makes me cry when I read her journal from that time period. Soon, however, the two women were good friends, although it must have been hard for the first wife to see my great grandmother with her many healthy babies. They seem to have bonded in jealousy when James married wife #3.
So it occured to me, that technically speaking, since only his first wife was his legal wife, that my grandfather was illegitimate–according to the law of the land. How could I have never had that thought before? Perhaps because I know they were such well-intentioned and good people. I don’t think polygamy was an easy choice for them. They were doing it because they truly believed it was what they were supposed to do.
The whole thing is so mind boggling. People doing weird things because they believe God wants them to do them–and because they seem to have believed the more suffering the better! And now I watch “Sister Wives” and wonder how much of what they are doing and feeling was what my ancestors did and felt.
Although I think the practice of polygamy is fundamentally injurious to women and children, I have to look at Kody Brown and his four wives and think that they are happier and more functional than many monogamous families I know. And I have to think that in the same way that laws against gay marriage are unconstitutional, laws against polygamy and polyandry are probably unconstitutional as well–not that I want to participate personally! Just making an observation.