Friday, September 7, 2012

Zina Prescinda Young Williams Card

Zina Prescinda Young Card is my great great grandmother. I have strong memories looking at her photograph beside my great great grandfather, Charles Ora Card. She looked so beautiful and pleasant in that photograph, and intelligent. I loved her.

She was the daughter of Brigham Young and Zina Diantha Huntington Young, who were respectively president of the Church and president of the Relief Society. (Maybe someday I will write about Zina Sr. and her tangled mess of marriage and family life.)

Zina grew up in the Lion House in Salt Lake City with Brigham Young. She wrote about him saying:

“President Young was so just, so tender, so noble, and his children were taught by their mothers to obey him implicitly. But his rules were few. The time for instruction and association with him was found when evening came and he would ring the old prayer bell that would bring the whole family together for prayers in the spacious parlor. Oh, those prayers! It seemed as if he talked face to face with God. They have been a tie that bound the family with sacredness and devotion that is rarely found. … He used to have his children sing and dance for him. They had a music teacher, dancing master, and a governess, for he appreciated an education and did all in his power to give everyone in his family an opportunity for knowledge and improvement and culture.”*

Growing up in the Lion House meant she had the rare opportunity of a private tutor and an fine arts education. Brigham Young, if nothing else, was a great champion for education and the arts. Zina was an actress in her young life, and she had refined tastes in art, literature and music that was uncommon in the unruly frontiers of the United States and even Utah, where most people did not have much of an education at all.

One interesting tidbit about her is that Zina P Young was chosen by John Taylor as a delegate in Washington D.C., where she represented Mormons and defended polygamy before the first women’s congress. There she met Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I wonder what they thought of her. I think she must have represented a strange and perhaps conflicted flavor of feminism during that time.

After the death of her first husband, Thomas Williams (she was the second wife) she became the polygamous wife of Charles Ora Card, who fled the government because of his wives and sought refuge in Canada, where he founded the town of Cardston and oversaw the construction of the Cardston temple.

Zina Prescinda Young Williams Card was the wife chosen to accompany C.O. Card to Canada mostly because she was the youngest, and therefore more physically up to the difficult task of carving out a new community near the Rocky Mountains. Talking to my grandmother about her, she remembers well sitting on her lap and hearing her “pleasing alto voice” and feeling her refined, cultured personality. My grandmother tells me that Zina P Y Card took an informal charge over the youth of Cardston from the beginning, teaching them proper grammar and manners. She was affectionately called “Aunt Zina” by many that knew her.

Her home was the cultural center of the community for many years, and many came there to hear music, poetry recitals and to dance. She worked as a midwife and was leader of the Young Women`s Mutual Improvement Association, and when she moved back to Utah she was the matron of the LDS University and worked in the temple where she gave talks to the brides. She brought manners, culture, and refinement to an otherwise rugged place. My grandmother believes that Zina’s fine arts education in the Lion House was an important force in shaping the community of Cardston.

Zina was a prominent and influential woman in the church and the community. Her legacy comes down to me, and I want to understand and appreciate it. She believed in the vision that was given to her about eternal families in heaven, and she believed in giving herself up to build Zion.

I am her great-great grandson. I would like to capture in my life some remnant of her faith and refinement, her love of truth and education, and her dedication to marriage and family.

* Much of my information is gleaned from the Church history website page on Zina Prescinda Young Card,

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