The Blessed Bride – “Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife” by Irene Spencer
By the time Irene Spencer was 35, she had thirteen children – and her husband had 9 other wives.
Driven to a polygamist life by her belief in God, 16 year old Irene married Verlan LeBaron and became his second wife. (Her half-sister, Charlotte, was LeBaron’s first wife.) Over the next twenty years, she delivered thirteen of LeBaron’s fifty-eight children, lived in utter poverty, and seethed with decidedly non-angelic jealously as her husband took eight more wives before his death in a car accident.
If you’re expecting “Shattered Dreams” to be a subservient memoir of a blushing flower, or a sweet love story told by a nice little sister wife, think again. Irene is plucky, smart, jealous, angry, and downright mean at times as she struggles to balance her love for God with the day to day life of being one of many wives to a man she never really loves. Spencer is wildly open about how she wanted more intimacy from her husband, but found herself frustrated at having to constantly share his limited time.
It’s hard to support a family of sixty-plus people. For a variety of reasons – mostly financial – the family winds up moving all over the place, from America to Mexico to Nicaragua, always having to struggle for every penny. There’s a heartbreaking passage about the wives struggling to make sure every child gets a Christmas present, and finally having to go to the party favor section of a store to get the most bang for their buck.
(Interestingly, Ms. Spencer left out a lot of chilling events from these years. An older brother of Verlan LeBaron named Ervil started his own fundamentalist Mormon group and was convicted of ordering the killings of a lot of people who spoke against him – Verlan included. Spencer has written another book – “Cult Insanity” – that details these crimes, as she felt that though they were obviously playing out at the same time she writes about in “Shattered Dreams,” they detracted from her personal story.)
Spencer is now married (to ONE man) and lives in Alaska, where she’s an advocate against polygamy. Reading “Shattered Dreams” was incredibly insightful as well as entertaining, and I suggest it if you’re interested in reading about a way of life that I’m willing to bet is completely different than your own. The book made every feminist bone in my body angry, and I’m thrilled to hear that Irene is still out speaking against the life she lived through.