The Midwife: A Biography of Laurine Ekstrom Kingston
by Victoria D Burgess
300 pp. 978-1-56085-215-5
$26.95. hardback. July 9, 2012
After working all day at the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, twenty-one-year-old Laurine Ekstrom would return home to find that her parents had rearranged the furniture again to accommodate Rulon Allred, a homeopath, who used their home to assist women in giving birth. Charismatic and unconventional, Allred was also president and prophet of the Mormon fundamentalist Church known as the Apostolic United Brethren. One day when Allred was delayed, Laurine offered what help she could to the expecting mother, and before long the baby was born. Laurine was soon on her way to becoming the most sought-after midwife in Utah despite the fact that it was against the law for a licensed practical nurse to deliver babies.
Another illegal aspect of her life was her marriage to Leon Kingston, son of another Mormon fundamentalist leader, Charles Elden Kingston. Determined to live the principle of polygamy, Leon married Laurine’s sister Rowenna as well. Leon could not have foreseen that his sister wives would one day become activists, sheltering and advising young polygamist women who had been abused by their husbands. This activism made the sisters unpopular with some extended family. Leon, however, stood by his wives.
Laurine was born in rural Idaho in the 1930s. Her family moved to Bountiful, Utah, and then Salt Lake City in the late 1930s and mid-1940s. In this captivating biography, we learn of her struggle as a teenager to obtain a college education and to succeed as a nurse. More importantly, we learn about the methodology and lore of a modern midwife and the personality of a woman whose comforting way and advocacy of natural childbirth has made her a heroine to many. The same gift that allowed her to understand and assist women dealing with troubled marriages made her a successful midwife.
Victoria D Burgess is a clinical psychologist in Salt Lake City and retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. She is the compiler and editor of Sister Saints, a groundbreaking study of Mormon women published in 1978, and co-author of The Survival Guide to Sex and Dating and The Survival Guide to Parenting. In 1986 she directed a research project investigating home births in Utah and Idaho. Her dissertation was on “Family Structure and Dynamics in Early Utah Mormon Families, 1847-1885.” In 2003 she was given an Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Department of Psychology at Utah State University.
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