Maurine Whipple

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Maurine Whipple
Maurine Whipple
Maurine Whipple
Born (1903-01-20)January 20, 1903
St. George, Utah, US
Died April 12, 1992(1992-04-12) (aged 89)
Occupation author
Language English
Education B.A., University of Utah, 1926
Genre Novel, short story
Notable works The Giant Joshua

Maurine Whipple (January 20, 1903 – April 12, 1992) was an American novelist and short story writer best known for her novel The Giant Joshua (1941).[1] She won the 1938 Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship for writers working on their first novel. The book is about southern Utah and polygamy.

Whipple's parents both grew up in polygamist households, and Whipple grew up in St. George, Utah. She attended the University of Utah and taught in schools for several years. Whipple had many infatuations and brief relationships with men. After attending the 1937 Rocky Mountain Writer's conference, she made connections that led to her publish The Giant Joshua with Houghton Mifflin. Afterwards, she made plans for more novels, but never published them. She published This is the Place: Utah, a travel guide to Utah, in 1945, to mixed reviews.

Early life and education

Maurine Whipple was born to Charles and Annie Lenzi (McAllister) Whipple on January 20, 1903, in St. George, Utah, the oldest of six children.[2] Her parents were both children of parents in polygamous relationships.[3] Charlie openly had affairs with other women in town, much to Annie's embarrassment.[4] In 1906, alongside his lumber yard and ice house businesses, Charlie and some business associates ran a movie theater in town. When she was old enough, Maurine worked in the theater as a janitor and popcorn girl until it closed in the Great Depression, giving her a familiarity with silent movies.[5]

Maurine's maternal grandmother, Cornelia Lenzi McAllister, and her sister wives told her stories about their lives when she was young.[6] When she was twelve years old in 1915, Maurine's mother gave birth to her brother George, and had a nervous breakdown. Maurine stayed home from school to help raise George, who suffered from eczema and other ailments and needed constant care.[7] Juanita Brooks, who taught at Maurine's school when she was a senior, described her as precocious and recalled that she was the editor of the school newspaper and yearbook.[8] As a teenager, she taught Sunday School in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).[9] She considered herself an active member until the 1930s.[10]

Whipple's senior photo

Whipple was not popular in school and envied those who were. She was socially immature and desperately wanted to be married and have children.[11] She frequently had unrequited crushes on men well past adolescence. She attributed her lack of romantic success to tragic accidents, war, misunderstanding, or fate.[12] One of these crushes started in 1923 after her first year attending classes at the University of Utah. Whipple's brother Ralph had a ruptured appendix and peritonitis. Whipple acted as the doctor's assistant for the surgery. The young doctor, Clare Woodbury, was in St. George for his father's funeral, whose practice he inherited. Whipple stated that their relationship was never physically intimate. Whipple later fictionalized her meeting with Woodbury.[13] She went back to college after the summer, staying with family her sophomore and junior years.[13] Whipple reports being invited to board with Maud Babcock for her senior year, but ended up staying at the Beehive House when it was a boarding house.[14] She wrote short stories for her English classes and completed her student teaching, probably at Stewart Junior High.[15] She had many crushes and dated several men. She graduated in 1926.[16] Whipple was frequently ill, but "almost certainly" some of her health complaints were psychosomatic.[17]


After graduating, Whipple taught at four different schools, often disagreeing with principals over the best way to educate children.[11] She taught first in Monroe, Utah, where she had trouble disciplining a class of boys.[18] While living there, she had a one-sided romance with Hyrum Lee; a pattern of intense infatuations that continued throughout her life.[19] She was not hired for the next school year and the principal refused to write her a letter of recommendation.[20] She taught in Georgetown, Idaho, 1926–1927, and wrote the novella "Beaver Dam Wash" while recovering from an appendectomy. The novella featured a man who dreamed of building an oil well that would greatly profit his hometown of Beaver Dam.[21] She wasn't offered a contract for the next year, and worked the following year as an aid at Dixie High School. During that summer, she staged plays in her father's theater.[22] She taught in Virgin, Utah 1928–1929 alongside Nellie Gubler, and went to California that summer to study drama and recreational programs.[23] She taught in 1930 in Heber City, where she organized a play to raise money for a physical education program against the principal's wishes.[24]

She returned to the University of Utah to take a few classes in 1931, and worked in the Neighborhood House, a government-sponsored project to bring recreation to a poor neighborhood.[25] Around this time she renewed her friendship with Lillian McQuarrie, who was doing research for a historical novel set in 1860s Utah.[26] McQuarrie encouraged Whipple to "settle" for marriage and Whipple was married for four months to the recently divorced Emil de Neuf around 1932.[27] She taught dance in Boulder City, Nevada.[28] After teaching for six weeks in Latuda, Utah (a town near Price), she was raped and subsequently had an abortion.[11] In 1937, she wanted to be part of the Cedar City Easter pageant, in hopes that it would help her get a job at the new Cedar City Branch Agricultural College. She pursued a relationship with the pageant's director, Grant Redford, but he refused her advances and also her offer to help with the pageant, which Whipple found devastating.[29] She became severely depressed and suicidal. McQuarrie became estranged from her husband, and Whipple stayed with her while she gave birth.[30] McQuarrie made Whipple promise to go to the Rocky Mountain Writer's Conference in Colorado.[31]

The Giant Joshua

A woman, probably Maurine Whipple, poses with a giant Joshua tree.

Whipple's "Beaver Dam Wash" was submitted to the 1937 Rocky Mountain Writer's Conference. She wrote the fictionalized autobiographical "Confessions of a She Devil" at the conference.[32] At the conference, Ford Maddox Ford liked "Beaver Dam Wash" and convinced Ferris Greenslet, then vice president at Houghton Mifflin, to read it. Greenslet advised Whipple to make the novella a little longer; instead, Whipple proposed a Mormon epic and sent a sample chapter. Greenslet encouraged Whipple to apply for Houghton Mifflin's $1,000 literary fellowship for new writers working on their first novel.[33] Whipple lived with her parents while she wrote the chapters for the fellowship application, often getting inspiration right before falling asleep and working through the night. Greenslet helped her to apply for the fellowship, and she won the 1938 Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship.[34][35] She went to Boston to accept the prize. Greenslet greatly encouraged Whipple while she wrote The Giant Joshua over the next three years. He constantly gave her advice, personally lent her money, and made it possible for her to stay at the artist colony Yaddo to finish her book.[36] Whipple disliked Yaddo, complaining that she felt lonely and isolated, and completed much writing there.[37] Joseph Walker, an ex-Mormon doctor from St. George living in Hollywood, read early manuscripts and wrote Whipple encouraging letters.[38] Whipple was afraid of her work comparing unfavorably with Vardis Fisher's, but both Walker and Greenslet assured her that her writing was better than his.[39] She wrote the manuscript in longhand and had others type it up for her. After its publication, The Giant Joshua was not very profitable to Whipple. As a fellowship winner, the accompanying contract was not generous, and Whipple received advances on her royalty checks to finish the novel.[36] Whipple also hired a literary agent, Maxim Liber, just after the publication of The Giant Joshua, and Liber took a percentage of money due to her. She fired him that August.[40] Historian Juanita Brooks helped Whipple with historical details in The Giant Joshua, though Brooks was disappointed at the historical inaccuracies Whipple kept in the novel. Whipple was also inspired by her own family history and family stories from the Beckstrom family and Annie Atkin, who grew up in St. George and later married Vasco Tanner.[41]

The Giant Joshua sold well. It was fifth in a list of ten in Harper's Poll of the Critics and was second in The Denver Post's list of bestsellers.[42] The novel had fans who sent Whipple letters expressing their love for her epic novel.[43] Ray B. West in the Saturday Review of Literature wrote that the book showed the "tenderness and sympathy" between early Mormons.[44] However, The Giant Joshua did not have endorsement from any LDS Church leaders. John A. Widtsoe wrote in The Improvement Era that its treatment of polygamy was unfair,[43] though he praised how it showed the "epic value" of Mormon settlements.[44] The book presents plural marriage as a test of faith similar to colonizing Utah's desert.[43] Later reception of the book was more positive. In 1983, Whipple sold the movie rights to the book, which provided for her in her old age.[34] In 1989, The Giant Joshua was the most-borrowed book in the Salt Lake City Public Library.[43] In "Fifty Important Mormon Books", Curt Bench reported that Mormon scholars in 1990 unanimously chose The Giant Joshua as the best Mormon novel before 1980.[45] In People of Paradox, Terryl Givens wrote that it is "perhaps the fullest cultural expression of the Mormon experience".[43]

After The Giant Joshua

Whipple had a brief romantic relationship with Tom Douglas Spies while she was promoting her book on the east coast in January 1941. He declined her offer to write a biography of him or write an article on his clinic, but assured her that they were still friends.[46] Whipple generously gave eight hundred dollars to her younger sister, whose husband was newly disabled. She also gave money to her mother Annie. By spring in 1941, due to her generosity and lack of financial management, she did not have very much money.[47] That June, she borrowed money to travel to Spies's clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, where she stayed until July, when she left for Washington, D.C. after Spies broke up with her.[48] Whipple was heartbroken and grew depressed.[49] She wrote an article on the LDS Church for Look that portrayed the LDS Church favorably.[50] In June 1942, she stayed in an apartment near historian Fawn M. Brodie in Hanover, New Hampshire, while she rewrote her concept for a Western romance novel, which she titled The Arizona Strip. The book was never finished.[51] She gave guest lectures in cities on the west coast and midwest starting in the 1940s, with lectures supporting the war effort, until the mid 1970s.[52]

Later work

Whipple in 1954

Whipple published a travel guide for tourists called This is the Place: Utah in 1945.[34] In the guide, she criticized the LDS Church's use of tithing to build an expensive office building, among other things.[53] In his review in the Saturday Review of Literature, Dale Morgan praised her skepticism and interest in people, but criticized her unattributed use of information from Utah Guide.[54] Literary critic Harry Hansen titled his review "Mormons are Peculiar: Maurine Whipple Whips Up More About Them and Their Country." A reviewer in the Boston Herald said the book was unexpectedly entertaining. A review in The Salt Lake Tribune described Whipple as sympathetic yet objective, combining humor and logic. A review in The Chicago Sun called the book a "sales promotion" and questioned whether or not Mormons should want to be completely American.[55] Whipple's friends praised the book to her and Elvitta Phillips, regional editor of the Spokane Daily Column told her that the book had sold out in Spokane.[56]

Also in 1945, Whipple employed a new agent, Max Becker, who sold the still unwritten sequel to The Giant Joshua to Simon and Schuster. Becker arranged for the publisher to advance Whipple 150 dollars a month for a year while she wrote the book.[57] Whipple planned for and wrote 200 pages of the sequel entitled Cleave the Wood.[34] Ill health and psychological discomfort made it difficult for Whipple to settle into writing the entire book.[58] At one point in 1947, Whipple destroyed the first one hundred pages. Whipple reports that the manuscript she wrote afterwards was stolen in 1970 when her house was robbed.[59] She wrote sample chapters for two other novels and numerous short stories, some vehemently anti-war. Publishers declined her queries for publishing.[34] In 1947, she wrote about Utah for Life with photographers Loomis Dean and Grant Allen.[60] Life editor Roy Craft encouraged her work.[61] Life approved her to work with Dean on a piece about homesteader Josie Bassett Morris; Dean sent Whipple home after arriving and finished the story without her. Due to several misunderstandings, Life stopped working with Whipple.[62] In 1948, she spent much time and energy writing a piece on Harry Goulding for Bert MacBride to possibly publish in Reader's Digest. MacBride did not accept the piece, but sent her some money for her efforts. Whipple asked friends to write to MacBride and ask him to reconsider, which MacBride considered unprofessional. She wrote to Peter Gallico, the president of the Authors' Guild, who sent her some money to pay for living expenses. Whipple sent Gallico her piece on Goulding and her correspondence with MacBride, and Goulding advised her to improve her writing.[63] She published articles in several other periodicals, including The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's.[34]


  • A Dress for Christmas - first published in 1925 issue of Pen, the University of Utah's literary magazine. Revised in 1939 and published in the October 1991 Sunstone.[64]
  • The Giant Joshua (1941)
  • "They Did Go forth" (short story in Dialogue (journal))

See also


  1. ^ Maureen Whipple, Mormon Literature Database (accessed March 17, 2012)
  2. ^ Hale 2011, p. 13.
  3. ^ Hale 2008, p. 7.
  4. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 15–16.
  5. ^ Hale 2011, p. 21.
  6. ^ Hale 2008, p. 8.
  7. ^ Hale 2011, p. 22.
  8. ^ Hale 2011, p. 29.
  9. ^ Hale 2011, p. 24.
  10. ^ Hale 2011, p. 76.
  11. ^ a b c Hale 2008, pp. 9–10.
  12. ^ Hale 2011, p. 31.
  13. ^ a b Hale 2011, p. 38.
  14. ^ Hale 2011, p. 43.
  15. ^ Hale 2011, p. 46.
  16. ^ Hale 2011, p. 47–48.
  17. ^ Hale 2011, p. 19.
  18. ^ Hale 2011, p. 54.
  19. ^ Hale 2011, p. 56.
  20. ^ Hale 2011, p. 58.
  21. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 62–64.
  22. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 65–66.
  23. ^ Hale 2011, p. 66.
  24. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 68–69.
  25. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 73–74.
  26. ^ Hale 2011, p. 75.
  27. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 78–79.
  28. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 84–85.
  29. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 93–94.
  30. ^ Hale 2011, p. 96.
  31. ^ Hale 2008, pp. 11–12.
  32. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 103–104.
  33. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 105; 110-111.
  34. ^ a b c d e f Hale 1992, p. 14.
  35. ^ Hale 2011, p. 111–112.
  36. ^ a b Hale 2008, pp. 14–15.
  37. ^ Embry 1994, p. 305.
  38. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 161–163.
  39. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 163–164.
  40. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 195; 211.
  41. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 132–133.
  42. ^ Hale 1992, p. 15.
  43. ^ a b c d e Givens 2007, pp. 288–289; 291.
  44. ^ a b Embry 1994, p. 306.
  45. ^ Bench 1990.
  46. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 193; 195–196; 198.
  47. ^ Hale 2011, p. 199.
  48. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 203–205.
  49. ^ Hale 2011, p. 209.
  50. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 213–214.
  51. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 227–228; 237.
  52. ^ Hale 2011, p. 231.
  53. ^ Hale 2011, p. 249.
  54. ^ Hale 2011, p. 254–255.
  55. ^ Hale 2011, p. 257.
  56. ^ Hale 2011, p. 258.
  57. ^ Hale 2011, p. 275.
  58. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 282; 287.
  59. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 285; 282.
  60. ^ Hale 2011, p. 295.
  61. ^ Hale 2011, p. 297.
  62. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 299–300.
  63. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 308–312.
  64. ^ Hale 2011, pp. 44; 50.

Works cited

  • Bench, Curt (October 1990). "Fifty Important Mormon Books" (PDF). Sunstone.
  • Givens, Terryl C. (2007). People of paradox : a history of Mormon culture. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 288–289, 291. ISBN 0195167112.
  • Embry, Jessie (1994). "Maurine Whipple: The Quiet Dissenter". In Launius, Roger D.; Thatcher, Linda. Differing visions: dissenters in Mormon history. Urbana [u.a.]: Univ. of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252020698.
  • Hale, Veda Tebbs (August 1992), "In Memoriam: Maurine Whipple" (PDF), Sunstone: 14
  • Hale, Veda Tebbs (2011), Swell suffering: a biography of Maurine Whipple, Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, ISBN 9781589581241
  • Hale, Veda Tebbs (2008), Juanita Brooks Lecture Series: Maurine Whipple and her Joshua (PDF), St. George, Utah: Dixie State College of Utah

External links

From the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University:

  • Maurine Whipple papers, MSS 1546
  • Maurine Whipple photograph collection, MSS 4250
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