*Additional context is provided in my post on Helen Winters Woodruff.*
Avery decided to accept Owen Woodruff’s proposal to enter into a post-manifesto polygamous marriage after having a spiritual confirmation that it was the path God wanted her to take. Because of the persecution that the church was facing over the polygamy issue, strict secrecy was kept – only the immediate family and a handful of trusted friends knew about the marriage.
As a married woman trying to appear to the world to be single, she found herself in many awkward situations. Boys still pursued her, which caused tension when it happened when Owen was around. Pregnancy was another challenging territory to navigate. During morning sickness and miscarriage, she could only look for assistance from her immediate family, and when she started showing, she had to leave the country.
Avery frequently had to suppress her own plans and desires to protect her husband. When she moved to Mexico to protect Owen, she felt isolated from her family and friends, and initially resisted efforts from her husband and church leadership to make her residence there permanent. When the legal pressure became very heavy on Owen, she discovered through one of Helen’s children that Owen and Helen were planning to move to Europe and leave her in Mexico – she wasn’t happy about that. That said, I love that despite the restrictions on her lifestyle, she found ways to better herself and find fulfillment. After her initial move to Mexico, she attended college in Logan, and it is clear from her correspondence with Owen that he wanted her to take full advantage of her educational opportunities and find fulfillment in them. When she became pregnant again, which necessitated returning to Mexico, she taught enthusiastically at the school and made friends in the community. After Owen and Helen’s death, she may have received some financial support from the church in the beginning, but she raised her daughter Ruth independently for 10 years, at which point she remarried.
Her polygamous marriage was certainly not all roses, and she made many sacrifices for it. But despite the hardships, they did not shake her determination to act how she felt God wanted her to. While it would be easy for her to look back on her life and wonder if she had interpreted her initial promptings correctly, her account given 50 years later simply doesn’t show any doubt or regret about her decision. Her autobiography shows a woman who actively sought God’s will for her and did her best to follow it.
Source: Snyder & Snyder (2009). Post-Manifesto Polygamy: The 1899-1904 Correspondence of Helen, Owen, and Avery Woodruff.