Kingston women shun limelight

Davis County Clipper/September 16, 2003
By Renee Turner

Bountiful -- The Kingston polygamist clan has grown from its founding in Bountiful in 1935 to today's network of hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of adherents who operate a business empire throughout the West.

That would seem to require willing women, lots of them. Yet statements from Davis County Kingston women seem rare. Other women in plural marriages have spoken publicly, risking the legal ramifications of doing so, but generally not the Kingston women.

"I'm not going to stand here and say I'm involved in a plural marriage. That is something that's illegal isn't it?" said June Kingston recently in a terse comment to the Clipper. She is married to Carl Kingston, the attorney defending Jeremy Kingston, who is charged with having sex with his then-teenage niece. Jeremy Kingston was arrested July 24 at a family reunion in Bountiful.

"I will say that we believe strongly in what we believe. Everyone makes his own choice," June Kingston continued. "No one is forced into anything."

The recent news accounts of forced marriage by young girls to elder relatives, she added, are merely statements made to lash out because the speaker feels she has been hurt in some way by some individual.

June Kingston shied away from more direct comment, however. Such reluctance to be in the public eye is apparently common in the Kingston clan.

"They are taught that this lifestyle is their salvation," said Rowena Erickson, a former Kingston plural wife who found a new way of life and became a co-founder of Tapestry Against Polygamy (TAP).

People such as Erickson and Vicky Prunty, also a co-founder of TAP, tell stories of near-brainwashing and terror.

"The women are kept on the basis of fear for their own safety and for that of their loved ones. Part of it is that some of the men will threaten the families of the women," said Erickson. "Often, the plural wife is forced to cut off all contact with her parents and siblings. Some of the men threaten the children or their wives."

Erickson struggled to describe how difficult it is for women who were raised within the Kingston clan, with every cousin, brother or sister in the family a part of it. She described how hard it is to imagine that there is anywhere else to go, or any other kind of life, particularly when one is taught that women are always inferior to men.

Originally, the group formed by Prunty and Erickson was called "Tapestry of Polygamy." Later they renamed it "Tapestry Against Polygamy" to avoid any confusion about their stance against the practice of plural marriage.

"We stand strong because each of of us, each child, each woman, each young man with a broken heart because the young woman he loved was passed off to an old man, creates a strong and beautifully interwoven network.

"People come out of the Kingston clan a type of walking wounded.

"We hope to develop a resource center where people can come and get the help they need from those of us who know where they have been," Erickson said.

Many do not have basic skills. "Some do not realize checking accounts exist," said Erickson.

"Others know all too well about money, because they have had to make the choice of whether to feed their multitude of babies or pay the heating bill, while their husband lives in luxury, running from wife to wife for....shall we call it comfort?"

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