Melissa Kotter and Dr. Mary Jane Woodger, Church History and Doctrine
The Elaine Cannon Papers project involved deep research through primary sources (Elaine Cannon’s journals and papers) about Elaine Cannon’s life. Once the research is completed, a proposal for a biography appearing in Richard Turley’s Women of Faith in the Latter Days volumes will be written. The Women of Faith in the Latter Days volume featuring modern-day women will not be ready for a few years (this biography would appear in volume 6), so the Elaine Cannon biography will not be published until a few years later. However, the proposal for the biography will be submitted once the deep-research is finished.
For this project, I wanted to find out more personal information regarding Elaine Cannon’s life that the general public had not previously known about. Thus, this project required a great amount of time doing deep-research in the Harold B. Lee Library, specifically in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections section. All of my primary research, in fact, was done in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections.
This project proved to be very difficult at first. I was previously told that the boxes containing Elaine Cannon’s journals and papers were organized and labeled. However, once I got to the Special Collections, I found out that this was not the case. The boxes had no labels on them and if the box was assigned a number, it did not correspond correctly with the labeled sheet I was given. Thus, I had to go through random boxes and look through some sources that would not help much for the biography. This definitely wasted a lot of time and made the research process a lot more tiring than it needed to be. It was also difficult to keep track of the boxes to make sure that I had not already looked through that box in a previous research session.
Once the Special Collections started to establish an organization method with the boxes (knowing which boxes had already been searched through) it became easier to navigate through the boxes. The journals were organized in their own boxes—the journals were what I had hoped would be the main source for the new biography. The journals were a bit difficult to read at first due to the handwriting and small writing, but after reading it for a while, it became easier to decipher. It also took a while to weed out what would be important information for the biography and what would not be important information. Obviously information about her every high school crush would not be relevant to the reader of the biography, but information about meeting her husband for the first time would be. Overall, however, the journals provided great insight into her personal thoughts, triumphs, and trials. I was able to learn about her experiences helping take care of her family while her mother was in the hospital and about specific people she had close relationships with.
Not only did the journals provide great information about her personal life, but it also gave specific information that would prove useful in the future of this project. Specifically, the journals listed names of her close friends or other acquaintances. These names will be useful when conducting interviews for the biography. Thus, I will know that people will be interviewed that were actually close contacts with Elaine at different points in her life.
The area that needs further research or development is more insight into her relationship with her children. I may not have reached the point in my research that discusses her family, but it seems that I have found more information on Elaine Cannon’s relationships with others while she was in her Church callings. Thus, I hope to find more information about her relationships with her children and grandchildren.
As I have mentioned, I have not finished my research yet. I plan on finishing as much research as possible this summer. Due to the struggles I had with organizing the boxes, the research has been greatly slowed down. I hope to find more information on her relationships with others and the specific impact that she had on others.