Church Hounds Woman to Madness: The Trials of Cora Birdsall

“Church Hounds Woman to Madness”: The Trials of Cora Birdsall The case of Cora Birdsall, a single Mormon woman, who in 1901 fought the Church over property rights, provides an extraordinary study of the collision between church and federal land law, the differences in ecclesiastical and civil court processes, and the struggle of a faithful woman to resolve incompatible claims of loyalty and fairness. Cora’s case played a part in the Smoot hearings in Washington, furnished a battleground in Utah’s newspaper wars, and divided a family. This paper puts a woman’s face on the abstract issues of both land law and church discipline in an era when two clashing systems were working out an uneasy coexistence.