Sonia Johnson

Sonia Ann Harris was born on 27 February 1936 in Malad City, Idaho, to Alvin and Ida Howell Harris. Her childhood was spent in Preston, Idaho, until the family moved to Logan, Utah, in 1948. She was raised a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After graduation from Logan High School in 1954 Sonia worked in a bank until she entered Utah State University in January 1955. She received her B.A. in English in 1958. Sonia and Richard Theodore Johnson were married 21 August 1959. In February 1960 the Johnsons moved to Apia, Western Samoa where they both taught English for a year. They returned to Minneapolis where Sonia did graduate work at the University of Minnesota toward her master's degree. For two years of that time she was also a graduate assistant in the English Department. They moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, where Sonia received her master's and Ed.D. degrees from Rutgers University.

In 1965 the Johnsons and their two children went to Lagos, Nigeria, where Sonia spent two years as head of testing at the American International School.  After a brief stay in California the Johnsons and their three children went to Korea, where Sonia taught diplomats, their wives, and servicemen through the University of Maryland extension. After spending almost a year in Western Malaysia, where Sonia had a fourth child, they returned to Califronia in 1974 and finally settled in Sterling, Virginia, in 1976. Sonia spent one year working through the federal Office of Education then became an adjunct professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the University of Virginia.

Sonia Johnson began speaking out as a Mormon for Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1977. Her first national exposure was following her August 1978 testimony in front of the Senate Constitutional Rights Subcommittee where she came into conflict with Utah's junior Senator, Orrin Hatch. She continued speaking and promoting the Equal Rights Amendment and denouncing what she perceived to be her church's political activities against the amendment. Sonia's August 1979 speech in Kalispell, Montana, to their National Organization for Women convention, a September 1979 paper given to the American Psychological Association, and an October 1979 speech at the University of Utah culminated in her call to an LDS Bishop's Court in November 1979. After a well-publicized trial on December first, Sonia was officially excommunicated from the LDS Church on 5 December 1979.

The decision was affirmed by a Church High Council Court on 6 April 1980. Sonia continued her promotion of the Equal Rights Amendment as president of the national Mormons for ERA group. She spoke at numerous functions throughout the country and appeared on a number of television talk shows, including the Phil Donahue program. In 1981 her book From Housewife to Heretic about her embrace of feminism was published.

Sonia Johnson audio-visual collection, 1976-1981

Sonia Johnson papers, 1958-1983

Sonia Johnson photographs collection

Selected Utah Daily Chronicle articles about Sonia Johnson

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