Laurel Thatcher Ulrich Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich compares her career as a scholar and writer to a patchwork quilt. Her success has not resulted from any kind of deliberate plan, and she was forced to work with the materials that were at hand, but her life shows a definite pattern. She was born Laurel Thatcher in Sugar City, Idaho, a predominantly Mormon town; her family, the Thatchers, figured prominently in the community and had been among the original group of Mormon pioneers to settle the area. In her essay “Family Scriptures,” in Dialogue 20 (1987), she describes her Grandfather Thatcher as a “book of remembrance,” a source of stories and information about her family and her community. For her, his stories constituted “family scriptures,” in that they were sacred to her and to her family. She writes, “Scriptures clarify by sifting out eternal principles from the grainy confusion of ordinary life.” Her later work as a historian shows this same concern for the patterns that emerge from the “trivia” of ordinary life.{$S[A]Thatcher Ulrich, Laurel;Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher}

Laurel Ulrich attended the University of Utah, where she studied English and excelled in debate, winning the western regional championship. She also met and married Gael Dennis Ulrich. As she and her husband pursued their academic careers, hers was interrupted by the birth of five children. She writes in her essay “Patchwork,” from All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir, that her career developed in a rather roundabout manner. In the 1970’s she found herself a “faculty wife” at the University of New Hampshire with an M.A. in English. She entered the Ph.D. program at New Hampshire in history and progressed from graduate student to part-time instructor to tenured professor. In 1995 she became James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History and director of the Charles Warren Center of Studies in American History at Harvard University. Her multiple roles as mother, wife, scholar, and dedicated Mormon made her progress slow, but her multiple roles also prepared her to enter into fields of scholarship that few others had previously considered or valued.

Ulrich’s work shows a concern for the importance of commonplace experience. Her first published work was A Beginner’s Boston, a book that claims to be the first guidebook to Boston. Although many writers contributed to the book,...

(The entire section is 986 words.)