I just finished reading “Shattered Dreams” by Irene Spencer, who lived life as a polygamous wife in a fundamentalist Mormon sect from the late 19590s until 1981.
She was raised in the cult and having been indoctrinated at an early age, believed it was her destiny to be the wife of a man named Verlan LaBaron. LaBaron already had one wife when he married Irene. His wife Charlotte and he already had one child.
Because the U.S. had laws against polygamy, LaBaron moved his two wives to Mexico. What follows is over 20 years of hardships, abject poverty, more children, more wives, and the strange incident that lead them to continually move from compound to compound. Their prophet head was murdered by a jealous brother and rival, and the LaBaron clan had to keep moving to stay out of his radar.
At one point, they lived in Nicaragua before the revolution. All the wives and kids had to take medicine for intestinal worms and at the same time were forced to work in the rains and hot sun from sunup to sun down to keep the crops tilled and growing. What they didn’t sell to survive, they shared with their neighbors who were even more destitute.
Like the other books I’ve read about polygamous sects, this too was wrought with jealousies, resentments, disappointments, and the wife finally leaving. Irene left but returned to Mexico for a year to be with her husband after receiving a revelation by a sooth sayer in Las Vegas. Her life as a polygamous wife finally ended with the death of Verlan LaBaron, who left behind 58 children by 8 wives.