Fact Check

Was One of Brigham Young's Sons a Drag Queen?

In the 1900s, cisgender straight men were most likely to give drag performances, often for comedic or shock value.

Published Mar 18, 2023

 (Twitter/Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
Image Via Twitter/Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Claim:
One of Brigham Young's sons was a drag queen.

Over the years, claims have spread that one of the sons of Brigham Young, a religious leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a drag queen. We found these claims to be true.

The claim has spread around various social media platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr. In 2019, a Reddit post said, "This is awesome! One of Youngs sons was a drag queen. Wonder how Brigham felt when he found out."

B. Morris Young was one of the 26 sons of Brigham Young. Over the course of approximately 40 years, Morris Young was constantly identified in newspapers and photographs as a drag performer. 

In January 1887, a letter to the editor of The Salt Lake Herald said that Morris Young performed in a Christmas ball as Miss Bridget McCarthy, "a fine Irish girl." The letter said that during the evening, he sang a song in Hawaiian. Young traveled to Hawaii in 1873-1875 and 1883 on mission trips. 

In 1901, Morris Young was photographed at the Sugar House Ward performing as his best-known character, Madam Pattrini. 

In 1902, the Deseret News reported that he had even given a drag performance during the birthday celebration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Lorenzo Snow. 

The article said, "B. Morris Young Shows Himself to be a Prime Entertainer," and that he exhibited a good falsetto voice and the ability to sustain a female character. He also did impersonations of Chinese people and "gibbered away in a lingo that sounded very much like the vernacular of the celestials."

In the 1900s, cisgender straight men were most likely to give drag performances, often for comedic or shock value.

Madam Pattrini continues to live on in popular culture. In 2017, Utah-based Ogden's Own Distillery began producing a gin brand named after Madam Pattirini. 

"Back in 1880's and even today sometimes one hides who they are or who they wish to be," said a news release from the brand. "But we say 'Being Unique, is music to my ears.'"
 

Sources

"'A Man of God and a Good Kind Father.'" BYU Studies, https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/a-man-of-god-and-a-good-kind-father-brigham-young-at-home/. Accessed 16 Mar. 2023.

Collection: Brief History of Brigham Morris Young | BYU Library - Special Collections. http://archives.lib.byu.edu/repositories/14/resources/4358. Accessed 16 Mar. 2023.

Jaksic, Vanja Mutabdzija. "The History of Drag on Screen: Strutting from Ancient Times to CBC's Queens | CBC Comedy." CBC, 26 Aug. 2020, https://www.cbc.ca/comedy/the-history-of-drag-on-screen-strutting-from-ancient-times-to-cbc-s-queens-1.5699542.

"Features of the Celebration." Deseret Evening News, 4 Apr. 1901.

Madam Pattrini Gin. https://irp.cdn-website.com/4617fa35/files/uploaded/Madam%20Pattirini%20Sheet_CaseCode_SM.pdf.

Stephenson, Kathy. "Utah Distiller Introduces Madam Pattirini Gin, Named for a Little-Known Mormon Drag Diva." The Salt Lake Tribune, https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=5222043&itype=CMSID. Accessed 16 Mar. 2023.

The Salt Lake Herald. [Volume] (Salt Lake City [Utah]) 1870-1909, January 01, 1887, Page 2, Image 2 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85058130/1887-01-01/ed-1/seq-2/ocr/. Accessed 16 Mar. 2023.

Yim, Celeste. "Why People Still Laugh at Asian Accents: An Investigation." Vice, 8 June 2017, https://www.vice.com/en/article/xw8wm4/why-people-still-laugh-at-asian-accents-an-investigation.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.

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