Valeen Tippetts Avery

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Valeen Tippetts Avery was a retired professor of history and an award-winning biographer and historian.

She was born on December 22, 1936, in Great Falls, Montana, and grew up on ranches and alfalfa farms in the Sun River Valley of Montana. After graduating from high school, she attended Brigham Young University and earned a degree in foreign languages from Rocky Mountain College. She then worked for World University Services and led tour groups through Europe.

After her marriage to Charles Avery in 1961, they lived in various Western states before settling in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1971. She then earned her master’s and PhD degrees in history at Northern Arizona University where she became a professor of history and specialized in women’s history and Colorado Plateau studies. She was the mother of four children. She divorced in 1986 and in 1996 married Bryan C. Short.

She was president of the Mormon History Association from 1987 to 1988. She was the author of biographies, articles, reviews, and commentaries. Her biography Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, written with Linda King Newell, won the Evans Award for the Best Biography in Western History, the Mormon History Association’s Best Book Award, and the John Whitmer Historical Association Best Biography Award. A revised edition was published in 1994 by the University of Illinois Press and remains in print. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal listed it as second among the five best books on Mormon history and culture. “This meticulously-researched biography of the first wife of Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, provided groundbreaking insight into the beginnings of the church and the practice of polygamy from a woman's perspective.”[1]

A number of her biographical articles appeared in BYU Studies, the Ensign, the Journal of Mormon History, and Utah Historical Quarterly.[2]

She also penned a biography of the life of the youngest son of Joseph and Emma Smith, David Hyrum Smith, From Mission to Madness: Last Son of the Mormon Prophet in 1998. This biography also won the Evans Award for the best biography in Western history.

Avery retired in 2005 and died unexpectedly on April 7, 2006.