As one of the goals of our nonprofit, we want to share success stories in hopes that those who are on their own journeys can find strength and inspiration as they relate to others. We want to share hope that you too can be successful. The Order, the FLDS, the AUB, and the polygamous leaders who said you will be miserable if you leave are wrong, you can have happiness and success, God does not torture you and punish you for leaving. One story after another, we will share the hardships, the struggle, and the success of people taking back their lives, taking control of their futures, and finding freedom to pursue their dreams. Success is defined in so many different ways; it is not always the goal at the end, but rather any small or big accomplishment that has been obtained along the way. We want to use this portion of the blog to highlight the struggle and accomplishments of those out of polygamy.
For our first success story we thought it only to be fitting to surprise and share the story of one of our own founders. She is inspiring, she is a beacon of hope for many, and as her sister, I feel so honored to get to spotlight her success for a moment. Andrea was born into a polygamous family as the 3rd child to the 6th wife of John Daniel Kingston. Her life began in the basement of a polygamist owned building in downtown Salt Lake City where she was born by flashlight during a stormy power outage. She survived this birth only to have experienced every type of abuse by the time she escaped polygamy at 12 years-old.
Our mother failed to protect Andrea. She was stretched thin between her personal goals, mothering, polygamous life, and making enough money to keep us all alive. I would say “fed,” but at times we went hungry; I would say “with a roof over our head,” but at times we were homeless, living with other wives. In fact, we often had our power shut off, our water shut off, our phone shut off, and ran out of gas on the side of the road at all hours of the day and night. We literally grew up in survival mode.
Andrea was the blondest, little blue-eyed girl with high hopes for a bright future. We would talk about our goals, our big dreams of marriage and motherhood, wondering if we would be the first wife or the other wife. We aspired to be like the successful women of the Order, the role models that were available for us to look up to.
As a child, Andrea excelled in school. Actually, she was ahead a grade because our parents fibbed about her birthday. She attended public elementary until 4th grade, when the Order established a private school exclusive for us Order kids. This isolated Andrea from outside influences, but did not stop her from questioning and challenging her teachers. She wrote about our abusive father only to have her teacher shred the paper and scold her for putting such things on paper. We weren’t allowed to tell that side of our truth!
After school, Andrea took the Order school bus to work for one of the Order businesses. Before she left the Order at 12 years-old, she had already worked over half her life at a few of our father’s businesses. I guess they don’t call it child labor when you are working for family, right? Her work began on Washakie Ranch at five years old where she did laborious jobs, then A-1 Disposal, AAA Communications, and then Advanced Copy & Printing. At 12 years-old, she had experience in customer service, answering service, filing, payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, cashier, fulfilling customer orders, ranch work, janitorial work, and more.
Andrea and I left through a very public child abuse court case. During our court case, Andrea never wavered. She knew she was done with the abuse. She knew that she needed to fight for herself, because the people who were raising her wouldn’t. To be on the outside at such a young age, Andrea had been forced to grow up in so many ways, but at 12 years-old she was still a child, and at 14 years-old she was orphaned. Her parents were still alive, but her father was clearly abusive, and her mother chose him and polygamy over protecting her child, and relinquished her rights. Andrea was alone; the professionals on our case became her family. There were some relatives outside of the Order, but no one was in a place to finish raising her.
While in foster care, Andrea was awarded a scholarship to attend the private school Rowland Hall-St. Mark's. Finally, she had more role-models in her life than just the polygamous mothers and young brides. There was more to her future than building up the kingdom of the Order. At Rowland Hall Andrea was among peers with future dreams beyond what she could have even imagined as a child growing up in polygamy; now she could be whatever she wanted. She could make this decision for herself without needing approval from the Order hierarchy. This is when she decided to become a lawyer.
Eventually, a family stepped up and promised a loving home to Andrea in the state of Washington, where she was adopted at 15 years-old. Unfortunately, this promise was another lie Andrea had to endure, and she experienced more abuse that she had to escape. Her home life was unstable with foster care homes, kinship placements, and the abuse she endured in the adoptive home, but at school she was safe. She focused on her schooling and education as a strength to get her to a better future. She graduated high school with honors and was awarded scholarships to Pacific Lutheran University where she graduated early with high honors. In her final semester, she was adopted at the age of 21 by the woman who inspired her to become a lawyer. She went on to attend University of Washington School of Law with the help of additional scholarships.
Andrea relied on the healthy relationships in her life, she found successful role-models to look up to, and she persevered. She did not let her life, her past, or her circumstances stop her from this dream. She believed in herself, she persisted, and through it all she is now a practicing attorney at the age of 26 years-old. She helps others who are facing the same hardships that she herself faced. She is working on establishing this non-profit in hopes that it can be a resource for others leaving polygamy. She truly believes she did not make it on her journey alone and those leaving polygamy need these resources to help them be successful. Although as her sister, I see that she did the hardest part in showing up every day, enduring what she has, and yet continues to inspire many.