Partner Mildred J. Berryman

Queer Places:
Delta Cemetery Delta, Millard County, Utah, USA

Ruth Uckerman Dempsey (October 8, 1908 – July 12, 1979) was a Mormon housewife from Beaver, Utah. While working at a small arms defense plant at Hill Air Force Base (or perhaps the one located at 2100 S. Redwood Road in Salt Lake City), which lies about 40 miles north of Salt Lake, 41 year old Mildred J. Berryman met 34 year old Ruth Uckerman, who was working at the same plant.

Ruth Uckerman had been raped around May of 1926 by fellow Mormon Francis Ervin (or Ewing) "Pat" Larsen and when it was discovered that she was pregnant by him, her Mormon leaders forced her to marry him in order to legitimize the child. A year after Bonnie Louisa Larsen was born, the Larsen family moved to Manti, Utah (where Ruth had been born), and Ruth soon after divorced Larsen. On May 20, 1929, Ruth married another Mormon man, Harry J. Dempsey, and later that year, the Dempsey family moved to Indiana, where Ruth gave birth to two more children, Violet and Clyde. Sometime between 1935 and 1940, the Dempsey family moved back to Manti, Utah, and in 1941, they moved to Salt Lake City. Apparently things weren't going well between Ruth and her husband; they divorced and Harry Dempsey moved to Boise, Idaho. Ruth met Mildred at the defense plant and they began a relationship.

In 1943, when Mildred and her ailing father moved up to Woods Cross, a rural area just north of Salt Lake City, Ruth decided to move in with them. The mineralogical business also moved to Woods Cross. Unfortunately, Uckerman left Bonnie, a 16 year old, to raise her two half-siblings alone in Salt Lake City for almost a year, deeply embittering the young woman. Bonnie's father did send her money to help out when he could while she began training to become a nurse. Eventually the three children went to live with their grandmother Uckerman, who had since moved to Salt Lake, and the two younger ones were adopted by Harry Dempsey's brother. Bonnie continued her studies, became a nurse, and married a fellow Mormon, Vern LeRoy Bullough, on August 2, 1947, whom she had met in high school. Because of her mother's lesbianism, Vern and Bonnie "explored the lesbian culture in San Francisco in the late 40's". Vern Bullough at that time was a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, and thus began covering police harassment of homosexuals at bars and cruising spots. In 1978 Vern Bullough wrote a seminal history book titled Homosexuality, A History, and became a prominent sexologist at SUNY Buffalo. Both Vern and Bonnie left the LDS Church and became heavily involved in humanism, lecturing around the US at humanist symposia.

At the end of the Second World War, as women were expected to return to homemaking, Ruth and Barrie began their own manufacturing company, using their experience they had gained at Hill Field. Initially they made "tourist items for Indian jewelry" and later carved plastic items for displays and made ribbons for fairs, etc. out of their shop, which they called "Berryman Novelty Manufacturing".

Richard Berryman died at their home on January 5, 1945, with services provided by St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Ruth Uckerman and Barrie Berryman stayed together for 33 years, and while they moved homes every so often, they always stayed in the south Davis County area. Eventually there was reconciliation between Ruth and her daughter for the abandonment that had happened, and Ruth and Barrie "were very nice to Vern". Still, Bonnie and Ruth had a "very strained" relationship.

Mildred J. Berryman died of natural causes on November 7, 1972 at the age of 71. Her obituary does not even mention Ruth Uckerman. At Barrie's death, her relatives descended on their home, "to take whatever they could". Fortunately for Ruth, the house and shop were legally protected and belonged to her. However, Ruth did have to hide the manuscript thesis of Mildred's from the prying eyes of her relatives. Once things settled, Ruth sent Vern and Bonnie the manuscript, asking that they publish it, however keeping Mildred (and her other subjects) anonymous, as she would have wished. Vern and Bonnie Bullough published some of Mildred's findings in the 1978 issue of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

The Social Security Death Index reports that Ruth Uckerman died in July, 1979 in Bountiful. She was also buried in the Delta City Cemetery, Millard County, Utah on July 12, 1979.


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