Not originally published in LIFE: Short Creek raid, Arizona, 1953.
See more photos here.
The Short Creek raid was a disastrous attempt to curtail polygamy within an isolated Fundamentalist Mormon community in Arizona. There was a public backlash against the government splitting up families and interfering with the freedom of religion (although polygamy was and remains illegal). For sixty years, the government largely left the FLDS to their own devices. Meanwhile, the group became more insular and controlled. If you click through the Life photos linked above, the people look relatively normal for the 1950s. A bit more old fashioned than the average person perhaps, but not as distinctively other as they seem today. The women photographed often had chosen their own husbands as placement marriages (wives assigned to men by FLDS leaders) had only begun a few years earlier. The women pictured did their part by appearing sympathetic to the American public, but it indirectly led to systematic abuse of their grandchildren by the FLDS leadership
If you’re interested in the FLDS, here are two books suggestions. Carolyn Jessop’s memoir Escape chronicles her life in the increasingly abusive FLDS community of Colorado City (formerly Short Creek) and her eventual escape. Answer Them Nothing follows the history of the FLDS through the rein of Warren Jeffs, including the Texas raid in 2008.