Feb 21, 2019 Ms. Cannon Goes to Washington
There will soon be a changing of the guard in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. A statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the nation’s first female state senator, will replace that of Philo T. Farnsworth. The Utah State Treasurer’s Office recently accepted a proposal from sculptor Ben Hammond, and the finished piece will be in place by 2020—when the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
So who was Mattie Cannon, anyway? Her life sounds like fiction, but her story is real.
- At age 4, emigrates from Wales to Utah.
- As a teen, sets type for The Deseret News and other publications.
- Studies pre-med at the University of Deseret (now University of Utah), and earns an MD from the University of Michigan.
- Becomes the third wife of Angus M. Cannon, marrying in secret because plural marriage is now a Federal offense.
- To avoid arrest in the U.S., spends a year in exile in Europe.
- Makes a national name by speaking eloquently on behalf of women’s suffrage at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
- Wins election to the Utah State Senate, running against her own husband and becoming the first woman in U.S. history to hold this office.
- Serves two terms from 1896 to 1900, and gives birth to her third child while in office.
Many other images of Martha are available in our digital collections.
Throughout her life, Martha would remain a proponent of both plural marriage and women’s rights. With 2.8 million pages from over 150 newspapers, Utah Digital Newspapers is a great source of contemporary information about this unusual woman.
- “’We are part of her legacy’: Utah chooses sculptor to create a Martha Hughes Cannon statue for the U.S. Capitol,” by Taylor Stevens, Salt Lake Tribune, February 14, 2019, accessed February 25, 2019 at www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2019/02/14/we-are-part-her-legacy/.
- “A Powerhouse: Martha (Mattie) Hughes Cannon, 1857-1932,” [no date], accessed August 13, 2018 at ilovehistory.utah.gov/people/difference/cannon.html.
- “Committee looking for artists to create statue of Martha Hughes Cannon,” September 18, 2018, accessed October 9, 2018 at www.deseretnews.com/article/900032474/committee-looking-for-artists-to-create-statue-of-martha-hughes-cannon.html.
- Douglas, Dianna. “Utah Sending The Nation’s First Female State Senator To D.C., As A Statue,” August 12, 2018, accessed August 13, 2018 at www.npr.org/2018/08/12/637659672/utah-sending-the-nations-first-woman-state-senator-to-d-c-as-a-statue.
- Fields, Lauren. “How a Mormon pioneer woman became the nation’s first female state senator,” November 2, 2017, accessed August 13, 2018 at www.deseretnews.com/article/900003367/how-a-mormon-pioneer-woman-became-the-nations-first-female-state-senator.html.
- Martha Hughes Cannon,” accessed August 13, 2018 at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Hughes_Cannon.
- “Martha Hughes Cannon, America’s First Woman State Senator,” accessed August 13, 2018 at collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=419231&q=Martha+Hughes+Cannon.
- “Martha Hughes Cannon (video),” accessed August 13, 2018 at www.pbs.org/video/utah-history-martha-hughes-cannon/.