Monday, December 14, 2009

History in the News: Utah woman blazed trail in state politics

By Marc Haddock
Deseret News

In 1896, Martha Hughes Cannon spent a total of $35 in the campaign that led to her election as a member of Utah's fledgling state Senate.
It was a seminal moment in U.S. politics. In that election, Cannon became the first woman in America to be elected to any state senate. The fact that she defeated her husband in the election made her victory part of Utah's folklore.
As a pioneer doctor, a champion of public health, and a polygamist's wife who was also a leader in the suffragist movement, Cannon carved out a unique place in the annals of the state's history.
The Martha Hughes Cannon Health Building was dedicated in her honor in 1986. An eight-foot bronze statue of her was installed in the Utah Capitol Rotunda in 1996, 100 years after her path-breaking election. The statue was recently re-installed on the Capitol grounds following the building renovation.
Photo researcher Ron Fox has culled the newspaper and other photo archives, and many of those photos can now be seen at the newspaper's Web site,
Martha Maria Hughes was 2 years old when her family converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and emigrated from Wales to New York. A year later the family crossed the Plains to Salt Lake City, burying Mattie's 21-month-old sister in an unmarked grave beside the trail. Her father died days after reaching Salt Lake City in September of 1861.
Martha Hughes was working as a schoolteacher at the age of 14 and worked her way through the University of Deseret as a typesetter for the Deseret Evening News and the Women's Exponent, an LDS Relief Society magazine.
After two years of pre-med studies, she was blessed and set apart by President John Taylor of the LDS Church to study medicine and headed off to the University of Michigan, where she graduated with a medical degree on her 23rd birthday, July 1, 1880. She studied for two more years, earning a degree in pharmacy and oratory.
See more pictures and read more of the story HERE!

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