Filed Under Women and Gender

Martha Hughes Cannon Memorial Statue

Martha Hughes Cannon was an outstanding woman with great ambition and intelligence. As she gained an education and grew in the LDS religion, she capitalized on her position as an educated woman of faith to represent Utah women as they battled anti-polygamy legislation and public health issues.

Martha Hughes Cannon was born in Wales on July 1st, 1857. During her infant years, Martha’s parents joined other new converts to the LDS faith on a long journey to Utah. Tragically, her father passed away only three days after arriving in Utah and surviving the arduous westward trek. By her teenage years, Martha had faced considerable hardship and poverty, but showed resilience and hope for the future. Martha’s young adult years were full of education. After graduating college with a degree in chemistry, Martha was accepted into the University of Michigan, one of few medical schools that admitted men and women. She also studied at the National School of Oratory, becoming a skilled public speaker. Her medical skills and oratorical skills would be great assets during her involvement in Utah politics.

Martha’s personal and professional life gave her a unique position in the eyes of the United States government. As the fourth wife to Angus M. Cannon, Martha faced considerable scrutiny from territorial officials. As a doctor, she delivered many children born to polygamist mothers and was seen as an important witness to prosecute polygamy. She lived out of state for many years to avoid testifying against and incriminating her husband, along with other polygamist families. The official outlawing of polygamy in 1890 allowed Martha to return to Utah and begin her career in politics.

A request from the Democratic party prompted Martha to run in the state senate election. Although her husband was running for the Republican party, this did not stop Martha from fulfilling what she viewed as an incredible civic opportunity. After winning the Democratic seat, Martha spent four years effectively advocating for public health and education causes in Utah. She authored bills to start the Utah Health Department, and schools for children with disabilities. Unfortunately, Martha’s political career came to an end with her third pregnancy. The nation viewed this as proof that Mormons were still practicing polygamy, and she was now an unacceptable representative. Although her time was cut short, Martha provided many valuable insights to Utah’s state legislature and was a voice for women across the state of Utah.

Images

Martha Hughes Cannon Statue, Provo
Martha Hughes Cannon Statue, Provo Creator: Photograph courtesy of Abigail Beus, March 2024
Martha Hughes Cannon Plaque
Martha Hughes Cannon Plaque Creator: Photograph courtesy of Abigail Beus, March 2024
Martha Hughes Cannon Statue Profile
Martha Hughes Cannon Statue Profile Creator: Photograph courtesy of Abigail Beus, March 2024

Location

Metadata

Olivia Stockman, Brigham Young University, “Martha Hughes Cannon Memorial Statue,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/783.