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Lawmakers unveil replica of U.S. Capitol’s Martha Hughes Cannon statue

Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, left, takes a selfie with artist Ben Hammond and his bronze statue depicting former state Sen. Martha Hughes Cannon at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. The statue is a 25-inch replica of the 7-foot-6-inch statue that will represent Utah at the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, left, takes a selfie with artist Ben Hammond and his bronze statue depicting former state Sen. Martha Hughes Cannon at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. The statue is a 25-inch replica of the 7-foot-6-inch statue that will represent Utah at the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A bronze statue of Martha Cannon Hughes, first woman to be elected as a state senator in the U.S., will represent Utah in the Capitol 100 years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

As Cannon’s descendants looked on, House Minority Caucus Manager Karen Kwan, D-Murray, and Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, co-chairwomen of the Martha Hughes Cannon Statue Oversight Committee, presented a 25-inch replica of the statue during House and Senate floor time Tuesday morning. The full rendition will be 7 feet, 6 inches, though both the small and large statues are molded from bronze.

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the first votes cast by Utah women on Feb. 14, 1870 — a right granted by the equal suffrage law of Utah. Congress revoked those rights seven years later, but Utah lawmakers pushed back and drafted a new state constitution in 1895 with a provision declaring that no citizen can be prevented from voting or holding office because of their gender. Cannon was elected a year later.

“2020 marks a very big year for women’s suffrage,” Kwan said. “We were a leader from the very beginning. In 1896 we changed history again with the election of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon.”

Following Kwan’s remarks, the representatives gave a standing ovation and several stood to snap photos of the statue resting on a table at the front of the House floor.

Cannon’s list of accomplishments is extensive. Though perhaps most well-known for being elected as the country’s first female state lawmaker in 1896, the Welsh immigrant was also a wife, mother, doctor and Utah Women’s Suffrage Association leader. Cannon helped found Utah’s first State Board of Health and was Deseret Hospital’s first physician in residence.

Henderson said the statue’s creation has been “a monumental effort.” She recognized Cannon’s family members in attendance, Utah sculptor Ben Hammond and other members of the Martha Hughes Cannon Statue Oversight Committee for their tireless work.

Recognizing Cannon’s contributions to Utah history as both a suffragist and a political figure, Henderson said Utah lawmakers voted to honor Cannon’s “pioneering spirit” during the 2018 Legislature by sending her to the U.S. Capitol.

The statue will debut in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall in August for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification giving women the right to vote.

Each state is allowed two renderings of historically significant figures — Cannon will be the 10th woman represented. The statue will replace TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth and will join Latter-day Saint leader Brigham Young.

The replica presented at the Utah Capitol Tuesday morning will be on display on the first floor of the building for the reminder of the 2020 session.