SALT LAKE CITY — A statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the country’s first female state senator, that’s set to join the mostly male statues on display in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., was unveiled Monday at its temporary home at the Utah Capitol.
“We get to keep her for a little while,” Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said at the brief ceremony. Henderson, who championed the 2018 legislation to replace a statue of Philo T. Farnsworth, credited with inventing electronic television, with Cannon, a Mormon pioneer, doctor and women’s rights advocate.
While the Farnsworth statue is headed to Utah Valley University, a statue of Brigham Young, who led the first group of pioneers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and served as Utah’s first territorial governor, will remain in the U.S. Capitol.
The COVID-19 pandemic stalled plans to install the bronze statue at the U.S. Capitol this summer. Henderson, running mate of gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, said she’s hopeful the state Capitol will reopen for school visits during the 2021 Legislature so children have a chance to visit the statue here.
She said she was struck during a visit years ago to the nation’s capital by how few “actual, real women” were depicted.
“For too long, the lives and accomplishments of women have been forgotten or overlooked,” Henderson said, an “incredible heritage” that needs to be remembered. “When we forget where we come from we can’t properly understand where we are and we’re ill-equipped to know where we’re going.”
She said Cannon, elected to the Utah Legislature before women in other parts of the country were able to vote, endured difficulties to help make the state and the nation “a better place, a healthier place, a more equal place, a more just place.”
House Minority Caucus Manager Karen Kwan, D-Murray, who along with Henderson serves as co-chairwomen of the Martha Hughes Cannon Oversight Committee, said at the ceremony that looking at the statue, she “can see her. I see her strength. I see that sparkle in her eyes. ...She speaks volumes.”
Kwan called Monday’s event “the beginning of the unveiling” in Washington, and said the “change and upheaval experienced in 2020 have “been a fitting tribute to the battles for suffrage that culminated with the passage of the 19th amendment 100 years ago this year.”
The statue, she said, “marks a victory for all women. I’m especially proud of the work done by my Black, Indigenous, and other sisters of color in history who fought for the right to vote, even though there was no guarantee that (their) communities would be able to vote.”
Cannon’s likeness, created with copper from Utah that was donated by Rio Tinto, stands 7 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 550 pounds and was designed by artist Ben Hammond. It is temporarily installed on the third floor of the Utah Capitol.
There is no date scheduled for moving the statue to Washington, said Erin Wynn, executive director of the committee. She said no tax dollars are being used for the project, and while the $185,000 needed for the statue itself has been raised, more money is being raised for a base and to get it to the U.S. Capitol.
The original goal was to raise at least $750,000, Wynn said, but that amount included a plan to transport the statue to all of Utah’s 29 counties. She said the committee is now looking for safe ways for the public to experience the statue. More information is available at sendmartha.com.