Sisters for SuffragePolitical Pioneers

    Political Pioneers

    With suffrage in place, more women ran for political office. Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon became the first female state senator in the United States.

    Before the 1895 territorial election, several women were nominated to run on the Republican ticket. But the Utah Supreme Court ruled that because women could not vote, they could not run for office, and the women were compelled to withdraw their names.

    Yet women achieved a victory in the November election: the proposed Utah State Constitution, which included woman suffrage, was adopted by a large majority.

    With full suffrage in place for the 1896 state election, more women ran for office, including Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, who ran as a Democrat and became the first female state senator in the United States.

    Born in Wales, Dr. Martha Maria Hughes Cannon (1857–1932) received degrees from the University of Deseret, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and the National School of Elocution and Oratory. She was the resident physician at the Deseret Hospital. In 1896 she was victorious over her husband, Angus, and other candidates in winning a Utah Senate seat and becoming the first female state senator in the United States.

    Autograph Book, Martha Hughes Cannon, 1897. The senators and employees of Utah’s second Senate presented this autograph book to “Senator Mattie H. Cannon” to recognize her achievement of being “the first lady ever elected to the high office of State Senator, in the Great American Union.” (Courtesy of Arline Brady.)