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7 Remarkable LDS Women Who Fought for Women's Rights and Suffrage


Martha "Mattie" Hughes Cannon (1857-1932)

Martha

Image from ilovehistory.utah.gov

Conversion: Martha Hughes Cannon was just over 1 year old when her parents joined the Church in Wales. She crossed the ocean and the plains to come to Zion with her family when she was 3.

Education: In 1875, Mattie graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in chemistry and promptly began classes in medical school at the University of Michigan. By age 24, she was a full-fledged doctor. From there, she went on to pharmacology school at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated as the only woman in a class of 75 students.

Marriage: When Mattie was 29, she married Angus M. Cannon, who worked as superintendent of the hospital where Mattie worked. She was his fourth wife.

Influence on Women’s Rights: Mattie was actively involved in the women’s suffrage movement, and after speaking at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the Chicago Record dubbed her “one of the brightest exponents of women’s causes in the U.S.” She played a key role in winning women’s suffrage in Utah in 1895.

But Mattie not only wanted to vote—she wanted to be part of the political action. She ran as a candidate for the senate in 1896 and won, becoming the first woman senator in the United States. Her husband, whose name was also listed on the ballot, had 3,000 votes less than she did. The New York Times reported that Mattie “showed her intense independence by declining to follow the political convictions of her husband, who [was] one of the staunchest Republicans in the state” (“Women Office Seekers,” The New York Times, November 1, 1896).

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