Pioneer, Polygamist, Politician: The Life of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon

Pioneer, Polygamist, Politician: The Life of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon

4.6 11
by Mari Grana
     
 

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Pioneer, Polygamist, Politician tells the fascinating story of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first woman elected to the Utah state senate-in 1896. She was a polygamist wife, a practicing physician, and an astute and pioneering politician. In compelling prose, author Mari Graña traces Cannon's life from her birth in Wales to her emigration to Utah with her family

Overview

Pioneer, Polygamist, Politician tells the fascinating story of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first woman elected to the Utah state senate-in 1896. She was a polygamist wife, a practicing physician, and an astute and pioneering politician. In compelling prose, author Mari Graña traces Cannon's life from her birth in Wales to her emigration to Utah with her family in 1861, her career as a physician, her marriage, her exile in England, her subsequent return, and her election to the Utah state senate. Her husband was the Republican candidate she, a Democrat, defeated in that historic election.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Graña, the author of Pioneer Doctor: The Story of a Woman's Work (a biography of her grandmother Mary Babcock Atwater), charts the life of another pioneer woman doctor in the American west, Martha Hughes Cannon (1857-1932), in this insightful study, the first book-length account of this remarkable woman. Born in Llandudno, Wales, "Mattie," as she was known, immigrated with her Mormon convert family to America in 1860. Her ill father died within days of their arrival in Salt Lake City, her baby sister having perished on the trek across the plains. These deaths and the poor health care in general that she observed in Utah helped steer her into medicine, which, as Graña points out in telling detail, was quite primitive at the time, especially on the frontier. After receiving her M.D. from the University of Michigan, Mattie helped establish Salt Lake City's Deseret Hospital, one of whose directors, Angus Cannon, she secretly married in 1884. Since Angus already had three wives and the federal government had outlawed polygamy, Mattie and her first child, a daughter born in 1885, ended up spending two years abroad, mostly in England, in a futile effort to prevent Angus's arrest for unlawful cohabitation. After the LDS church renounced polygamy in 1890, opening the way to Utah statehood, Mattie became active in the women's suffrage movement, though the Utah territory already allowed women to vote. In 1896, Mattie, a Democrat, defeated Angus, a Republican, among other candidates, for a seat in the new Utah state senate, becoming the first woman state senator in the U.S. During the two terms she served, she promoted legislation to improve public health, at the same time tending to her medical practice and raising her children with little financial or emotional support from Angus. The birth of a second daughter in 1899 put an end to her political career and led, once again, to Angus's arrest for unlawful cohabitation. Graña's criticisms-of the hypocrisy of those Mormon leaders who continued to take new wives after 1890, of the trend within the Mormon church in recent decades to limit women to the home-may offend the LDS faithful. Those interested in how a smart, independent woman struggled to balance family and career while remaining true to her religious beliefs will find this an absorbing and moving story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780762751754
Publisher:
Globe Pequot Press
Publication date:
09/01/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
716 KB

Read an Excerpt

From the opening

Tension between Angus Munn Cannon and his polygamous wife, Martha, must have been great on the night of November 3, 1896, as they waited to learn the results of the election for the first legislature of the new state of Utah. By the next morning it was clear that Elder Angus Munn Cannon had suffered an embarrassing loss. Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon was elected the first woman state senator in the United States.

Meet the Author

Mari Graña is the author of Pioneer Doctor: The Story of a Woman’s Work (TwoDot), a biographical story of her grandmother, pioneering physician Mary Babcock Atwater; and a book about New Mexico regional history, Begoso Cabin, which won the 2000 Willa Cather Award from Women Writing the West.  

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Pioneer, Polygamist, Politician: The Life of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Thankyou" relaxes a bit
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What? I wanna join.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looks straight at Blood. "Stop talking about me behind my back. And he's not innocent. No one's innocent." Turns and exits.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She licked her paws, itching to kill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Human.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Ill go advertise"
RPackham More than 1 year ago
For many who are somewhat familiar with 19th century Utah and the Mormon practice of polygamy during that time, it is easy to fall into a lop-sided view of that strange social phenomenon, whether one is Mormon, non-Mormon or ex-Mormon. One tends to see it as a form of bondage for women, keeping women at home, pregnant, and subservient. This biography opens a window on another side, by portraying the life of a polygamous wife who was a mover and shaker among the Utah Mormons, who was a pioneer in every sense of the word. Author Mari Graña has combed original sources and put together a readable and yet scholarly portrait of this remarkable Utah woman. As an experienced author and authority on Western history, especially the stories of frontier women, she was handicapped somewhat by Martha Cannon's instructions to destroy her papers at her death. Nevertheless, the author puts to good use the materials she had available. Dr. Cannon's personality and independence come forth on almost every page, from her decision to enter into a polygamous marriage, her desire to study medicine, her crucial role in promoting public health in Utah, to her remarkable feat of defeating her own husband in getting elected to the Utah state senate, the first woman in the United States to become a state senator. For those unfamiliar with Mormon or Utah history (which in the 19th century was one and the same) Graña gives a balanced background picture of the society in which Cannon lived, not an easy feat for a non-Mormon author. This excellent biography should be on the shelf of anyone interested in Mormon history, polygamy, Western history, or early feminism.