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Publishers WeeklyGraña, 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.
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