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Statue of the first female lawmaker stands tall at Utah’s State Capitol

Statue unveiling of Maratha Hughes Cannon, the nation's first female lawmaker. Photo Credit: Ashlee Buchholz Artist: Ben Hammond

SALT LAKE CITY– The nation’s first female lawmaker is making a debut at the Utah State Capitol before heading to Washington D.C.

In 2018, the state legislature voted to send a statue of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, Utah’s first female state senator, to the U.S. Capitol to represent the state. On Monday, the Martha Hughes Cannon Statue Oversight Committee held an unveiling ceremony in Utah, celebrating the completion of the project. 

Dr. Hughes’s statue is 7 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 550 pounds, and made entirely out of bronze. She can be found proudly standing on the 3rd floor of the Utah State Capitol. When COVID-19 restrictions allow, Dr. Hughes will be transferred to Washington D.C. for an unveiling ceremony at National Statuary Hall. 

“I hope Dr. Hughes inspires generations of women”


The unveiling ceremony of the Martha Hughes Cannon statue at the Utah State Capitol. Photo Credit: Ashlee Buchholz Artist: Ben Hammond

During the ceremony, Rep. Karen Kwan co-chair of the Committee stated the statue of Dr. Hughes is more than a tribute to history. 

She specifically pointed out what the statue means to women of color. 

“This historic event is meaningful for all women, including my Black, Indigenous, women of color. Historically there, along with the suffragettes fighting, not knowing if and when they were going to get the right to vote.”  

Dr. Hughes, according to Sen. Kwan, is someone who spearheaded the first wave of the women’s rights movement. 

“This whole endeavor of women’s rights and women’s equality started right here,” said Kwan. “We are an early pioneer in doing what’s right.”  

Kawn believes the presence of Dr. Hughes will help give a voice to others. 

“I hope Dr. Hughes inspires generations of women, Black, Indigenous, women of color to continue to speak out, continue to represent, continue to be present, as we continue to work together on to fight for equality and equity, for the betterment of all Utahns,” said Kwan.  

“We will remember the barriers she overcame”

To Sen. Deidre Henderson, co-chair of the Committee, Dr. Hughes marks a turning point in history. 

“For too long the accomplishments of women have been forgotten or overlooked,” said Henderson during the ceremony. “We will remember for the barriers she overcame, for the difficulties she endured to make Utah, and the nation a better place.”

The visual depiction of Dr. Hughes, Henderson notes, is so “we and future generations can tell her story and remember her accomplishments. For being the first woman in the nation to be elected to a state office, 24 years before most women in America could vote.”

More importantly, Henderson says she hopes Dr. Hughes is a powerful reminder for everyone. 

“She is also held up as an allegory to inspire others who face barriers, discrimination, injustice, uphills battles, and seemingly lost causes,” Henderson said.