Utah's Martha Hughes Cannon Statue Will Change The Capitol's Statuary Hall
In an effort to boost its flailing reputation regarding women's advancement and gender equality, Utah plans to send a woman to Washington. But Utah's latest representative won't speak, vote, or advocate for the state in Congress. In fact, she won't even move — ever. State lawmakers plan to replace one of Utah's statues in Statuary Hall with one of a woman, NPR has reported. The statue will be only the 10th woman to represent a state in Statuary Hall.
State legislators in Utah are preparing to send a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon to represent the state in the Capital's National Statuary Hall. Cannon became the nation's first elected female state senator after defeating her own husband at the ballot box in 1896. A physician, suffragist, and polygamous wife — her family reportedly converted to Mormonism around the time they emigrated to the United States — she advocated for women's rights and worked to see women's right to vote and hold public office enshrined in Utah's constitution.
Lawmakers approved legislation for Cannon's inclusion in Statuary Hall in February as a means of not only showcasing Utah's role in women's suffrage, but of repairing the state's reputation when it comes to women's advancement.
Last year, a WalletHub study of gender equality ranked Utah last out of all 50 states. That study examined three specific categories related to women's advancement: In the category of workplace equality, the study ranked Utah at 43; in the category of political empowerment, Utah ranked 40; and in the education and health category, the state came in last, at 50.
"We're putting our faith in the power of history to change perspective and identity," Better Days 2020 CEO Neylan McBaine recently told NPR about the state's decision to send a statue of Cannon to the capital. The Utah nonprofit campaigned hard for the legislation.
"If we truly do value women, their contributions to public and private life and to our modern culture, then we should have powerful visual reflections of that value in our public images," McBaine told Utah Business when the legislation was passed in February.
The addition of Cannon's statue will bring a tad more inclusion to Statuary Hall, a place where women are few and far between. Currently only nine of the 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection are women. Cannon will join Washington state's Mother Joseph statue, Alabama's Helen Keller statue, Montana's Jeannette Rankin statue, North Dakota's Sakakawea statue, Minnesota's Maria Sanford statue, Nevada's Sarah Winnemucca statue, Wyoming's Esther Hobart Morris statue, Colorado's Florence Sabin statue, and Illinois' Frances E. Willard statue.
The statue of Cannon is expected to arrive at Statuary Hall sometime in 2020, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the 150th anniversary of women's suffrage in Utah. She is set to replace a statue of Utah native Philo Farnsworth, whose work led to the invention of the television.