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Brief history notes contributions to Utah

"I like to think that the Martha Hughes Cannon Room is not only dedicated to Martha Hughes Cannon, but also to the enterprising women of Utah," Dr. Louis Schricker Jr. said during the dedication of the new conference room in the Salt Lake City and County Building Aug. 17. (Please see accompanying article.)

In his remarks, Dr. Schricker, representing the medical community during the dedication ceremony of the room, related a brief history of the woman state senator and early Mormon doctor. A press release from the Office of the Mayor also provides insight into the Utah woman's life.According to Dr. Schricker, Martha Hughes was born July 1, 1857, in Wales to Peter and Elizabeth Evans Hughes, who joined the Church while their daughter was an infant. They immigrated to America in 1858. A few days after the family finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1861, Martha's father died. Her mother later married James Paul.

At 14 years old, "Mattie," as she was called, started teaching elementary school. The following year, Brigham Young called her to be apprenticed to the Deseret News as a typesetter. Much of her work dealt with the Women's Exponent, also published by the Deseret News.

As Mattie grew, she decided to become a doctor. In 1878, after graduating from the University of Deseret (now University of Utah), she enrolled in medical school at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1880 on her 23rd birthday. She continued her education with a bachelor's degree in pharmacy from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor's degree in oration from the National School of Elocution and Oratory.

Returning to Utah, she opened her own medical office and founded the first training school for nurses in the state. Within a year, the First Presidency called her as the second resident physician at Deseret Hospital.

In 1894, she married Angus Munn Cannon in the Endowment House. They had three children.

Martha Hughes Cannon was active in women's affairs and the suffrage movement. In 1896, upon Utah receiving statehood, she was elected the first woman state senator in the United States. In working to correct problems of sanitation and disease in Utah, she sponsored a legislative bill that created a seven-member board of health, while another bill relieved working conditions for women sales clerks.

The last years of her life were divided between her home in Oasis Ranch, Utah, and Los Angeles, Calif., where she worked in the Orthopedic Department of the Graves Clinic, a subsidiary of the University of California. She was also a lecturer and authority on narcotic addition.

Martha Hughes Cannon died July 10, 1932, at 75 years of age.

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