Gov. Gary Herbert is on "Team Martha."
This year Utah lawmakers passed a resolution to send a statue of the physician, lawmaker, polygamist and early suffragette to the U.S. Capitol. Backed by supporters, Gov. Herbert ceremonially signed the resolution Wednesday.
Many have praised Cannon as a good role model for women and girls, but Herbert said she can serve as a role model for men, too.
“She’s a great role model for all of us,” he said. “For those of us who lean forward, are proactive, are saying, ‘I see an injustice and I can make a difference.’”
In 1896, Cannon became the nation’s first female state senator when she ran against her husband, Angus Cannon, and won. As a lawmaker, Martha Cannon wrote many of Utah’s early sanitation laws and helped create the first state health department.
A statue of Cannon already stands at the Utah State Capitol. Lawmakers say the goal is to replicate it and send an additional figure to the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall in 2020, as part of the 19th Amendment’s centennial celebration.
House sponsor Rep. Rebecca Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, said the statue of Cannon on the Capitol grounds reflects her life.
“She is leaning forward,” said Edwards. “She is moving ahead, she has a look of determination and grit about her.”
The people honored in public art and imagery reflect a society’s values, said Neylan McBaine, CEO of the nonprofit Better Days 2020, which backed the resolution as it moved through the Utah Legislature.
“So, the choice of Martha Hughes Cannon in this statue shows our children today that we do value women who take the lead in their communities,” McBaine said.