Utah is known for its mountains, its Mormons and its salty lake. Not for the television. In fact, few people know that the inventor of the television was a Utahn – Philo T. Farnsworth.
What Utah should be known for is its strong pioneering women, like Reva Beck Bosone, Emmeline B. Wells and Martha Hughes Cannon, to name a few. But most of Utah’s pioneer women are unrecognized caricatures of the classic polygamous housewife.
A Utah representative wants to shed light on the anonymity of one of Utah’s early mothers: Martha Hughes Cannon. Cannon walked across the plains to Salt Lake City as a young girl, attended college at the University of Deseret, known today as the University of Utah, received a medical degree from the University of Michigan, and was a well-known national suffragist. She was the fourth wife of Angus M. Cannon, who she beat in 1896 to become the first woman in the United States to be elected as a state senator.
Rep. Adam Gardiner is drafting a bill to replace a statue of Farnsworth in the United States Capitol with a statue of Dr./Sen. Cannon. Under federal law, each state can place two statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol. Farnsworth and Brigham Young currently represent Utah.
While Farnsworth undoubtedly deserves honor and prestige for his accomplishments and advancements of the science of electronic pictures and other inventions, perhaps 30 years has been long enough. (For that matter, perhaps 70 years has been long enough for Brigham Young’s statue.)
It doesn’t help that Idaho representatives claim Farnsworth as their own and boast that Idaho really has three statues instead of two, as Farnsworth spent a considerable amount of his childhood in Idaho.
Perhaps the Legislature should open up the process to choose who represents Utah in Statuary Hall. It could easily set up a survey to obtain Utah residents’ opinions on the matter.
Only nine states currently display a female statue. Being that women make up half of Utah residents, it seems important that whomever Utahns, or the Legislature, choose, the two spots should be representative of Utah’s population and rich history, male and female.
Utah women are still sorely underrepresented in state and federal politics. Only one out of six of Utah’s federal delegation is a woman – Rep. Mia Love. On the local level, women account for 21 percent of city council and mayoral seats along the Wasatch Front. Across Utah that number is 24 percent.
The least we can do is remind the nation that women helped build Utah too.