Two-foot replica debuts of Martha Hughes Cannon statue planned for U.S. Capitol

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sculptor Ben Hammond unveils a 25-inch replica of a 7-foot-6-inch statue depicting former Utah state Sen. Martha Hughes Cannon, in the House Chamber at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

A small replica of a planned statue of former Utah state Sen. Martha Hughes Cannon made its debut at the Utah Legislature on Tuesday, giving lawmakers a preview of the 7-foot-6-inch version that is expected to be placed in the nation’s Capitol campus later this year.

Cannon, who was elected in 1896 as the country’s first female state senator, was a doctor, a polygamous wife and a leader in Utah’s suffrage movement. The larger statue, designed by Utah sculptor Ben Hammond, will be placed this August in National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C., during a celebration of the 19th Amendment’s 100th anniversary, according to a statement from the Utah Senate and House.

A clay mock-up of the full bronze sculpture was displayed last fall. During Utah’s 2018 legislative session, lawmakers voted to send a statue of Cannon to the U.S. Capitol to replace one of television inventor Philo T. Farnsworth. Utah’s other monument is of Latter-day Saint pioneer leader Brigham Young.

Of the 100 statues (two from each state) currently displayed in National Statuary Hall, nine depict women, according to the statement.

”I’m really excited today,” said Sen. Diedre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork. “This year, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment and is 150 years since the first women in the nation were able to vote under equal suffrage laws right here in the state of Utah.”

Henderson and Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, called Utah “forward-thinking” because of its unanimous decision to adopt women’s suffrage in 1870.

“In 1896, we changed history again with the election of Dr. Hughes Cannon, the first woman to be elected to the state senate in the United States,” Kwan said.

To give an example of Utah’s progressiveness, Kwan said North Carolina tried passing a bill to further women’s suffrage a year after Cannon was elected, but its Legislature effectively killed the bill by sending it to a committee dealing with mental health facilities.

Cannon’s replica statue will be on display in the visitor foyer of the Utah Capitol through the end of the legislative session, which wraps up March 12.