Her Quiet Revolution: A Novel of Martha Hughes Cannon: Frontier Doctor and First Female State Senator
By Marianne Monson
Shadow Mountain, 2020, 357 pages, Historical Fiction
This fictionalized version of the true life story of Martha Hughes Cannon shows just what an impressive and talented person the first female state senator was. She was a trained orator, she was a doctor, she ran a nursing training school, she promoted the suffragist cause, and as a politician, she devoted herself to improving the public health systems throughout the fledgling state of Utah.
Martha, or Mattie, also met with some interesting challenges. As the plural wife of a church leader around the time of the manifesto, she struggled with the fact that the man she loved had other families and commitments. And after the manifesto, she struggled with the inability to claim her husband as her own in public.
After reading this novel, I really wish I could sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with this fascinating woman. Monson paints Cannon as a woman who struggled with frustrations and doubts, but she didn’t let her limitations stop her from speaking out for women and the impoverished, even when those who had authority didn’t agree with her views. I was left wanting to know more about the life of Martha Hughes Cannon, but the glimpse I got gave interesting insights into what it was really like to live in Utah around the turn of the 20th century. I'm grateful that pioneers like Martha Hughes Cannon helped blaze the trail to help make Utah what it is today.
Monson also mentions Martha Hughes Cannon in her excellent nonfiction book about women in the west, Frontier Grit.