Wales

Llandudno statue plan for US senate pioneer Martha Hughes Cannon

Martha Hughes Cannon Image copyright Utah State Historical Society
Image caption Martha Hughes Cannon beat her husband to become a state senator in 1896

A proposal for a statue in Llandudno to commemorate the first female US state senator will be revealed at this year's National Eisteddfod.

Martha Hughes Cannon was born into a Mormon family in Madoc Street in the town on 1 July 1857.

When she was just three, they emigrated to Salt Lake City, Utah, to escape religious persecution.

She went on to become a doctor and helped win women the vote in her home state.

In 1896 she became a state senator, narrowly beating her own husband in the election.

Historian Wil Aaron, who has researched Dr Hughes Cannon's life, said as a pioneering feminist icon, her story was complicated.

"Martha was one of six wives in a polygamous marriage to Angus M Cannon, which might not sound all that feminist, but she seems to have had no difficulty in combining her devout religious beliefs with tireless campaigning for women's rights," he said.

"As well as her political achievements, she was an enormous figure in the field of medicine, campaigning for the take-up of mass vaccination, helping to end a state-wide outbreak of smallpox by removing communal cups from public drinking fountains, and improving the provision of education for deaf and blind children."

Mr Aaron added that he believes the reason Dr Hughes Cannon has been forgotten in the land of her birth is due to her religion.

"The level of resentment towards Mormons in Wales was unbelievable," he said.

"They were virtually driven into emigration and, once they'd left, their stories were blotted out of history.

"Even though attitudes have changed now, and we'd want to celebrate someone like Martha, that collective memory has been lost, and that is what we're hoping to restore with her statue."

Image copyright Utah State Capital
Image caption A statue of Dr Hughes Cannon stands outside the Utah State Capital building

Her achievements have been recognised in Salt Lake City, with a statue and a government building named after her.

A second will be unveiled in Washington DC next year, and it is hoped the Llandudno statue could be ready to coincide with this.

The campaign is led by the Welsh Women's Archive, and among those championing it is former Conwy MP Betty Williams.

"I became interested in Martha as she was the first woman to become a state senator in the US, and I was the first woman to be MP for Conwy, where Martha was born," said Ms Williams.

"Conwy Council have been incredibly helpful. We've agreed a plot for the statue on the Great Orme; a company has kindly agreed to donate the slate; we have a design, so now we're just keeping our fingers crossed that our application for lottery funding is successful."

The campaign will be officially launched at the National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst, Conwy, on 9 August.

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