Day 9 — Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus

IMG_1751In October 2015 a group of current and former legislators came together and formed the Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus.  The namesake of the group was Martha Hughes Cannon, the first woman in the US to be elected to a state Senate seat where she served two terms.  By the time Martha was elected at age 39, she had already achieved acclaim as a teacher, physician, suffragette, orator, and mother of 3.  She was married at age 28 to Angus Cannon, 23 years her senior, and was his 4th plural wife.  In Martha’s first election Angus was also her opponent where he was running as a Republican and Martha as a Democrat.

Martha won.

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This November 15, 2015 Op-Ed in the Deseret News outlines the priorities and goals of the Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus.

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A new caucus has come to town. The Martha Hughes Cannon Caucus, named after Martha Hughes Cannon, is made up of current and former women legislators who came together to work on issues important to all of us. As a bipartisan, bicameral group, it is our goal to speak up on these important issues and to inspire, train and encourage other women who have the desire to serve our communities and our state in politics and in business.

Utah women have been working hard to bring into balance their representation in all areas of government and the workplace. Recent studies have shown Utah to be near the bottom of all 50 states when it comes to women in politics and in corporate executive positions. We are proud to be a part of efforts like the Utah Woman and Leadership at Utah Valley University, the Women’s Leadership Institute’s #ElevateHER Challenge and the YWCA’s Real Women Run initiative and their efforts to help women successfully run for office.

Recently, a local radio show had two guest hosts discussing Carly Fiorina’s visit to Utah. One host, a man, asked the other: “I want to ask you a question as a girl. Which you are. I’m interested to know how much does Carly Fiorina being a woman or Hillary Clinton being a woman affect the way that you see them as candidates?” Unfortunately, her answer was: “I know how I get every 28 days. I kind of get crazy every once in a while. … As women, we have a lot of hormonal situations going on and I just wonder how people like Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton deal with their situations.”

We were disappointed in one host’s reference to the other as being a “girl,” rather than a woman. To his credit, he said it absolutely had not been his experience that women were “too affected” hormonally to have leadership roles in politics, business and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, there are still inaccurate mischaracterizations of women and their abilities. Hopefully this represents only a small minority of the population. As we brought this issue to the attention of the sponsoring station, they apologized for this absurd characterization of women leaders. We appreciate that.

President Russell M. Nelson, an apostolic leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently quoted the late Boyd K. Packer: “We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out. … We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.”

As long as we remain 44th in the nation for women’s involvement in elected office, we are determined to continue talking about and encouraging more women to run for elected office.

We look forward to the day when it is the norm to see women running for office and excelling in business, when it is so ingrained in our Utah culture that we no longer need to note and take action about the lopsided electoral presence.

Until then, we intend to continue speaking up and speaking out about the value women bring to all organizations.

The Martha Caucus is made up of these current and former women legislators: Sen. Ann Millner, Sen. Luz Escamilla, Sen. Karen Mayne, Sen. Deidre Henderson, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, Rep. Marie Poulson, Rep. Angela Romero, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Rep. Sandra Hollins, Rep. Patrice Arent, Rep. Becky Edwards, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, Rep. Sophia M. DiCaro, Rep. Kim Coleman, Rep. Sue Duckworth, former Sen. Patricia Jones, former Sen. Karen Morgan, former Sen. Karen Hale, former Rep. Genevieve Atwood, former Rep. Dana Layton, former Rep. Sylvia Andersen, former Rep. Sheryl Allen, former Rep. Nancy Lyon, former Rep. Jackie Biskupski, former Rep. Ronda Menlove, former Rep. Trisha Beck, former Rep. Holly Richardson, former Rep. Laura Black Arnold, former Rep. Jennifer Seelig, former Rep. Julie Fisher, former Rep. Joanne Milner and former Rep. Lorie Fowlke. 

Tonight, members of the MHCC hosted a reception for the 2016 legislative session women interns.  We shared the reasons we got involved in public service, ways in which we felt we have made a difference, what we wish we had known at age 22, the importance of women having a voice in politics, and our desire to serve as mentors for these bright interns.

I’m grateful for my legislative colleagues and for my predecessors who paved the path for my service.  I hope to be in a position where I can encourage and support other women in achieving their potential and making a difference in their communities.

Some photos from these evening and our group mentoring activity:

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