10 remarkable women in LDS Church history

Published: Wednesday, May 7 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Susa Amelia Young Dunford Gates, the second daughter of Brigham Young and Lucy Bigelow Young, was an outgoing and talented woman. Among other things, she was a writer, publisher, advocate for women’s achievements, educator, missionary, genealogist, temple worker, wife and mother of 13, according to a profile written by Lisa Olsen Tait in "Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Vol. 3."

“She was everywhere, had a hand in everything, a human dynamo,” Chapman said. “She was extremely prolific.”

Susa married Dr. Alma Bailey Dunford at age 16 and had two children before the marriage ended in a painful divorce. Three years later, she married Jacob F. Gates, and they had 11 children with only four surviving to adulthood.

After serving a mission with her husband to the Sandwich Islands in 1889, she founded the Young Woman’s Journal, which was adopted as the official magazine of the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association in 1897, Tait wrote.

She founded the Utah Women’s Press Club and was named chairman of the National Council of Women. She also founded the Relief Society magazine. She authored novels and biographies, including one of her father, Brigham Young.

During the 1890s, she traveled around the world advocating for women’s advancements.

Near the end of her life, she focused her energy on genealogy and temple work. She died in 1933.

8. Martha Maria Hughes Cannon (1857-1932)

In 1896, Martha Hughes Cannon, a Democrat, defeated her own husband, a Republican, to become the first female state senator in the United States of America.

“Mattie,” as she was called, was also a physician, trained lecturer, women’s rights advocate and suffragist, a wife, mother and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to a history co-written by Jonathan A. Stapley and Constance L. Lieber in “Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Vol 3.”

As a teenager, Cannon worked as a typesetter for the Deseret News and worked for the Woman’s Exponent, a women’s newspaper. In time she enrolled at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and graduated in 1881. Then she moved to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania Auxiliary School of Medicine and was the only woman in her class. She graduated in 1882 with a degree in pharmacy. She also attended the National School of Elocution and Oratory in Philadelphia.

She returned to Utah and married Angus M. Cannon to become the fourth of his six plural wives. She had three children with him.

Cannon took an interest in local politics and women's suffrage, which led her to run as one of five Democrats for state senator. As mentioned, she won, and she served two terms in the legislature with a specific interest in issues related to public health.

After leaving politics, she served as a member of the Utah Board of Health and as a member of the board for the Utah State School for the Deaf and Dumb.

After her husband’s death in 1915, she settled in California and continued to practice medicine. She died in Los Angeles in 1932.

“Beyond her legacy as the first woman to hold the office of state senator … she must also be remembered as an activist for the cause of women, a mother, a physician and a devoted Latter-day Saint,” wrote Stapley and Lieber.

9. Maud May Babcock (1867-1954)

Maud May Babcock’s life changed in 1891 when she met Susa Young Gates.

Babcock, “a petite young woman with a resounding voice,” was studying and teaching at Harvard when Gates persuaded her to visit Utah, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote in “Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Vol 3.”

Within four months of coming to Utah, Babcock joined the LDS Church. As the first woman on faculty, “Miss B,” as she was called, went on to write several books in the fields of speech and elocution, founded the University of Utah departments of speech and physical education, produced more than 300 plays and earned the title “the first lady of Utah drama.”

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