Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth Ann Wells Cannon ("Annie")

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Elizabeth Ann Wells Cannon ("Annie"), 1859-1942

By Dr. Isabel Asensio, Professor of Spanish and Chair, Foreign Languages Department, Weber State University, Ogden, UT.

For another bio sketch for Annie Wells Cannon, click here.

Writer, political leader, and civil servant.

Elizabeth Ann "Annie" Wells was born in Salt Lake City on December 7, 1859. She was a daughter of General Daniel Hammer Wells and Emmeline Blanche Woodward Wells, Utah's most prominent women's rights leader in the Victorian era. At age fourteen, she became a member of the Relief Society, a membership she held until the time of her death. Annie attended and graduated from the Deseret University in 1879. Annie always loved literature and creative writing. She was always actively involved in promoting the spread of both political and artistic material to Latter-day Saint women. Annie worked for nineteen years as a reporter and assistant editor for the Woman's Exponent, a Utah Suffrage paper published and edited by her mother Emmeline B. Wells and was actively involved in the suffrage movement right up until women were granted the right to vote.

At age twenty she married John Quayle Cannon (1857-1931), who later became the editor-in-chief of the Deseret News and served for a time as a General Authority. In 1881 he was called to fulfill a mission in the British Isles, working first in England. Later he was transferred to Germany. In 1883 Annie joined her husband and spent a year doing missionary work. During this time, she wrote the History and Objectives of the Relief Society, which was translated and published in several languages, and co-authored the Relief Society Handbook.

At the beginning of World War I, Annie became actively engaged in the Red Cross, and she founded the first Red Cross chapter in Utah. She became affiliated with the War Mothers' group and was elected president. She was twice state president of the Service Star Legion and was active on the committee for the establishment and development of the Memory Grove Memorial. She was chosen by Herbert Hoover to be Utah's chairman for the European Relief Drive, of which she was the only female member. Annie served as a stake Relief Society president for sixteen years and she became a member of the Relief Society General Board in October 1902. In 1918 she was elected an associate vice-president of the American Flag Association.

As a member of the Republican Party, she was elected in 1921 to the Utah State Legislature and served one term. Annie seemed to think of elective office as a rotating civic duty, not a career. In this role, she was one of the three women largely responsible for the passage of the extensive social program for the betterment of women and children, the minimum wage for women, better working conditions, and cooperated in the passage of the Dependent Mother's Pension Law. Besides being a charter member, Annie served as president of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. In 1934 she received a medal as one of the seven outstanding women in civic service in the state of Utah.

Annie was a member of other organizations, including the Board of Directors of the American Relief Association, the American Woman's Association, the Utah Woman's Press Club, and the Order of Bookfellows.

Annie and John had twelve children and three sons joined the military during World War I. She died in Salt Lake City of Hodgkin's lymphoma on September 2, 1942 and is buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.


"Early Literary Women of Utah," The Woman's Exponent, February 1914, Vol. 41, No. 14.

"Annie Wells Cannon," Social Networks and Archival Context.

Kenneth L. Cannon II, "The Tragic Matter of Louie Wells and John Q. Cannon," Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 35, No.2, pp. 126-190 (2009).

"The Pioneer," The Woman's Exponent, August 1905, Vol. 34, No. 3.

"Voices from the Past: Annie Wells Cannon," Aspiring Mormon women, March 3, 2017. Accessed: February 15, 2020.

Weatherford, Doris. Women in American Politics: History and Milestones. CQ Press: Washington, D.C., 2012.

"Women in Politics," The Woman's Exponent, October 1896, Vol. 25., No. 7.

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