March is National Women's History Month, and the Utah Women’s Mural commissioned by Zions Bank for the side of the Dinwoody building in Downtown Salt Lake City is more than just a nod to The Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. The piece, which was directed and created by Jann Haworth, the same pop artist who created the legendary Beatles’ cover, celebrates past and present Utah women who have shaped Utah’s culture. The mural was unveiled in 2020 for Women’s Equality Day and depicts 250 of Utah’s most influential and recognizable women in regards to culture, athletics, academics, politics, activism, philanthropy, and more. We’ve chosen five of these Salt Lake women you’ll want to learn about.
Martha Hughes Cannon
When women’s rights were largely limited, Martha Hughes Cannon trained to become a physician and later became Utah’s first female Senator in 1897. Hughes received her Bachelors in Chemistry from the University of Deseret (now University of Utah), and later became a doctor, establishing Utah’s first State Board of Health and writing many of Utah’s sanitation laws.
In addition, Hughes was a passionate advocate for women’s suffrage. Hughes ran against her husband in the election for Senator and won. As a Utah Senator, Hughes was crucial in solidifying women’s voting rights in the State Constitution.
Dee-Dee Darby Duffin
For contemporary musician and actress Dee-Dee Darby Duffin, the timing is right to be an artist and performer in Salt Lake City. “The support of the people who attend concerts, theater, festivals [and] art openings in SLC is incomparable,” she says. Duffin is known for her soulful vocal stylings, is a fixture in the jazz, soul, and R&B music scenes and acts in many regional productions.
After coming to Salt Lake City from Baltimore, Duffin auditioned for the Pygmalion Theater Company, housed in the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, and landed the role of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill for the Company. “I have played some of the most iconic roles and I am both humbled and grateful but I need it to be known that I also worked my ass off,” she says.
Visit the Pygmalion Theater to see where Duffin made her mark in Utah.
A principal dancer at Ballet West, Beckanne Sisk came to Salt Lake City at 17 to dance for Ballet West under the tutelage of Director Adam Sklute. “The first few years were tough … But soon I found a groove and fell in love with this place and the people,” says Sisk.
For Sisk, one of the highlights of her career was performing Romeo and Juliet as Juliet alongside her fiance, Chase O'Connell. “That was just magical. I have yet to feel the way that show felt on stage. I never felt nervous, literally just felt like Juliet falling in love,” she says. “Of all the places I have performed, I have never felt the love like I do here … My time here [in SLC] has been full of amazing moments and seasons. I [feel] like the luckiest person in the world,” she says.
See a performance of Ballet West at Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City to see where Sisk created her legacy as a dancer.
Lisa Eccles is the President and COO of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, a charitable foundation supporting the community and state through grants that have totaled more than $700 million since its founding. It funds programs to benefit all Utahns statewide in many sectors including arts and culture, higher education, community/social services, health and wellness, and historic and environmental preservation. Eccles is passionate about such things as creating opportunities for students through college scholarships, funding community parks in rural Utah towns and helping preserve the state's open lands and wetlands.
"We believe in investing in people, and especially Utah's youth, who represent the future of our state," says Eccles. The philanthropic legacy of the Eccles family is well-known throughout Utah, including its generous support that made possible the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. "It was rewarding to help ensure that the theater would be all that our community hoped for—a key centerpiece in the long-range vitality of the arts in Utah,” says Eccles. "Today, it's exciting to see the important part it plays in elevating the interest in and support for the arts throughout our state."
Visit the beautiful George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake.
Jennifer Napier-Pearce is the Senior Advisor of Communications for Governor Spencer J. Cox and is known for her time as the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune from 2016 to 2020, celebrated as the first Pacific Islander and second woman to lead the newsroom.
Napier-Pearce has also been a host and reporter for public radio stations KUER and KCPW, and an adjunct professor at University of Utah. Through each of these roles, Napier-Pearce’s focus has always been to combine her creativity with jobs that create an impact. “Whether reporting or advising on the inside, staying engaged in public discourse and community affairs is very important to me,” says Napier-Pearce.
As a journalist enmeshed in local politics, Napier-Pearce aims to be an authentic community voice. “I hope I've helped people think so they feel empowered to act. I hope the information I've shared as both a journalist and spokesperson has helped folks be better informed and make better decisions,” she says.
Visitors can stop by the Salt Lake Tribune to see where Napier-Pearce began in making local history.
The Jann Haworth mural honors the women who have shaped Utah culture, but there are also blank faces, suggesting that viewers take pause to think about the influential women in their lives.
These women, both past and present, have helped to foster a community that is welcoming to women-owned businesses you can support today, including: The Rose Establishment, Mineral and Matter, Vive Juicery, Aces High Saloon and Mochi Kids.
For this Women’s History Month, make sure to visit the Utah Women’s Mural on the side of the Dinwoody building on 100 South Main Street along with the locations that honor each of these women and the women-owned businesses currently making history.
Photo Credits: Images of Martha Hughes Cannon’s mural and statue, Dee-Dee Darby Duffin, and Jennifer Napier-Pearce by Logan Sorenson. Images of Beckanne Sisk courtesy of Beckanne Sisk. Images of Lisa Eccles courtesy of Lisa Eccles. Images of Women's Mural by Sean Buckley.