Twenty-three years her husband's junior, Martha Hughes Cannon was not the youngest wife of Angus M., a ranking church official. Nor was she a backwoods girl with few options. "Mattie" was a University of Michigan-trained physician, an outspoken suffragist, and became the first female state senator in American history. However, in 1886, rather than testify against her husband in federal court, she put her professional interests on hold and fled, with her baby, into hiding in England. Their correspondence is rich in detail regarding polygamous life in Utah and on "the underground" just prior to its abolition.
Mattie especially was intelligent, witty, and occasionally lusty--playfully utilizing sexual double entendres in her letters to convey her longing for home--and she describes her travels and predicaments in spirited, entertaining ways. She is frank about her recurring mood swings, in particular her persistent melancholy over having to lie about her identity, to live in poverty, and to be away from her husband while other wives were still by his side. She wrote that "The knowledge that it is God's plan is the only thing that saves me from despair--almost madness I fear."