Michigan House to unveil portrait to honor former UP Representative

Published: Dec. 6, 2016 at 2:15 PM EST
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State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) will join colleagues to unveil a portrait of former State Representative Cora Reynolds Anderson on Thursday, December 8th. Representative Anderson was the first woman, and the first Native American, to serve in the Michigan House of Representatives. She was elected to office in 1924, only four years after women achieved national suffrage. She represented the “Iron District” of Baraga, Iron, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon counties in the Upper Peninsula. She served for one term, 1925-1926.

In 2000, the Michigan House of Representatives named the new House Office Building in her honor. The following year she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. During her time in office, Representative Anderson chaired the Committee for the State Industrial School for Girls, a reform school for young women located in Adrian. She was also a member of the Agriculture, Insurance, and Northern State Normal School committees. (The Northern State Normal School would become Northern Michigan University.) She introduced six bills that covered a broad range of topics, including licensing for beauticians and cosmetologists, sanitary conditions in hotels and inns, fishing rights, and accounting and reporting in township offices.

Representative Anderson was born in L’Anse, Michigan, in 1882. She was of English, French Canadian and Native American heritage, and was, through her mother’s line, a member of the Ojibwe Tribe (then commonly known as the Chippewa Tribe). She attended school at the Zeba Mission and L’Anse High School, graduating in 1899. Upon obtaining her diploma she attended two normal schools for teachers, one of which was the Haskell Institute, a U.S. government-run Indian boarding school in Lawrence, Kansas. She taught at both the Zeba Mission in L’Anse and at Skanee.

Representative Anderson was also a strong advocate for agriculture. She and her husband, Charles, briefly operated the Thomas Hotel in L’Anse before purchasing and working a 160 acre farm. She was an active member of the Grange, and held the offices of State Flora and U.P. Deputy State Grand Master for many years.

Public health was another matter of importance for Representative Anderson. She led anti-tuberculosis campaigns in L’Anse, and procured the first public health nurse for Baraga County. Together with her husband she campaigned hard to bring Prohibition to northern Michigan. They were proud to see Baraga County go dry in 1916, and, in 1918, led the effort in the northwestern portion of the U.P. to make Michigan dry.

As the first woman to serve in the House, and only the second woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature (Senator Eva McCall Hamilton was elected in 1920 and served one term, 1921-1922), Cora Reynolds Anderson knew that she was a trail blazer. As a Native American woman from the Upper Peninsula she brought a unique and strong voice to the Capitol. Before, during, and after her time in Lansing she remained a faithful public servant, dedicated to improving the lives of her fellow Michigan citizens.

The period-inspired portrait is the work of Joshua Adam Risner, the Capitol’s Master Decorative Painter and Artist. Risner is a fine artist who is interested in and studies historical painting techniques. He was passionate about the project because it elevates the historical artists that he admires. Risner was hired by the Michigan State Capitol Commission in January 2016.

The presentation will take place on Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 9 a.m. inside the House Office Building – 124 North Capitol Avenue, Lansing, MI. The event is open to the public.