This Lady from L’Anse, Michigan Was One of Our Most Important Women
She’s one of Michigan’s most important women – yet mention the name Cora Reynolds Anderson to someone and you’ll usually get a ‘who’, ‘whozat’, or ‘never heard of her’.
So who was she? Oh, only the first woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives and the first Native American woman to serve in a state legislature, that’s who! Cora was a member of the Ojibwe tribe and born on April 10, 1882 in L’Anse. After attending and graduating from UP schools, she attended the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, where she received a teaching diploma. With her diploma in hand, Cora came back to Michigan and found a position teaching at the mission in the town of Zeba.
In 1903 when she was 21, she met and married Charles Anderson. To supplement Cora’s income, they ran the local hotel for a number of years…but that wasn’t enough to satisfy her. She set out to help the less fortunate, and in the early 1920s ended up organizing Baraga County’s first public health service.
That still wasn’t enough. In 1925 she ran for the House of Representatives and won. She only served one year as a congresswoman, from 1925 to 1926, unfortunately losing her seat to redistricting…but by then, she had already made her historical mark. Although in for just one year, she possibly accomplished more than any full-term congressperson. She was appointed committee chairperson for the Industrial Home for Girls in Adrian, and was on the committee boards for Agriculture, Insurance, and the Northern State Normal School in Marquette, which later became known as Northern Michigan University.
For the rest of her life, she never quit her quest to help others. She advocated against alcoholism and tuberculosis…promoted public health…represented the Michigan Grange in the Upper Peninsula…and fought for Huron Bay fishing rights for the Native Americans.
She died on March 11, 1950. Even though she passed away in Pentland Township in Luce County, her burial location is unknown.
Cora Reynolds Anderson was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2001.
The 1st Woman Elected to the Michigan House of Representatives