Downtown welcomes statue of pioneering businesswoman


The bronze statue of Anna Sutherland Bissell in downtown Grand Rapids is by sculptor Ann Hirsch. Photo via

A historic businesswoman has been honored with a seven-foot statue in her image.

The Community Legends Project, which comprises statues paid for by the Secchia family and donated to land hosts, unveiled yesterday the bronze statue of Anna Sutherland Bissell on the Grand River side of DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

Bissell, who took over as CEO of Bissell, Inc. following the death of her husband, is the eighth Grand Rapids pioneer to be honored by the series.

The statue was completed by Boston-based sculptor Ann Hirsch.


From the beginning of her marriage to Melville R. Bissell, who invented the carpet sweeper in 1876, Anna Bissell was a partner in her husband’s business endeavors, according to a biography by the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council. 

Bissell was one of the country’s first female corporate CEOs. She served as president and CEO of the company from 1889 until 1919 and later as chair of the board of trustees from 1919 until her death in 1934.

She also served on the board of what became the D.A. Blodgett Home for Children, now D.A. Blodgett – St. John's.

Community Legends Project

Started in 2008 by Grand Rapids philanthropist and former U.S. Ambassador to Italy Peter Secchia, the Community Legends Project will erect 25 statues of notable figures in Grand Rapids history.

The statue of Bissell is the eighth in the series, joining bronze likenesses of Stanley Ketchel, Lyman Parks, Lucius Lyon, Jay Van Andel, the Most Rev. Frederick Baraga, Chief Noonday and Helen Claytor.

Bissell joins Claytor as the second woman to be enshrined in bronze through the project, with a statue of former First Lady Betty Ford planned for 2018.

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