Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw
Suffragist Anna Howard Shaw, 1847-1919, lived in Mecosta County,
Michigan, during her formative years. Her lifetime accomplishments in the fields of
women's rights, medicine, religion, and oratory resulted in worldwide fame. She was
honored, during her lifetime and after, by governments, royalty, religious leaders, and
people from every walk of life the world over.
Anna Howard Shaw came to live in the
wilderness of Green Township, Mecosta County, with her English immigrant parents in 1859
at the age of twelve. While growing up in Michigan, she attended Big Rapids High School
and went on to study at Albion College. Later, at Boston University, she earned a theology
degree in 1878 and a medical degree in 1885, all the while honing her talents in oratory,
a lifelong passion.
As a minister, physician, and eminent orator, she labored tirelessly for the great
causes dear to her heart. During her lifetime of 72 years, she gave more than 10,000
lectures worldwide. She was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal by the United States
Congress for her humanitarian work during World War I. But her most enduring legacy
resulted from her dynamic leadership and energetic efforts in the women's suffrage
movement. After the death of Susan B. Anthony, the movement's leader and her close friend,
Anna Howard Shaw carried on the work that culminated in passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. During that struggle she wrote, "Nothing bigger
can come to a human being than to love a great cause more than life itself." Her
autobiography, The Story of a Pioneer, published in 1915, is a fascinating account
of the challenges she overcame on the road from the wilderness to worldwide fame.
A bronze statue of this distinguished daughter of Mecosta
County stands in a park north of the Big Rapids Community Library on South Michigan
Avenue. It is there because the community wished to honor her accomplishments and to let
all who look upon her likeness be reminded that the ideas that led to her greatness were
formulated in the wilderness of 19th Century Mecosta County.