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Anna Sutherland Bissell

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Anna Sutherland Bissell
Anna Sutherland

(1846-12-02)December 2, 1846
DiedNovember 8, 1934(1934-11-08) (aged 87)
OccupationExecutive of Bissell
Known forFirst woman CEO of United States.
SpouseMelville Reuben Bissell
RelativesAnna Bissell McCay (daughter)

Anna Sutherland Bissell (1846–1934) was a Canadian-American businesswoman who was the first female CEO in the United States. She was CEO of Bissell, known for its carpet sweepers and vacuum cleaners.[1]


By age 16, Bissell was a school teacher.[2]

After Bissell married Melville R. Bissell at 19, they became a joint partner in their crockery and china business. The Bissell Sweeper website recounts that Mrs. Bissell complained to her husband about sawdust that collected in their carpets and was difficult to remove, whereupon he made great improvements to a new invention called the carpet sweeper. When Bissell's husband invented the Bissell carpet sweeper in 1876, Bissell became a salesperson traveling from town to town selling the sweeper. Bissell was the number one salesperson.


After her husband's death in 1889 and with five children and one grandchild, Bissell took over the business and became the chief executive officer of the Bissell company.[3][4]

Bissell established new guidelines on trademarks and patents and moved Bissell carpet sweepers into the international market. By 1899 she had created the largest organization of its kind in the world.

In 1919, Bissell also became the chairman of the Bissell company.[4] As president of the corporation and chairman of the board, Bissell introduced progressive labor policies including workman's compensation and pension plans long before these practices were widespread in industry.

It was said of her that she "studied business the way other women of her time studied French." She kept pace with the growing complexities of industrialism and knew every facet of the Bissell production.


Bissell was a charter member of the Ladies Literary Club, a life member of the Women's City Club, and an active member of Zonta. She served on the board of The Clark Memorial Home and was for years the sole woman member of the National Hardware Men's Association.

Bissell was a generous philanthropist. She was the first woman trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church and was actively involved in Bissell House, a recreation and training program for Grand Rapids, Michigan youth and immigrant women. She also served on the board of what was to become Blodgett Home for Children.

Personal life[edit]

Bissell's husband was Melville Reuben Bissell. They had five children. In 1889, Bissell's husband died from pneumonia.

On November 8, 1934, Bissell died in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bissell is buried in Oakhill Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


In July 2016 a seven-foot (2.1 m) statue of Bissell was unveiled; it is located outside the DeVos Place Grand Gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The bronze statue with "Anna Bissell (1846-1934)" was designed by Ann Hirsch. It was funded by the Peter Secchia family.[5]

Bissell's home known as the Bissell House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, no longer exists, however, its site is now occupied by NBC television affiliate station WOOD-TV.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History of the Bissell Carpet Sweeper". Kent County Michigan Genweb Project. Archived from the original on 2010-07-14. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  2. ^ "Leaders in History:Anna Bissell". eagle center for leadership.com. May 25, 2016. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  3. ^ "A History of Good Business Since 1876". Bissell. Archived from the original on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  4. ^ a b Gu, Monica (July 24, 2017). "America's First Women CEO". newyorkminutemag.com. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  5. ^ Henschke, Laura (22 July 2016). "Statue unveiled of Anna Bissell, first female CEO in U.S." fox17online.com. Retrieved November 29, 2018.

External links[edit]