Anna Bissell's husband, Melville Bissell, invented the Bissell floor and carpet sweeper to keep things tidy at their crockery business. However, Anna was the driving force behind the sales and growth of the Bissell company, and when her husband died of pneumonia in 1889, she became America's first ever female CEO.
Interesting facts about Anna Bissell:
Completing all education available to her as a woman in Wisconsin, Anna became a school teacher at the age of 16.
Anna married her husband, Melville, at the age of 19, became his business partner, and was very active in the family crockery business.
After Melville created the Bissell carpet sweeper, Anna quickly became the company's number one salesperson, traveling from town to town and even persuading Wanamaker's to carry the product.
When Anna took over the company in 1889 as President and CEO, she was a recently widowed single mother of five children.
Some of her first actions as CEO was to aggressively market the sweepers and better organize the details of making, assembling, and delivering the orders for them.
It was remarked that Anna "studied business the way that other women [of her time] studied French."
By 1899, Bissell was the largest organization of its kind in the world due to Anna's push into the international market.
Anna was said to have been familiar with every single facet of her business.
She was amongst the first business leaders of her time to provide her employees with pension plans and workers' compensation.
Anna was a great philanthropist, involved with organizations such as the Red Cross, Blodgett Memorial Medical Center, Blodgett Home for Children, Women's City Club, Zonta, King's Daughters Club, and the Bissell House, which she founded in 1897.
Her philanthropic work garnered her countless awards, including induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
The Bissell company, created by a partnership between husband and wife, is is still owned and operated today by the Bissell family.