Michigan City native, Naomi Anderson, was a creative visionary of her day. However, she probably could never have imagined the accolades her hometown bestowed on her over a hundred years after her death in 1899.
On Saturday, Californians Alicia Guererro and Betty Austin accepted the CREO! on behalf of their great-grandmother from the Center for Creative Solutions. Pat Lain, President of the Center’s Board of Directors, presented the award for Anderson’s creativity. Lain noted her accomplishments as a poet, advocate for women’s rights and racial equality, humanitarian, and entrepreneur.
The CREO! recognizes a citizen or organization that encourages a culture of creativity and innovation, Lain said. A Latin term meaning, “to create,” it stands for Creativity, Regional, Excellence and Originality. The award was presented at the Michigan City Lighthouse Museum prior to the dedication and celebration of a commissioned sculpture of Anderson in the city’s Westcott Park.
From Michigan City, Anderson moved to Chicago and there addressed the 1869 Women’s Conference, according to Dale Cooper of the Anderson committee and a Board member of the Center for Creative Solutions. Her fiery speech calling for women’s right to vote made Anderson an overnight sensation. At times, her speeches received headlines more prominent than fellow suffragette, Susan B. Anthony, noted Cooper.
In addition, Anderson was the mother of eight children. One of those children wrote a play based on Anderson’s life. It was the first play on Broadway in New York City, written by a person of color.
In many communities where she lived, Anderson started orphanages for children of color because there were none. At the time, Cooper said, white people would not donate to such orphanages. Eventually, Anderson moved to California where she died at the age of 56.
Anderson’s family had heard of her, but did not know of her achievements until recently. The people of Michigan City had long forgotten her. Then, several years ago, she was ‘accidently discovered’ by people in her hometown. A community-wide committee worked two years to honor Anderson.