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From the founding of Michigan's capital to the rise of corporations, Pioneers, Reformers, and Millionaires by Elizabeth A. Homer is an epic story of two generations of western New Yorkers who settled in central Michigan along the Grand River. Over seven years of research reveals a historical narrative that reads like a novel.
In Part I Marian and James Turner join a group of pioneers who build the capital city in a primal forest in seven months. They are among the progressive Whigs and Democrats who found the Republican Party to end slavery. Both the men and women engage in the burgeoning women s movement for suffrage and the fight to regulate alcohol use. They play leading roles in the Civil War and its aftermath. Controversial ideas such as higher education for women and scientific agricultural education (the beginning years of MSU) are advanced. Marian s family scrapbook is a source of many of the stories in this tale of heroes and villains, vengeance and greed.
In Part II the second generation includes James Munroe Turner who was a folk hero to much of the state. He is a farmer, railroad builder, manufacturer, miner, millionaire, and reformer. The second generation is bent on holding the Republican Party to its original ideals. A clash between Turner, the Vanderbilts, and the Grand Trunk Railroad has far-reaching effects. The Turner cousins are involved in developing the Upper Peninsula in the 1870s. At the end of the 19th century, they grapple with monumental societal problems, ones that dog us today.
Some of the highlights include the thoroughly awful gubernatorial campaign of 1890 and the long battle for the governorship by Hazen Pingree. The ongoing conflict between the prohibitionists and saloonists comes to a head during a raucous visit to the Capital City by Carrie Nation. The unrelenting efforts of the state's women to gain the right to vote, improve their status, and battle to raise the Age of Consent are stories completely unknown today, as is the story of the City s small black community that formed before emancipation. Frank Dodge s champions the Knights of Labor in the Saginaw Lumber Mill Strike conspiracy trial and the first impeachment of a legislator.
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Elizabeth A. Homer has been a curator for over twenty years, first at the Michigan Women s Historical Center and Hall of Fame, 1987-1996, and then at the Turner-Dodge House & Heritage Center, 1997-2008. Both are in Lansing, Michigan. She is a public historian with a passion for women s history and political history.Review:
Elizabeth Homer writes with excitement and passion about two generations of the Marian and James Turner family, Lansing s first family, revealing their state and national leadership in social issues as complex as abolition, suffrage, higher education for women and temperance. Homer has the knack for making historical characters come to life, and the issues she writes about are as contemporary today as they were 150 years ago.
Bill Castanier, Literary reviewer Lansing City Pulse and editor Mittenlit.com --book cover
Pioneers, Reformers,and Millionaires is worth reading just for the story of the founding of Michigan s capital no matter what state you live in. However, for me, it was the revelations about national and Michigan politics as seen through the eyes of the western New Yorkers who settled in the Great Lakes State that made it so enjoyable. The political story in Elizabeth Homer s book is superb. The first generation is abolitionists who help found the Republican Party. The second generation is bent on cleaning up politics and wresting back control of their party from corporate interests, particularly the railroad interests that dominated American politics and economy. There is much to learn here that is relevant today. I loved it.
Bill Ballenger, former state Representative & Senator and Founder, Inside Michigan Politics newsletter --book cover
There are many satisfying features of this book. Homer tells both fascinating personal and crucial national stories. We learn of the day-to-day survival on the frontier, courtship and marriage, and family struggles as well as political divisions, electoral contests, and institution-building in the growing city. And women were involved in almost all of these stories. Women founded the settlement, participated in the creation of the first institutions, and weighed in on the important issues of their day such as suffrage and prohibition. This book provides a unique perspective on all of the major historical developments in the nineteenth century, settlement and migration, commerce and industry, the Civil War, Progressivism, and many more, as experienced in Lansing, Michigan.
Lisa Fine, PhD., Michigan State University, Historian, Author of The Story of Reo Joe: Work, Kin, and Community in Autotown, U.S.A --book cover
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