Alice Mary Robertson
|Alice Mary Robertson|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 2nd district
March 4, 1921 – March 4, 1923
|Preceded by||William W. Hastings|
|Succeeded by||William W. Hastings|
|Born||January 2, 1854
Tullahassee Mission, Creek Nation
|Died||July 1, 1931
|Profession||Educator, public servant|
Alice Mary Robertson (January 2, 1854 – July 1, 1931) was an American educator, social worker, government official, and politician who became the second woman to serve in the United States Congress, and the first from the state of Oklahoma. Robertson was the first woman to defeat an incumbent congressman. She was known for her strong personality, commitment to Native American issues, and an anti-feminist stance.
Education, teaching, and early public service
Robertson was born at the Tullahassee Mission in Creek Nation, Indian Territory, to William Schenck Robertson and Ann Eliza Worcester, who were missionaries. Her maternal grandfather was Samuel Worcester, a long-time missionary to the Cherokees. The 1860 United States Census shows the family living in Creek Nation, Indian Lands, Arkansas. Her parents were missionaries to the Creek Nation. They translated many works into the Creek language, including the Bible. In early life, Mary Alice Robertson was self-taught under the supervision of her parents. She attended Elmira College, in Elmira, New York.
Robertson started working as a clerk in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Washington, D.C. (1873 to 1879). She returned to the Indian Territory and taught briefly in the school at Tullahassee. Later she taught at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania from 1880 to 1882.
After returning to the Indian Territory, Robertson established the Nuyaka Mission, which was run by Presbyterians reporting to the Creek Council. She taught in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where she had charge of a Presbyterian boarding school for Native American girls. It eventually developed into Henry Kendall College and then the University of Tulsa).
Robertson was appointed by the BIA as the first government supervisor of Creek Indian schools, and she served from 1900 to 1905. She was next appointed by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt to be the postmaster of Muskogee, Oklahoma from 1905 to 1913, making her the country's first female postmaster of a Class A post office. Her canteen service to the troops during World War I was the start of the Muskogee Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Robertson was elected by the 2nd District of Oklahoma as a Republican Representative to the 67th Congress, defeating the incumbent William Hastings. She was the first woman to defeat an incumbent representative in a general election. She served from March 4, 1921 to March 3, 1923, but was unsuccessful in running for reelection in 1922 and was defeated by Hastings.
Robertson was the second woman to hold a seat in Congress, after Representative Jeannette Rankin from Montana who served from 1917 to 1919. Before the expiration of her term, Rebecca Felton was appointed for one day to the Senate, and representatives Winnifred Huck from Illinois and Mae Nolan from California both won special elections; they were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th women to serve in Congress. During her term, Robertson became the first woman to preside over the House of Representatives, on June 20, 1921.
Robertson was the first woman elected to Congress after passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote. She opposed feminist groups such as the League of Women Voters and the National Women's Party. Robertson voted against bills funding maternity and childcare on the grounds that they were an unwarranted governmental intrusion on personal rights. This earned her the support of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of which she was a member.
Robertson died in Muskogee, and was interred in Greenhill Cemetery.
Legacy and honors
- She bequeathed her personal library and family papers to the University of Tulsa, where they became part of the collection of the McFarlin Library. The papers include Creek translations by her parents and her grandfather, Samuel Austin Worcester.
- Robertson Hall, a dormitory at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha was named in her honor.
- In Muskogee, the Alice Robertson Middle School is home to the Muskogee 7th & 8th Grade Center.
- 1860 United States Federal Census--- Name: Mary A Robertson Age in 1860: 7 Birth Year: abt 1853 Birthplace: Creek Nation Home in 1860: Creek Nation, Indian Lands, Arkansas Gender: Female Post Office: Creek Agency
- University of Tulsa McFarlin Library's inventory of the Alice Robertson collection housed in their special collections department.
|United States House of Representatives|
William W. Hastings
|United States Representative for the 2nd Congressional District of Oklahoma
William W. Hastings
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.