By Isabel Kilikita, undergraduate, Louisiana State University
Laverne Ellen Robertson (sometimes spelled as Lovern or Lavern), was born on January 3, 1880, in the town of Orderville, Kane county, Utah. She was one of eleven children. She was born to father Jedediah Grant Adair from Utah, and mother Florence Ellen Fowler from Sheffield, England. It is possible that her parents were Mormons, as there are records of Jedediah having a second wife simultaneously, with whom he also had children.
In 1898, at age eighteen, Laverne married Charles Thomas Robertson, a blacksmith also from Orderville, and later bore four children, Lawrence, who died at less than a year old (1898), Lewis (1900), Ronald (1904) and Cecil (1907). By 1907, the family was living in Salt Lake City.
Robertson was an active suffragist who worked for reforms affecting women. It is unknown how she became involved with the National Woman's Party. However, she was part of the NWP's Silent Sentinels, who picketed the White House in 1917 to urge President Wilson’s help in securing a constitutional amendment for woman suffrage. On November 10, 1917, she and twenty-nine other women picketers were arrested on the charge of obstructing traffic. While all pleaded guilty, they were convicted and given a choice of a fine or thirty days in jail. She and the others were sent to Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia, where she and the other picketers suffered torturous treatment on what became known as the “Night of Terror.” On this night, Robertson collapsed at the workhouse and was taken to the hospital, reportedly due to lack of nourishment.
By 1935, if not earlier, Robertson and her family were living in Escondido, California, where she died on September 13, 1950 at age seventy. Robertson is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Robertson’s birth date, death date and information about her family and residence can be found at Ancestry.com and Findagrave.com. Details of her suffrage activism and arrest can be found in Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (New York: Boni and Liverlight, 1920) and Eileen Hallet Stone, “Utah Women Were on the Front Line of Suffrage Battles.” The Salt Lake Tribune, March 1, 2014.