By Katie Pratt
Undergraduate student, Simmons College
Alice Gram, an American suffragist, writer, and editor, was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1896 to Danish immigrants, Andreas Peter Gram and Karen Jensen. She was the sixth of seven children, including her older sister and prominent militant suffragist, Betty Gram Swing.
After the family settled in Portland, Oregon, both women decided to attend the University of Oregon with Gram beginning her studies there in 1914. Following in the footsteps of her older sister, Alice Gram was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, and it was in college that she became active in the suffrage movement. She joined the College Equal Suffrage League, eventually traveling with the group to Washington for picketing in fall of 1917.
On November 10, 1917, Alice, along with nearly 40 others, was arrested for protesting in Washington, D.C. in a demonstration organized by the National Woman's Party. According to Doris Stevens, a fellow active suffragist, Gram was in the third group of picketers; she was arrested for her activity, along with her sister, and sentenced to 30 days in the Occoquan Workhouse. An article from the Suffragist details the demonstration and the subsequent arrest: "The pickets walked all together this time twice up and down in front of the White House in a brave line, and then stood in position against the high iron fence, stretching from gate to gate. They stood on guard for several minutes before the startled police gathered their forces and bundled them into commandeering cars."
At Occoquan, Alice went on hunger strike as a form of protest against the Wilson Administration's refusal to consider the suffragists as "political prisoners." According to the introduction to the 2000 Annual Cumulative Index to the Congressional Digest, Gram "drew the White House physician to [her] side" while in prison due to her weakness. The President issued a full pardon to the suffragists in late November, and suffrage was granted to women nationally with the passage of the 19th amendment in 1919.
Before the suffrage campaign ended, Gram Robinson served as an assistant in the press department of the NWP. In 1919, she co-founded the Women's National Press Club—a parallel organization to the National Press Club, which did not at the time admit women. These early positions sparked Gram Robinson's lifelong career in journalism.
In 1921, she founded the Congressional Digest, a publication that set out to demystify contentious issues in Congress by presenting Pro and Con arguments for various pieces of legislation. The monthly was initially geared at new women voters, and from the beginning Gram Robinson foregrounded issues that specifically affected women and children. In 1921, Gram Robinson spotlighted the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Bill, which incentivized states to support prenatal and children health centers by offering matching funds.
Alice Gram married Norbonne T. Robinson and lived in Washington, D.C., while Alice was employed on the Congressional Digest. Their only child, Norbonne III, was born in 1924.
Gram Robinson headed the Congressional Digest until her retirement in 1983. She died in Virginia of cancer on January 4, 1984, and was survived by her son, Norborne T. N. Robinson III, who eventually became the Digest's publisher.
"2000 Annual Cumulative Index." Congressional Digest Cum. Index (December 15 2000): 3.
Adams, Kathleen H. After the Vote Was Won: The Later Achievements of Fifteen Suffragists. Jefferson: McFarland and Co. Publishers, 2010.
"Forty-one Suffrage Pickets Answer the Attempt of the Democratic Administration to Crush Suffrage," The Suffragist 5:95 (1917), 6-7.
"Publisher, Writer Alice G. Robinson Dies in Va. At 88," Washington Post, January 28, 1984
Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom, New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920, digitized October 14 2008.
Swing, Pamela. "Gram Swing, Betty." American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000, accessed April 16, 2016.
Federal Manuscript Censuses, DC, 1930 and 1940. Accessed via Ancestry Library Edition.