Biographical Sketch of Lona I. Robinson

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Lona I. Robinson, 1853-1937

By Carly Hawley
Iowa State University

Faculty Sponsor: Sarah Chase Crosby
Subject Librarian: Susan A. Vega Garcia

Vice President of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association

Lona Ingham was born in 1853 in Pennsylvania and moved to Des Moines, according to a U.S. Census done in 1870. She later married Thomas A. Robinson, and together they had one child. As told by articles published in the Evening Times-Republican in 1902 and 1904, and The Ottumwa Semi-weekly Courier and The Ottumwa Tri-Weekly Courier in 1903 and 1905, Robinson was active fighting for the right to vote as Vice President of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association, sharing her opinions against unfair child labor, and giving speeches on her relatively cutting-edge idea: that anyone should have the right to dress the way they want to.

Robinson's most known accomplishment was serving as Vice President of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association after Mrs. Evelyn H. Belden retired, where she was able to organize conventions and give moving speeches about women's rights, according to a 1902 issue of the Evening Times-Republican—a newspaper published in Marshalltown, Iowa. As Vice President, she was responsible in part for hosting the Iowa Suffrage Convention that year, which was described as a three-day long meeting attended by "prominent women from all parts of the state."

Along with women's suffrage, Robinson had other progressive ideas, particularly about child labor. According to an October 1904 edition of the Evening Times-Republican, at that year's annual convention, she gave a report about the state of child labor in Iowa. As said in this article, "Three hundred women are expected to attend the annual convention . . . [with the] subject of child labor to be one important topic of discussion." The convention, according to this same source, also discussed other issues such as how to gain more support and awareness about equal suffrage in the state legislature.

The Ottumwa Tri-Weekly Courier, in November 1905, indicates that Robinson gave a speech on yet another popular topic of discussion at the annual Iowa Suffragist Convention, except this time she introduced the idea that children should be taught that they do not have to adhere to what is considered fashionable. In particular, she stated in this speech that "the courage that is developed by wearing a faded frock, an antique sack or patched trousers to school, where these exceptions are not the fashion, will last a girl or boy a lifetime."

Lona Robinson died in Los Angeles in February of 1937, according to the U.S. Find a Grave Index. While little else can be found on Robinson today, what is known of her is that she was an active figure in the suffrage movement, holding strong opinions on controversial topics such as women's suffrage (which was widely ridiculed at the time), unfair child wages, and new ideas on how to express oneself through dress.

Sources: "Lona I. Robinson: 1870 United States Federal Census." Accessed Sept. 26, 2017. " Lona I. Robinson: 1910 United States Federal Census." Accessed Sept. 26, 2017. "Lona I. Robinson: Find A Grave Index." Accessed Sept. 26, 2017.

Evening Times-Republican (Marshalltown, IA), October 6, 1902, Image 1.

"Maintain Lobby: Amendment to State Constitution Demanded by Equal Suffragists of Iowa." Ottumwa (IA) Tri-Weekly Courier, November 16, 1905, Image 8.

"No Champion For the Women: Suffrage Movement Makes Little Progress In Iowa Legislatures." The Evening Times-Republican, October 8, 1904, Image 1.

"To Send Delegates: Ottumawa Women's Suffrage Society to be Represented at Boone." Ottumawa Semi-Weekly Courier, October 1, 1903, Image 4.

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