Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ida Lewis Robbins, 1869-1947
By Stephanie Smith, independent historian
Ida Lewis Robbins was born to Lute (or Lewis) and Harriet Robbins in August, 1869 in Hastings, Iowa. In 1870, the Robbins family moved to Anderson, Iowa where her sisters Julia and Edith and brother Charles would be born. After the death of her parents in the 1890s, Miss Robbins moved to Lancaster, Nebraska, where she became involved with the woman suffrage movement.
Ida spent much of her later adult years serving on various boards and committees within the suffrage movement, even running for President of the Nebraska chapter in 1916. During this election, she ran on the "administration ticket," viewing the chapter as more of a service club and less as a platform to launch political careers. Her vision for the chapter included more public housing for low income women, renovating public spaces to be more family friendly and "wholesome places of amusement in the city," an initiative she had taken up two years prior in October of 1914. Though she was not successful in her election, she continued to be an active member of the Nebraska chapter in the years that followed. Her titles would include Chairman of the Child Welfare Section, Chairman of Residence Committee, and Recording Secretary as Chairman of Maintenance of Existing Social Agencies.
On the national scale, Miss Robbins was appointed to the General Committee in 1916. Perhaps her two most notable claims to fame came from her involvement in two campaigns to pass legislation that would benefit women. The first involved the passage of women's suffrage in the state of Nebraska, which was wrought with controversy but ultimately successful thanks in part to the passage of the 19th amendment. In this case, Nebraskan suffragists had successfully maneuvered to have a statewide vote on the issue of women's suffrage. However, they were met with a great deal of opposition and one group in particular mobilized to collect enough signatures to prevent the measure from being included on the 1918 ballot. Ultimately, it was proven that the anti-suffragists were fraudulent in their collection of signatures and the measure was passed and ratified along with the 19th amendment, giving Nebraskan women the right to vote. Three years later, Miss Robbins would also make a name for herself by pushing for the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act, which provided federal funding for maternity and child care.
Ida Robbins was actively involved in her community, not just through the suffrage movement but also though other entertainment clubs. From the early 1900s until her death in December, 1947, Ida Robbins hosted the Modern Art Review Club, the Travel Club, hosted a Thursday morning lecture circle, and was an active participant in the genealogical society of Lincoln, Nebraska. Ida Robbins was never married and never had children, instead choosing to devote her life and time to serving on the Board of Trustees for the Lincoln YWCA in 1925, the Executive Committee for the Red Cross in 1928, the Board of Trustees for Goodwill Industries in 1934, and the First Board of Directors for Lincoln General Hospital in 1935.
1870 United States Federal Census, Year: 1870; Census Place: Anderson, Mills, Iowa; Roll: M593_411; Page: 2B; Image: 152; Family History Library Film: 545910.
1880 United States Federal Census, Year: 1880; Census Place: Anderson, Mills, Iowa; Roll: 356; Page: 339A; Image: 0194; Family History Library Film: 1254356.
1900 United States Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Lincoln Ward 5, Lancaster, Nebraska; Roll: 933; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0065; FHL Microfilm: 1240933.
The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, 1847-2011.
"The History of Women Suffrage," NAWSA Suffragists, vol 6, 1900-1920. [LINK to NE state report]
Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Jubilee Convention, 1869-1919, National American Women Suffrage Association, March 24-29, 1919.
"Among the Clubs," Nebraska State Journal, December 17, 1922.
"Wednesday," The Lincoln Star, May 17, 1914.
"Contest in Woman's Club," Lincoln Journal Star, March 25, 1916.
"Lincoln General Hospital Observing Ten Years of Development This Week," The Lincoln Star, March 31, 1935.
"Executives of Red Cross Meet," The Lincoln Star, February 26, 1928.
"Travel Club," The Lincoln Star, November 17, 1931.
"Activity in Women's Clubs," The Lincoln Star, October 18, 1914.
"Support of Goodwill is Asked by Cutshall," Lincoln Evening Journals, January 10, 1934.
"Saturday Will be Charity Tag Day," The Lincoln Star, November 24, 1916.
"Mrs. W. E. Barkley Named President of Goodwill Industries," The Lincoln Star, February 7, 1935.
"Programs for Year Arranged," The Lincoln Star, September 29, 1929.
"Women Voters Will Hear Debate on Muny Ownership," The Lincoln Star, October 13, 1929.
"Genealogical Society in Meeting Friday," The Lincoln Star, September 29, 1932.
"Annual Meeting of City YWCA," The Lincoln Star, January 24, 1925.