Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Georgia Ann Hill Robinson, 1879-1961
First African American Policewoman, Suffragist
Written by, Claire Morrical and Lindsey Johnston, students, and Serene Williams, faculty, Sacred Heart Preparatory High School, Atherton, California
Georgia Ann Hill was an African American suffragist born on May 12, 1879 in Louisiana. At a young age she lived in a convent as she never knew her birth parents. She lived in Kansas where she worked as a governess. She was married to Morgan Robinson and they had a daughter named Marian who was born in 1907 in Colorado. On October 28, 1916 the Colorado Herald Democrat announced that she became the first African American police woman in the United States. Georgia completed high school and was fluent in multiple languages including French and Spanish. She would eventually became known as Georgia Ann Hill Robinson, or Georgia Ann Robinson. Robinson was the first woman of color to attend a state suffrage convention in Colorado.
Georgia worked as a police officer in Los Angeles in the 1910s and was widely respected in this profession. She came to this job after seven months of volunteering and as a result of the shortage of male volunteers in the police department during World War I. Robinson was a pioneer for women in law enforcement as it is speculated that she was the first female African American police officer in the United States. In addition to working as a policewoman, Robinson was also successful in her affiliation with the Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers, where she reserved rooms for women of color who were expecting a child. During the time Robinson served as a policewoman, she worked in clerical jobs and oversaw juveniles and women as was the norm for this era.
Robinson was also heavily involved in volunteer work outside the police force and had a wide range of civic engagement in the Los Angeles area. In 1913, Robinson was heavily involved with the creation of Sojourner Truth Industrial Home for working girls in Los Angeles. The club was located at the corner East Adams and Central Avenue and was created at a cost of $6,000. The club charged the girls $1.50 per week and offered room, board and entertainment. This house offered a haven for working class girls who needed relief from extravagant rent. It was modeled after the house in Washington D.C. and named in honor of the great 19th century suffragist Sojourner Truth. In addition to the Sojourner Truth Home, Robinson also organized many Republican women's clubs throughout both the state and the country, for example the Pasadena Colored Women's Club. She was quoted saying
“In my present position I expect to accomplish much good. In fact, so much has already been done through this new office that there is no end to its possibilities. My great aim is to insist on girls getting an equal break in delinquency cases with the men and to do everything possible to save these young girls from a court record.”
She was sometimes referred to as the woman Booker T. Washington of Los Angeles.
Much of Robinson's suffrage activity dated even before she was old enough to vote. Much of her political work came in the form of her involvement with the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Robinson had a long work history with the NAACP as she was active with both the Colorado and the Los Angeles branches. Racial justice was very important to Robinson as she was quoted, saying
“Instinctively, it seems, I have always tried to bear the black man's burden... I was poor. But every nickel made I saved to fit myself for service to my race and to society. With my disposition I found it always easy to make good friends among the best people of the white and colored races. They helped me.”
She also organized for suffrage through her work with the Civic and Protective League of Los Angeles.
Robinston demonstrated a great deal of physical bravery throughout her time in the LA police department. In 1928 she was in a physical altercation with a prisoner. She hit her head against the wall and never regained her eyesight. She retired from active duty in the police force in 1929. In the 1940 census she and her husband were reported as living with her daughter Marian and Marian's husband Owen McCard. Marian worked as a vice principal and was a college graduate. In 1954 she was asked if she was troubled by her lack of eyesight. She was quoted as saying, “I have no regrets. I didn't need my eyes any longer. I had seen all there was to see.” Robinson died in 1961 and is buried at the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.
1) “First Colored Lady Officer: City Gives New Job to an Able Feminist” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1916.
2) “First Negro Woman on the Police Force” Herald Democrat, October 29, 1916
3) “Georgia Ann Hill Robinson”, March 19, 2016 https://www.blackpast.org/aaw/vignette_aahw/robinson-georgia-ann-hill-1879-1961/
4) “Georgia Ann Hill Robinson” https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/49397780/georgia-ann-robinson
5) “Georgia Ann Hill Robinson” The Clerk's Black History Series http://www.dksuperiorclerk.com/media/5c6c382d6e934.pdf
6) “Home Completed for Negro Working Women” Los Angeles Herald, 7 May 1913
7) Survey LA: Women's Rights in Los Angeles” October https://preservation.lacity.org/sites/default/files/Womens%20Rights%20in%20Los%20Angeles_HistoricContextStatement.pdf
8) “The Give Benefit For Colored Girls' Home” Los Angeles Herald, October 24, 1919
9) Year: 1940; Census Place: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California; Roll: m-t0627-00403; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 60-835
Related Writings in Database
Related Works in DuBois Online Correspondence: 8