Daisy Robinson Tapley

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Daisy Robinson Tapley, 1882-1925

By Charlotte Fulwiler, undergraduate student, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

Daisy Robinson was born in Big Rapids, Michigan, the daughter of Harvey and Martha Robinson about 1882. Her musical abilities were noted at a young age, and she moved to Chicago to study music and perform organ at Quinn Chapel, a congregation within the progressive African Methodist Episcopal faith. It was perhaps during this period that Tapley first became exposed to the politics of gender and race. The church was home to numerous activists and activities, including a lecture by Booker T. Washington during her tenure. Her formative years were spent in the presence of a movement that saw women's roles in the church expanded.

Daisy Robinson married Green Tapley and moved to New York City in the early 1900s. She was already a budding contralto voice in the national music scene. Even as her career grew, Tapley became engaged in the women's rights movement. This included her attendance at the 1913 convention of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs, where she and her fellow delegates would vote in favor of women's suffrage. Tapley remained active in the organization beyond this initial participation, including acting as the treasurer of the New York chapter. In 1915, while serving in this role, her name appeared on a resolution for the allocation of funds for a monument to Harriet Tubman.

Despite her active participation in the movement leading to the enfranchisement of New York's women, Tapley is more often remembered for her musical achievements. On the New York stage, she was a powerhouse, becoming a trailblazer for African American artists. In 1910, she became one of the first African American women immortalized through commercial recording, appearing in a duet produced by Columbia Records. Though this is her only recorded performance, Tapley was a prominent teacher, performer, and organizer throughout her life, spending a considerable amount of time and capital on the production of performances that highlighted the musical talents of African Americans. Her longest tenure was with the YWCA chorus of New York City, which performed at countless venues under her lead. In 1917, the Chicago Defender called her "one of the greatest musical artists in the country."

Though her name slowly disappeared from records of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs, Daisy Tapley's activism continued in different forms. She organized numerous events that employed illustrious lecturers, including W.E.B. Dubois, who would later speak at her funeral. In the New York State Census in 1915, she is listed as living with Minnie Brown. Tapley's life was cut short when she was afflicted with ovarian cancer in 1924. She died on February 5, 1925, in the presence of companion and fellow musician, Minnie Brown. Aside from one dollar Tapley left to her husband, Tapley gave her estate to Brown, including both the Harlem apartment and the home in Sag Harbor, where Tapley was interred. With the cultural and political networks available to her from her musical career, Daisy Tapley left a legacy in the realm of the arts and as an organizer for the rights of African American women throughout her state.


"Beloved Harlem Musician Laid To Rest," New York Amsterdam News, Feb. 11, 1925, 1, Black Studies Center.

Daisy Tapley and Carroll Clark, "I Surrender All," recorded December 7, 1910, Columbia Records, 10-inch, digital audio, Discography of American Historical Recordings, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/.

"A Distinguished Guest to Lecture at Quinn Chapel—a Banquet to be Given," The Freeman (Indianapolis), Jun. 26, 1897, 1, 4.

"Female Smokers Are Criticized," New York Age, Jul. 10, 1913, 1, Newspapers.com.

Find a Grave, "Daisy Robinson Tapley," January 17, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/196137636/daisy-tapley.

G.E. Taylor, "Broadway Turns Out for Daisy Tafley [sic]," Afro-American (Baltimore), Feb. 14, 1925, B4, Black Studies Center.

Martha Jones, "Make Us a Power: Churchwomen's Politics and the Campaign for Women's Rights," in All Bound Up Together, 248-90 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007).

"Memorial Services for the Late Mrs. Tapley," New York Amsterdam News, Apr. 14, 1926, 3, Black Studies Center.

"Mrs. Daisy Tapley Dies in New York," Chicago Defender, Feb. 14, 1925, 1, Black Studies Center.

"Mrs. Daisy Tapley in Concert," Chicago Defender, Dec. 8, 1917, 8.

"Mrs. Daisy Tapley, Singer and Musician, Buried at Sag Harbor," New York Age, Feb. 14, 1925, 10, Newspapers.com.

"Manifest of the S.S. Aurania," Jun. 23, 1904, digital image s.v. "Green Tapley," Ancestry Library.

Music and Art, The Crisis 15, no. 6, (April 1918), 295, HathiTrust.

"National Association Note," Newsletter of the NACWC 17, no. 4, March/April 1915.

New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948, Daisy Tapley, February 5, 1925, Manhattan, NY, Ancestry Library.

New York, State Census, 1915, Daisy Tapley, Ancestry Library.

Tim Brooks, "Daisy Tapley," in Lost Sounds, (Champaign: University of Illinois, 2004), 254-258.

United States Census, 1920, s.v. " Daisy Tapley, Manhattan, NY," Ancestry Library.

"Wills for Probate," New York Times, May 3, 1925, 31, ProQuest.

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