Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Annie Buell Drake Robertson, 1840-1930
By Mia Randell, undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park
Annie Buell Drake was born in Missouri on November 17, 1840. Her parents, Priscilla Holmes Drake and James Perry Drake, were very involved in Indiana politics, particularly focusing on the legal rights of women. In 1850 her father served as the Indiana state treasurer and had real property valued at $25,000. By 1860 her father, now 61, had retired to Decatur, IN and worked as a farmer in a household that included 4 children and 6 boarders. Ann B. was 19 and living at home.
The Drake family moved to Huntsville, in Madison County, Alabama, probably after the Civil War, and show up in Madison County with their youngest child, Frank, now 15, in the 1870 census. James P (noted as John P in the census) was recorded as a farmer with real estate valued at $15,000, which made the Drakes a well-established family there. Thomas Robertson and Anna (Drake Robertson) lived nearby. He was listed as a farmer with $2,000 in real estate and $200 of personal estate
The 1880 census for Madison County shows Anna and Tom Robertson living with a 5-year-old adopted son William and her cousin John B. Drake. Her husband was listed as a farmer. By 1900, now listed as a widow, and still residing with her cousin, Annie Robertson was listed as a farmer. We have not been able to find her in later Madison county censuses.
Annie Buell Drake Robertson followed in the footsteps of her mother, Priscilla Holmes Drake, who was also an established women's rights activist and has been called "Alabama's earliest suffragist" (Carmack 14). On April 5, 1880, Annie Buell Drake Robertson, Priscilla Holmes Drake, Mrs. Frank Buell Drake McCarty (Annie's sister), and other suffragists from Huntsville, sent a petition to the U.S. House of Representatives calling for an amendment to the Constitution securing women's suffrage.
Annie Robertson became a member of the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association, and sponsored and entertained Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt alongside other prominent Huntsville women. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, she joined the League of Women Voters.
Robertson is most remembered and recognized for her presence and contributions at the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association's second State convention, held in Huntsville, Alabama on February 5, 1914. She was considered to be one of Alabama's three pioneer suffragists. Robertson was accompanied by the other two, Mrs. Virginia Clay Clopton and Mrs. Humes at this State convention. The women worked on convincing the Alabama State Legislature to place a woman suffrage amendment on the ballot for the next election.
Robertson made a name for herself in Alabama and became a "beloved and a distinguished lady (of Huntsville)" (O 'Connell 77). She was an Honorary Life President of the Virginia Clay Clopton Chapter (previously known as the Huntsville Chapter) of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), a curious affiliation since she was most likely living in Indiana during the Civil War. Perhaps her Missouri birthplace qualified her for UDC membership. She devoted much of her time to supporting former Confederate soldiers and American soldiers during WWI.
In the UDC Annie Robertson raised funds for Confederate monuments, memorials, and graves. She also spent time knitting sweaters for Confederate soldiers, buying uniforms for Confederate veterans, buying Liberty bonds during WWI, and knitting sweaters for WWI soldiers with the same needles that she used for the Confederate soldiers. Meetings for the chapter were held in two rooms for Civil war veterans, that the chapter helped furnish, at the Huntsville Courthouse. Robertson helped furnish these rooms and donated silver and table linen. Her most notable personal donation while in the UDC was a monument at Maple Hill Cemetery in memory of the Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War.
In October 1920, Robertson, at the age of 80, registered to vote. She was the last surviving member of the Huntsville Drake women, therefore fulfilling her family legacy of fighting for women's right to vote. She died 10 years later on February 13, 1930, at the age of 90. She was buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, alongside her late husband, the Confederate Civil War veteran and well-known Huntsville Democrat, Thomas Paul Robertson.
Burnes, Valerie Pope. "Alabama Equal Suffrage Association." Encyclopedia of Alabama, Alabama Humanities Foundation, 10 Apr. 2007,www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1150.
Carmack, Sarah Walker. "The Women's Suffrage Movement in the Tennessee Valley of Alabama: Huntsville, The Early Years." The Voter: Newsletter of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, July 2019, https://lwval.org/voter/Voter_LWVAL_July_19/Voter_LWVAL_July_19.pdf
Hardy, Stella Pickett. Colonial Families of the Southern States of America: a History and Genealogy of Colonial Families Who Settled in the Colonies Prior to the Revolution. Tobias A. Wright, 1911.
Harper, Ida Husted, editor. The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI: 1900-1920. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, The history of woman suffrage, volume VI: 1900-1920. [LINK]
Huey, Mattie McAdory., et al. History of the Alabama Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy. Post Pub. Co., 1937.
Napier, Cameron Freemon. "United Daughters of the Confederacy Alabama Division (ALUDC)." Encyclopedia of Alabama, Alabama Humanities Foundation, 23 July 2009, www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2353.
O 'Connell, Phyllis. The Huntsville Historical Review. Edited by Edwin S. Cochran, vol. 29, ser. 2, The Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society, 2004.
United States, Congress, Cong. House, "Journal of The House of Representative of The United States." Journal of The House of Representative of The United States, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880, pp. 944-944. 46th Congress, 2nd session, report.