Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lena Anthony Robbins, 1879-1945
By Lisa Hendrickson- Independent Historian
Suffragist, Club Woman, Activist, Officer of the New Jersey League of Women Voters
Lena E. Anthony was born in Colorado in 1879. She grew up in Nebraska and graduated in 1901 from the University of Nebraska. Soon after graduating, she married Leonard Harmon Robbins (1877-1947). They had two children, Ruth and Anthony. The family moved around quite a bit with records showing them living in Lancaster, Nebraska (in 1900), on Parker Street in Newark, NJ (approx 1902), on Lake Street in Newark, NJ (by 1920), and on Grove Street in Montclair, NJ (by 1930). Leonard was a well known journalist who studied at both the University of Nebraska and Princeton, graduating from Princeton in 1898. He began his career as a newspaperman in 1898 with The Nebraska State Journal, then wrote for the Newark Evening News (Newark, NJ) from 1901-1917. He joined the New York Times, becoming its editor in 1923. He authored "Jersey Jingles" in 1908 and received the O'Henry prize for one of the best stories in 1920 for a work titled "Professor Todd's Used Car."
Lena was active in many women's organizations including the Contemporary (a Newark Club) which she was president of from 1917-1919 and the College Women's Club of Essex County. She was a member of the Women's Political Union and was an advocate of temperance and peace, as were many other active suffragists. A member of the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs, she was its chairperson of legislation from 1925-1928. In that role she worked on many issues including child labor reform, adoption of eugenic sterilization, and establishment of a federal department of education. She wrote articles for the publications New Jersey Club Woman and Civic Point where she shared legislative news and explained which bills the State Federation of Women's Clubs supported or opposed. One of her recurring messages in speeches to women's groups was that women had to do more than study the issues, they had to make certain that their solutions would work financially (not only work morally). She is quoted as saying: "The time has come when women must think of legislation as men do-in terms of money."
From 1927-1932 she served as secretary of the New Jersey Committee of the Woman's National Committee for Law Enforcement which worked to ensure prohibition laws were enforced. An active member of the New Jersey League of Women Voters (NJLWV) since its inception in 1920, she served in many capacities including as vice president from 1930-1935, as president from 1935-1942, and as director of national legislation. During her years in office with the NJLWV, she advocated to revise the state constitution, reduce political patronage, and increase use of mechanical voting machines. Even later in her life she continued to advocate for women's rights by attending the Woman's Centennial Congress held in New York City in 1940. She also served as the chairperson of the Committee on the Economic and Legal Status of Women for the New Jersey Division of the American Association of University Women from 1943-1945. In an article Lena wrote titled "Could Women Rule New Jersey," she wrote that women should "make use of their spare time during the day to study public problems, to organize movements and to keep things going." Even though she opposed the ERA, she advocated for a woman's right to equal opportunity on employment.
She was instrumental in establishing the New Jersey College for Women, part of Rutgers University, and served on the Board of Trustees of Union College from 1941-1942. She passed away on September 5, 1945 in Montclair, NJ.
Photo of Lena Anthony Robbins from FamilyTreeNow.com found under Anthony Robbins name.
Alumni Association, "Publications," The University Journal, Volume 17, Issue 3, (Lincoln,Nebraska: The University of Nebraska, 1921), p. 17. https://books.google.com/books?id=keDmAAAAMAAJ
Gordon, Felice D., After Winning: The Legacy of the New Jersey Suffragists, 1920-1947 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 198), pp. 127-29.
Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Caduceus-Volume 40, Issue 7, (1924), pg. 655. https://books.google.com/books?id=HxVMAAAAMAAJ
"Robbins, Lena Anthony," SNAC. https://snacooperative.org
Rutgers University Archives and Special Collections. Lena Anthony Robbins papers, 1917-1945.
The Pivotal Right: Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls presentation created by Rutgers University in 1989 (accessed at https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgers-lib/42411/)
US Census, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930-Ancestry.com
Williams, Grace, A Century of Challenge: New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs--First 100 Years (New Brunswick, NJ, 1994)