This Day in History: Alumna Alice Robertson ’76

June 20 2017
Category: Alumni

On June 20, 1921, almost 100 years ago, Oklahoma native and Elmira College alumna (Class of 1876), U.S. Rep. Alice Mary Robertson (R-Okla.) was the first woman to preside over a session of the House of Representatives.

Among her many accomplishments, Robertson was the second woman to serve in the United States Congress, and the first to defeat an incumbent congressman and represent Oklahoma. Her election to the House of Representatives came on the heels of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

After attending Elmira College, the first college founded for women with a course of study equal in rigor to the best men’s colleges, she continued to support women, specifically Native American women, through founding the Minerva Home. The boarding school for Native American girls later became Henry Kendall College, which is now known as the University of Tulsa.

Before being elected to congress, Robertson held a variety of government positions. She was the first female clerk at the Indian Office at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. Additionally, in 1905, President Roosevelt appointed her to the position of postmistress in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

During this time, Robertson also managed to become a business owner and farmer through her own 50-acre dairy farm and on-site café.

In running for the congressional seat in 1921, Robertson focused her campaign on the welfare and needs of local Native Americans and did much of the campaigning right from the farm’s café.

Aside from becoming one of the first women in Congress, Robertson had a host of other achievements, including a seat on the Committee on Indian Affairs, assignments on the Committee on Expenditures in the Interior Department and, as the only woman in Congress, on the Committee on Woman Suffrage.

She passed away in 1931 in her beloved home state.


Art, History and Archives of the United States House of Representatives. (n.d.). ROBERTSON, Alice Mary. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from,-Alice-Mary-(R000318)/