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Helen Ring Robinson

Colorado Senator and Suffragist

By Pat Pascoe

Publication Year: 2011

Calling herself “the housewife of the senate,” Helen Ring Robinson was Colorado’s first female state senator and only the second in the United States. Serving from 1913 to 1916, she worked for social and economic justice as a champion of women, children, and workers’ rights and education during a tumultuous time in the country’s history. Her commitment to these causes did not end in the senate; she continued to labor first for world peace and then for the American war effort after her term ended. Helen Ring Robinson is the first book to focus on this important figure in the women’s suffrage movement and the 1913, 1914, and 1915 sessions of the Colorado General Assembly. Author Pat Pascoe, herself a former Colorado senator, uses newspapers, legislative materials, Robinson’s published writings, and her own expertise as a legislator to craft the only biography of this contradictory and little-known woman. Robinson had complex politics as a suffragist, peace activist, international activist, and strong supporter of the war effort in World War I and a curious personal life with an often long-distance marriage to lawyer Ewing Robinson, yet close relationship with her stepdaughter, Alycon. Pascoe explores both of these worlds, although much of that personal life remains a mystery. This fascinating story will be a worthwhile read to anyone interested in Colorado history, women’s history, labor history, or politics.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Series: Timberline Series


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

Helen Ring Robinson (1860–1923) was the second woman state senator in the United States. An activist senator serving from 1913 to 1917, she pushed through the Colorado legislature a minimum-wage law for women and tenaciously fought for other...

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pp. ix-xi

The fascinating story of Colorado’s first woman senator came to my attention when I sponsored a resolution in the Colorado State Senate to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Colorado women receiving the right to vote in 1893. A Legislative Council staff...

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pp. xiii-xiv

In the long process of writing this book, I have been grateful for the patient assistance of many librarians, especially the knowledgeable staff of the Western History and Genealogy Department of the Denver Public Library. Other helpful librarians...

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1. Origins

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pp. 1-13

Twenty years of teaching provided the skills that propelled Helen Ring Robinson into the Colorado State Senate. She became a scholar, an excellent speaker, and a fine writer, and she developed a lifelong interest in the education of young people...

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2. Path to Victory

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pp. 15-46

How did a highly qualified but very feminine schoolteacher, writer, and housewife break into the exclusive male club of the Colorado State Senate in 1912? Helen’s election was even more surprising because, though women had been voting in Colorado general elections from 1894 on, the number of women elected to the...

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3. “The Housewife of the Senate”

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pp. 47-76

Change was in the air when Helen Robinson was elected to the Colorado senate in November 1912. In that same election, reform-minded voters amended the constitution to provide home rule for cities, recall of elected public officers, recall of judicial...

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4. The Ludlow Massacre and Special Session [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 77-102

In the interim between the 1913 legislative session and the eruption of violence in the southern coal fields the following spring, Helen again turned her attention to the cause of woman suffrage. Other states were slowly adopting such provisions: eight between...

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5. The “Silly” Twentieth General Assembly

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pp. 103-128

The political winds turned decidedly conservative in Colorado at the November 1914 election. Voters passed the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors as of January 1916, 129,589 to 118,017. Control of the next regular General Assembly shifted...

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6. Citizen of the World

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pp. 129-152

After she left the senate, Helen continued to advocate for women while broadening her activities in other areas. In 1917 she headed a committee that met with the new Democratic governor, Julius C. Gunter, to ask him to appoint a woman to the state Industrial...

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Afterword: Women in Colorado State Politics, 1894–2011

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pp. 153-162

As Pat Pascoe has shown, Helen Ring Robinson earned her place in Colorado history. Upon her death in 1923, Coloradans recognized that they had lost a trailblazer, but without the advantage of a long historical view they could not adequately assess her legacy. Did her 1912 election to the state senate herald a new era...

Selected Writings by Helen Ring Robinson

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pp. 163-166


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pp. 167-214


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pp. 215-224

E-ISBN-13: 9781607321477
E-ISBN-10: 1607321475
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607321460
Print-ISBN-10: 1607321467

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 9 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Timberline Series
Series Editor Byline: Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 762324924
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Helen Ring Robinson

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Subject Headings

  • Legislators -- Colorado -- Biography.
  • Women legislators -- Colorado -- Biography.
  • Robinson, Helen Ring, 1860-1923.
  • Colorado -- Politics and government -- 1876-1950.
  • Colorado. General Assembly. Senate -- Biography.
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