Alice Robertson (1854-1931) was the daughter of missionaries to the Creek Nation in what is today Oklahoma. She graduated from Elmira College and moved to Washington to become the first female clerk in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. At age 25 she returned to Oklahoma to teach in schools for Native Americans. Alice eventually founded Minerva Home, a school for Creek girls, that eventually developed into the University of Tulsa.
Alice was a supporter of Teddy Roosevelt who described her as “one of the great women of America.” In 1905 Teddy appointed Alice as the postmistress of Muskogee, Oklahoma, making Alice the first female postmaster of a first class post office in the US.
Already in her 60s, Alice ran for and won an eastern Oklahoma congressional seat in 1920. The second woman elected to Congress, Alice was also the only woman to represent Oklahoma until Mary Fallin’s election in 2006. Although she was a white woman, in Congress Alice was an advocate for Native Americans and a critic of women’s groups.
The photo above was taken on June 21, 1920, the day after Alice became the first woman to preside over a session of the House of Representatives. The session she oversaw was a roll call vote on funding a United States delegation to the centennial celebrations of Peru’s independence.
Alice failed in her bid for a second term and she returned to Oklahoma in 1923 where she lived out her days in relative obscurity.
A portrait of Alice can be seen on the fourth floor of the Oklahoma State Capitol.