Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2015/Fall/Section 020/Evie Louvenia Robinson
|Evie Louvenia Robinson|
|Born||Evie Louvenia Robinson|
Oglethorpe County, Georgia, United States of America
|Other names||Etta Robbins|
|Notable works||Member of the Works Progress Administration.|
Evie Louvenia Robinson was an African-American nurse during World War I. She worked for the Works Progress Administration, specifically in the Housekeepers Aid Project.
Robinson was born around 1888 and moved to Athens, Georgia when she was three months old. Her mother was a cook and made $1.50 a week. Her father was born a slave in 1855. He was emancipated ten years later with the end of the Civil War in 1865. After the war, he worked on farms and later became a minister for three churches in Oglethorpe County.
Robinson had seven siblings: four brothers and three sisters. Three of her brothers died from alleged milk poisoning. One of her sisters lived until she was thirteen years old and another later moved to Atlanta.
Robinson was homeschooled by her father and continued to be even when she started school on January of 1902. Her father died in June of the same year. When she was fourteen, she accepted her first job.
Education and Adult Life
Robinson’s first husband was a drunkard and cheated on Robinson. He later was convicted of homicide, so she left him and moved to Atlanta. Two months after her husband's conviction, she married George Robinson, a deacon at her church. Robinson later attended night school and learned how to read and write. After that, she went to West Broad Industrial School and learned how to cook and sew.
During World War I, Robinson attended nursing classes at St. Mary’s Hospital. She nursed in the "colored folks ward." Although she did this without pay, she was provided dinner. After that, she took a six month training course at the Chicago Nurse Training School. She did not make enough nursing, so she joined the Works Progress Administration in 1934, specifically the Housekeepers Aid Project. In addition to nursing, she did hairdressing. She was taught by Madam Burris. Robinson would do women’s hair in her community for free.
Her husband died several years later. One of their most prized possessions was a "graphonola", which her husband had bought early in their marriage. Robinson became the superintendent of the Sunday school at her church and also served in two gospel choirs. Sometime during this period, she was involved in a car accident that dislocated her knee which handicapped her for the rest of her life.1
It is unknown when Robinson died.
Social and Political Issues
Works Progress Administration
The New Deal was enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. This initiative helped resurrect the economy from the consequences of the Great Depression through increased opportunities for work. Total unemployment rates were nearly 25% at this time.2 The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a part of the New Deal, which was made for the “honest, efficient, speedy and coordinated execution of the work relief program…”3 Almost 80% of the WPA was focused on construction for highways, buildings, and other public foundations.4
The WPA helped unemployed women acquire traditional female jobs that did not require hard labor. These projects, which included “housekeeping, sewing, and car[ing] of the sick; and professional project which encompassed library, educational and recreational work.”5, increased the literacy rate. Many women preferred to work with the WPA than other industries because there was less stress, short hours, and more pay.6
Black Nurses during World War I
The Red Cross was a pathway into gaining entry to the Army or Navy Nurse Corps. However, black nurses were not offered enlistment at the time. The American Red Cross blamed the War Department for not recruiting black nurses. The Surgeon General at the time, Rupert Blue,argued that black nurses can only tend to black soldiers.
Not until the war gradually got heavier did the pressure increase to enlist black women. After the Armistice, 18 black Red Cross nurses joined the Army Nurse Corps. Their duty was to “live in segregated quarters and care for German prisoners of war and black soldiers.”7 Following the war, all black nurses were discharged by August 1919.8
The demand for permanent black nurses rose due to the spread of black newspapers disputing for the acceptance of black nurses. This was not only an effort to become accredited nurses, but was simultaneously a movement for civil rights. Eventually, black nurses were accepted into the Red Cross, but they did not have equal rights yet. “The letter “A” designated “Negro” and would be etched into the pins of all black Red Cross nurses until 1949.”9
History of the Black Church
Before the Emancipation Proclamation, Blacks went to “hush-harbors” which were underground churches. Their services were created originally to help cope with slave struggles. 10 Blacks empathized with passages that dealt with liberation and redemption such as those in Exodus.
The Blacks’ different interpretations of the Bible led to the establishment of new denominations within the Black Christian community. The first one was Bethel AME Church which was established by Richard Allen in 1793.
After the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, Blacks were able to worship freely without discrimination or mistreatment. From then on, several other denominations continued to form. The largest black denominations are African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; National Baptist Convention of America, Unincorporated; Progressive National Baptist Convention; and the Church of God in Christ. 11
- Evie Louvenia, interviewed by Leola T. Bradley, Athens, Georgia, November 1, 1939.
- Nick Taylor "Works Progress Administration." New York Times. Accessed September 29,2015.http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/w/works_progress_administration/index.html.
- Sara B. Marcketti, “The Sewing-Room Projects of the Works Progress Administration.” Textile History 41, no. 1:28-49. America: History & Life
- Andrea Patterson, “Black Nurses in the Great War: Fighting for and with the American Military in the Struggle for Civil Rights.” Canadian Journal Of History 47, no. 3: 545-566. America: History & Life
- Kathryn Sheldon, "Women In Military Service For America Memorial." Women In Military Service For America Memorial. Accessed September 29, 2015. http://www.womensmemorial.org/Education/BBH1998.html#3.
- Patterson, "Black Nurses."
- Marvin Andrew McKickle, "The Black Church," a Brief History." "The Black Church," a Brief History. Accessed October 17, 2015. http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/black-church-brief-history.
- Cameron D. Lippard and Charles A. Gallagher. 2014. Race and Racism in the United States: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2014.