As you’re thinking about how you might honor the maternal presence in your life this Mother’s Day, we invite you to consider the contributions of Mother Lizzie Woods Robinson, who lived in Pine Bluff for two decades.
Mother Lizzie Woods Robinson is significant historically for her role as organizer of the women’s ministry for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the largest African-American Pentecostal denomination in the world. She organized women in auxiliaries nationwide and introduced international ministry to the church. She was interrogated by the FBI for preaching pacifism during World War 1, jailed for her beliefs, taunted by the KKK, and egged by crowds as a female church leader.
She came from humble beginnings. Lizzie Woods Robinson was born a slave on April 5, 1860 in Phillips County, Arkansas, to Mose Smith and Elizabeth Jackson. At the end of the Civil War, Robinson, her mother, and four siblings, were left without a husband and a father. Although her mother never learned to read, she sent her children to the missionary schools, and by the time Lizzie Robinson was eight, she was reading the Bible to her mother, who died when Lizzie Robinson was 15. In 1881, she was converted to the Baptist Faith. Eleven years later, she joined a Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
A white missionary, named Joanna More, would come to Lizzie's house and teach her about motherhood, homemaking, cleanliness, and Pentecostalism from a pamphlet called "Hope." Lizzie Robinson had little formal education, so Joanna made arrangements through her pastor to allow Lizzie to take courses at the Baptist Academy, and upon completion of her classes, she was allowed to work at the Baptist Academy. Through the teaching of Elder D. W. Welk, Lizzie became attracted to the Church of God in Christ, and in 1911, while Bishop Mason was running a Revival, she received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Because she had gotten saved, and was filled with the Holy Ghost, she was fired from her job at the Baptist Academy and was excommunicated from the Baptist Church. Bishop Mason was impressed with this young woman's demeanor and knowledge of the scriptures, and later that year, during the Holy Convocation of 1911, Bishop Mason established a Women's Department and appointed Mother Lizzie Robinson as the first Supervisor over the women's work in the Church of God in Christ. He wanted to allow the women the opportunity to have the full use of their talents.
Mother Lizzie Robinson has been described as the "Pioneering Foremother" of the Church of God in Christ. She and her auxiliaries of women raised over half the funds used to construct the COGIC national headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1916, Mother Robinson, and her husband, Elder Edward D. Robinson, moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where they and their daughter, Ida, established the first Church of God in Christ in Nebraska. The church was eventually named after them: Robinson Memorial, and it was later placed in Nebraska's National Register for Historic places. The Robinson Memorial Church still has weekly services to this day.
Photo Credit: COGIC Museum
Sources: EmmanuelMinistries, African Americans of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County