Georgina Wooton Roberts
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BIOGRAPHY

THE WOMAN
Throughout her life, Georgina Wooton Roberts was involved in art. Whether it was the actual creation of her own art, teaching others art, or simply appreciating art, art was a constant. Art took her from Indiana to Chicago, from Los Angeles to rural South Carolina; one might say that art introduced her to her future husband. Her story is but one of many of unsung women artists from the early 20th century.

Georgina Wooton was born in 1891 in Auburn, Ind. In her childhood, she exhibited a special talent and aptitude for art. With encouragement from her father, Wooton pursued this talent, which would leave a lasting impact on her path in life.1 There are two known paintings from this early period, attributed to the artist at the age of 14.

Wooton later attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.2 There she studied under Wilhelmina Seegmiller, a noted children’s book illustrator.3 In June 1915, Wooton received a degree in normal art from the Chicago School of Applied and Normal Art, later renamed the Chicago School of Art. 4 In 1916, Wooton was hired as a professor of public school art at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan.5 While there, Wooton encountered two women influential in shaping the Fort Hays art department: Helen Bovee and Anna Keller. Before Bovee and Keller, the Fort Hays art program lacked consistent progress and had poor facilities.6 The pair helped establish the department as a permanent and worthy part of the university. Wooton contributed to the art program by sponsoring the Arts Club.7 While at Fort Hays she also met and wed the piano professor, Walter Buchanan Roberts, and became Georgina Wooton Roberts.8

Three years after the Roberts wed, Walter Roberts was drafted for service in World War I.9 When he returned after 18 months in the Army, the Roberts relocated to Chicago.11 Later in that same year they traveled to New York City so Roberts could study at the Institute of Musical Art.12

The next year the Roberts returned to Fort Hays State University.13 However, Roberts resigned when the university’s Board of Trustees ruled that a husband and wife could not both be on the school’s payroll that was funded from the state.14 The university then made an agreement with the Roberts to keep Wooton on salary and pay Roberts out of students’ tuition.15 After several more years at Fort Hays, Roberts accepted a position as the Dean of Fine Arts at Phillips University in Enid, Okla.16 Due to financial difficulties of the university, the Roberts left after only one year.17

It is important to note that in 1923, Wooton received the silver medal at the Tri-State Arts Exhibition in Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri.18 The exhibition covered the states Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri and is the only known documented award with which Wooton was presented.

Upon leaving Oklahoma, the Roberts relocated to Los Angeles, Calif.19 There, Roberts taught privately, and Wooton taught art at the California Christian College.20 After only a short time in Los Angeles, Roberts was offered a position as the head of the music department at Winthrop in South Carolina, arriving in Rock Hill in 1925.21 According to the Roberts’ daughter, Mary Gene (Roberts) Hardin, the Winthrop policy at the time did not allow for husbands and wives to both be employed by the school; therefore, Wooton stopped teaching.22 Hardin’s son, Walter, elaborated on this point, noting that Wooton had been under the impression that she would be able to teach at Winthrop.23 However, she had just given birth to her daughter, Mary Gene (Roberts) Hardin, and was most likely preoccupied with the new duties of motherhood.24

Wooton remained active in the community, involving herself in many different organizations in Rock Hill. Groups such as the Amelia Pride Literary Club (a part of the South Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs), the Rock Hill Music Club, the St. Johns United Methodist Choir, and the York County Choral Society were all benefited from her interest and participation.25 The Roberts spent their remaining years in Rock Hill. Wooton died in 1976. The Roberts descendents are still active in the community and with Winthrop University. Wooton’s passion for art has been passed down in her family, from her daughter, Mary Gene Hardin, a patron of Winthrop University Galleries, to her grandson, Walter Hardin, an artist as well.




1. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
2. Tara Reese, unpublished data, 2005.
3. Ibid.
4. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
5. Tara Reese, unpublished data, 2005.
6. Ibid.
7. Tara Reese
8. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
9. Walter B. Roberts, unpublished autobiography, July 1981.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Tara Reese, unpublished data, 2005.
19. Walter B. Roberts, unpublished autobiography, July 1981.
20. Ibid.
21. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
22. Walter Hardin, personal interview by author, 8 August 2005.
23. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
24. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
25. Janet Blake Dominik, “The California Water Color Society: Genesis of an American Style,” in American Scene Painting: California 1930s and 1940s, ed. Ruth Westphal and Janet Blake Dominik (Irvine, California: Westphal Publishing, 1991 [cited 10 July 2005]). Available from http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/3aa/3aa50.html
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