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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Oklahoma, the Roberts relocated to Los Angeles, Calif.19 There, Roberts
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,
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,
just given birth to her daughter, Mary Gene (Roberts) Hardin, and was
preoccupied with the new duties of motherhood.24
remained active in the community, involving herself in many different
in Rock Hill. Groups such as the Amelia Pride
(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.
passion for art has been passed down in her family, from her daughter,
Mary Gene Hardin, a patron of Winthrop University Galleries, to her
an artist as well.
1. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
2. Tara Reese, unpublished data, 2005.
4. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
5. Tara Reese, unpublished data, 2005.
7. Tara Reese
8. Mary Gene Hardin, personal interview by author, 19 July 2005.
9. Walter B. Roberts, unpublished autobiography, July 1981.
18. Tara Reese, unpublished data, 2005.
19. Walter B. Roberts, unpublished autobiography, July 1981.
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