Mary Helen Robison

Miss Mary Helen Robison

The subjects of a November 2021 post on this blog, the Clarence Colton Dawsons, wrote a caption on the reverse of the above photograph identifying its subject:

Miss Helen Robinson [sic], Home Economics Teacher at Goodlettsville, Tennessee, standing in front of Mrs. W. B. Myers home where we all boarded. [signed] Mr. & Mrs. C. Colton Dawson

That the W. B. Myers mansion served as a boarding house for more than one of the teachers at Goodlettsville High School [GHS], not just the Dawsons, was new information to me. This research was complicated not only by the various spellings of her surname, but also by the fact that there were two other Helen Robisons teaching in Tennessee when this Helen was teaching.

Mary Helen Robison (1910-2005) was born in Williamson County, TN to William Thomas Robison, Sr. (1858-1915) and Lillian “Lillie” Mai Wilson (1857-1939), the eighth of ten children. W. T. and Lillie were also natives of Williamson County and he was serving his third term as county trustee at the time of his death. Helen graduated from George Peabody College for Teachers with a bachelor of science degree in June 1931. The Census of 1940 listed her residence in 1935 as “Corners,” in Marshall County, TN, which probably refers to Cornersville where I suspect she taught at the high school.

Helen was the Home Economics teacher and the Home Economic Club sponsor at GHS in 1938. Here are two photographs of Helen that appeared in the 1938 GHS yearbook, Les Memoires:

Goodlettsville High School Faculty, 1938
Goodlettsville High School Home Economic Club, 1938

I’m not sure how many years Helen was at GHS before 1938, but by February 1939 she had moved to Memphis and joined the Teacher Training Faculty at Memphis State College [MSC]. In the Census of 1940, Helen and fellow faculty member Pauline Hilliard were enumerated as renters of apartment #2 at 449 Patterson street for $37.50 per month. Hilliard eventually became Dr. Francis Pauline “Polly” Hilliard (1909-2005), an author and professor of elementary education and curriculum who was chair of the education department at the University of Florida’s College of Education from 1960-1968. Their portraits appeared in MSC’s 1940-1941 yearbook, the Desoto:

Helen Robison and Pauline Hilliard in the Memphis State College Yearbook for 1940-41.

Helen married Lawton Reginald Wadsworth, Sr. (1909-1996) in November 1941. Lawton was a teacher in the Shelby County [Memphis] school system after having been educated at Lambuth College and George Peabody College. Lawton was a native of Ripley, TN, as were his parents, the Rev. Lawton Rhette Wadsworth (1855-1966), a school teacher before answering the call to ministry in the Methodist church, an Eddie Mai Bibb (1888-1838), also a teacher.

Helen was a Methodist, an active member of Alpha Delta Kappa, and served in the Order of the Eastern Star. Lawton was also a Methodist and a Mason. They are buried together in Ripley Memorial Gardens.

The Caption

4 thoughts on “Mary Helen Robison

  1. That is a terrible poem. Please write a blog about poetry. In the meantime please tell us why Miss Helen Robinson also did not attain a doctorate. More research please!

    1. The alma mater when I graduated was:

      On the city’s southern border,
      Reared against the sky,
      Proudly stands our Alma Mater
      as the years roll by.
      “Forward ever” be our watchword,
      “Conquer and prevail”
      Hail to thee, our Alma Mater,
      GHS, all hail!

      Not much better. Not sure how much the watchword “Forward ever” was ever implemented.

      I did not find why she did not get her PhD, but I assume the progressive environment that enabled her early development was overtaken by “traditional” values as WWII and the Cold War were exploited to prevent Americans from enjoying the enlightenment that benefited Europe.

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