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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


A prominent state and national clubwoman, Roberta E. Campbell, daughter of John Edward and Emeline Journeycake Campbell, was born at Alluwe, Indian Territory, on October 31, 1878. Her father had moved from Virginia to Indian Territory after the Civil War to establish a mercantile business at the Alluwe trading post. Her mother was the daughter of Charles Journeycake, last chief of the Delaware tribe. Roberta Campbell received her early education from a private tutor before studying music and art at a girls' seminary and Hardin College in Missouri. Charles Journeycake taught his granddaughter Indian legends and chants that she later performed on stage and blended into her music compositions.

Roberta Campbell married Eugene Lawson on October 31, 1901. He had settled in Nowata, Indian Territory, to practice law. He was also employed in banking and in the oil industry. The couple had one son, Edward Campbell Lawson, born in 1905, who became president of the Tulsa-based Lawson Petroleum Company after his father's death in 1931.

Roberta Lawson dedicated thirty-five years to club work. She had first showed an interest in associations when she returned home from college; she and four friends formed a club to promote friendship and culture. In 1903 she continued her club interests as president of Nowata's Women's Club. From 1917 to 1919 she served as the fifth president of the Oklahoma State Federation of Women's Clubs. Beginning in 1918 Lawson held a number of offices in the national organization known as the General Federation of Women's Clubs. While serving as the General Federation's music chairman, she wrote Indian Music Programs for Clubs and Special Music Days (1926). In 1935 she was elected president of the two-million-member General Federation. During her three-year presidency the organization worked on important social issues such as uniform marriage and divorce laws, birth control, and civic service.

In 1917 Gov. Robert L. Williams appointed her to head the Women's Division of the Oklahoma Council of Defense during World War I. In 1933 and 1934 she participated on Eleanor Roosevelt's National Committee for the Mobilization for Human Needs. Lawson also served on the Board of Regents for Oklahoma College for Women (now University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma) in Chickasha, and the board of trustees of Tulsa University. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1935. A member of Tulsa's First Presbyterian Church, she belonged to several local music and women's clubs as well as heritage organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution. Roberta Lawson died from monocytic leukemia in her Tulsa home on December 31, 1940, and was buried in Tulsa's Memorial Park Cemetery.

Linda D. Wilson


Lyle H. Boren and Dale Boren, Who is Who in Oklahoma (Guthrie, Okla.: Cooperative Publishing Co., 1935).

Edward T. James, ed., Notable American Women, 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971).

"Roberta Lawson," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan, A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939).

Luretta Rainey, History of Oklahoma State Federation of Women's Clubs (Guthrie, Okla: Cooperative Publishing Co., 1939).

Mildred W. Wells, Unity in Diversity: The History of the General Federation of Women's Clubs (Washington, D.C.: General Federation of Women's Clubs, 1953).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “Lawson, Roberta E. Campbell,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=LA034.

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