Bishop Ida Robinson
Bishop Ida Robinson. Mt. Sinai Holy Church.

The era of war and prosperity experienced the birth of one of the earliest Holiness-Pentecostal denominations established by a woman. Bishop Ida Bell Robinson formed the Mount Sinai Holy Church of America in 1924 when she separated from the United Holy Church.  Robinson was born on August 3, 1891 in Hazlehurst, Georgia.  At 13, the Bell family relocated to Pensacola, Florida, where she spent her young adult life.  She moved from Florida to Pennsylvania joining the Mount Olive Holy Church in 1919.  Her ministry prospered under the United Holy Church. However, there was a growing schism where the opportunities for women’s ordination were being shut off, and the role of women pastors in the larger church were being questioned by some of the men in authority.2  As a result, Robinson entered prayer and fasting for 10 days during which God spoke to her saying, “Come out on Mount Sinai I will use you to loose the women.”  This convinced her that she should leave the United Holy Church and begin her own denomination. She sought legal assistance and secured a charter under the name “Mount Sinai Holy Church of America, Inc.”

Concurrently, the pursuit for education, a mainstay within the black community, was especially important for black women. The drudgery of physically hard labor in farming, domestic/housekeeping and factory work dimmed the creative possibilities for women and enforced stereotypes formed during the closing decades of enslavement which were reenergized through social Darwinism.  The ability and desire to learn impelled many families to seek elementary, secondary and post secondary education for their daughters. Historian Stephanie Shaw stated that educating women would benefit the larger community because as daughter and mother, women were able to reach laterally to their peers and family while reaching vertically to other generations through childrearing.3 In the wake of the red summer of 1919, Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, based in New York City attracted a multitude of West Indian nationals and working class black Americans who sought to improve their urban living through thrift and investing in black companies. Black women held leadership roles in Garvey’s organization, and in 1920, The Universal African Black Cross Nurses, a female auxiliary of the UNIA, was organized.

The role of educator had to be supported by resources such as books and manuscripts. Many public libraries did not allow black people lending privileges, and toward this end, black people created their own libraries.  In 1923 Virginia Proctor Powell Florence became the first African American woman to receive professional training in librarianship.


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