The History of the COGIC Women's Department
In the year of 1906, a great revival under the auspices of Elder W. J. Seymour started in Los Angeles, California and swept the western portion of the United States. The news of this revival reached Memphis, Tennessee, and Bishop Mason and other ministers of this gospel; that led to the baptism of the Holy Ghost. After receiving this blessing, Bishop Mason then made himself an Ambassador of Goodwill. In his travel he went to Dermount, Arkansas, a place that must have been predestined by our Heavenly Father, for there he metone Lizzie Woods, matron of the Baptist Academy. Mrs. Woods, a woman of very high standings, had made quite an outstanding record in public service, as a teacher of the Word of God. They met her and explained their mission; she was interested and listened, so as Bishop opened his mouth and explained the scriptures to her, she answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Then and there she received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. She visited the convocation which was in session in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where Lillian Brooks, now our Mother Coffey, the singing Evangelist, gave her the right hand of fellowship and insisted that she should come to the National Convocation in Memphis, Tennessee in the fall.
The work among the women had been started but lacked organisation. God gave the right woman, at the right time, Lizzie Woods; who had accepted the Doctrine of Pentecost and was prepared more than ever to teach the unadulterated Word of God. Bishop Mason with his keen sight that God had given him saw that this woman was an organiser, able to inspire, and direct. So, in a short time she was chosen as General Mother of Women, to organise and create such work as would be beneficial to the development of the church. On her first tour she met a Minister, one Elder Roberson, whom she later married. Finding two groups of women in the church, one group praying, the other group studying and teaching the Word. One was known as the Prayer Band and the other the Bible Band, she combined the two under the name of the Prayer and Bible Band.
Mother Roberson’s consideration began with remembering Jer. 9:17,18,19 and 20. “Thus said the Lord of Host, consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women, that they may come. And let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters. For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, how are we spoiled! We are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land, because our dwellings have cast us out. Yet we heard the Word of the Lord, o ye women and let our ears receive the words of His mouth, and teach your daughters wailing and everyone her neighbour lamentation”.
She strengthened a small group of women, whom she found sewing, called ‘The Daughters of Zion’, and organised them giving them the name of ’Sewing Circle’’ because for she remembered the great women of Acts 9:36-40. “Now there was in Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good work and alms deeds, which she did”.
In the year of 1926, during Mother Roberson’s tour through the western states, she met Elder Searcy of Portland, Oregon, who was interested in Foreign Missions. She invited him to attend the Memphis meeting and meet our brethren. This trip resulted in the formation of a Foreign Mission band, of which Elder Searcy became Secretary-Treasurer. Mother Roberson went everywhere organising the women into Home and Foreign Mission bands. Elder Searcy did not remain with the movement very long. Mother Roberson then asked Bishop Mason to appoint Elder C. G. Brown as Secretary of the Home and Foreign Mission Board… there we have our Foreign Mission Board.
During these days of travel, she and her husband working as Evangelist digging out and establishing churches, underwent great suffering. Finance being most limited with very few doors open to receive them, at most times, and the way of traveling was either foot or in wagons, yet they kept moving on. Her daughter, Ida Baker, moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and later she and Elder Roberson followed, where they established a church and their own home. This took Elder Roberson from her side as a traveling companion. She would then choose one of her other daughters to accompany her; the late Fannie Jackson, Lucinda Bostick, Jessie Strickland, the late Nancy Gamble and Eliza Hollins. The work grew so rapidly that she began a state organisation and these women whom she had trained became her first State Mothers. Then her daughter became her traveling companion. Mother taught the Word of God in power, against Lodges, exposing their rituals. She was imprisoned, rotten-egged, and beaten for this. Her daughter Ida was a gifted singer and cheered the hearts of the people. In their hours that were made weary from hard traveling, Ida would break forth with song: ‘I’m Climbing the Hills of Light, I’m Singing Along My Way, My Path is as Bright as Day, I’m Seeking a Better Home’.
Elder Roberson’s health began to fail and soon he was called from labour to reward. Mother’s grief was great, but she said, “I cannot stop; I must work the work for Him that sent me while it is day, for the night cometh and no man can work.” No writer could do justice to the life work of this illustrious woman of God, nor of the numerous deeds of kindness done by her, nor the height of esteem in which she was held by thousands of followers.
The day came when hard work and continued traveling took its toll and her weak frame gave way under it. And she was only able to attend the National Convocations. For five years she battled to regain her strength but kept her program going through her different State Mothers. She was greatly interested in the building of our National Headquarters, and with her very efficient daughters as her secretary, she kept her National Drives functioning until she knew the building was ready for dedication. She journeyed southward to the 1943 Convocation; she felt that her days were numbered and that she would not return home. After reaching Memphis, she took new strength, walked through the building, looked at the work of her hands, sat in the assembly hall, which bears her name, held conference with her State Mothers, revised her constitution, examined every phase of it for soundness, sat by her windows, saw the large electrical sign. Allocated the balance of the funds needed to make possible its purchase.
The sign which reads, National Headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. Her daughter had solicited funds, but the amount was not sufficient; thus, she completed the sum.
Mother Roberson ably admonished her daughter on the Women’s Day of the convocation to continue in the Faith, to stay out of lodges, and to not engage in politics. She turned to her daughter, Lillian Brooks Coffey, whom she had trained from girlhood and whom later became assistant, to courageously lead the women on in the fear of the Lord, to stick to the Bible, not to depart from the law of the Lord. She went to her room tired and weary and in a few hours, she drew the drapery of the couch about her and fell asleep. Thus, ended the career of one of the greatest organisers among Christian women. The Assistant Mother became our General Mother by the appointment of Senior Bishop Mason and the unanimous sanction of the Board of Bishops, Overseers, and State Supervisors and the hearty applause of the laity.