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Robinson, Sharon 1950–
Contemporary Black Biography | 1999 | Stiefer, Sandy
COPYRIGHT 2005 Thomson Gale.
Sharon Robinson 1950–
Baseball administrator, author
Childhood Lived in Public Eye
Began Nursing Career
Became an Author
Sharon Robinson grew up in the public eye as the daughter of Jackie Robinson, the famous baseball player who broke the major league color barrier in 1947. She has worked as a nurse midwife for twenty years, served as a trustee for the American College of Nurse-Midwives Foundation, and taught at Yale University School of Nursing, Columbia, Howard, and Georgetown universities. She has also served as a top official in Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH organization, and as an executive member to the board of directors of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. In 1997, Robinson became the director of educational programming for Major League Baseball. She developed “Breaking Barriers—It’s a Complete Game,” a program that focused on human values and women’s issues. The program was widely popular and used as an educational tool in thousands of classrooms across the United States.
Childhood Lived in Public Eye
Robinson was born in New York City on January 13, 1950, the middle child and only daughter of Rachel (Isum) Robinson and Jack Roosevelt Robinson. Her mother held a nursing degree, but was a full-time homemaker while her husband played major league base-ball. At the time of Sharon’s birth, Jackie Robinson had been scheduled to go to Hollywood to film The Jackie Robinson Story. He traveled to Hollywood after the birth and Robinson and her mother eventually flew out to California to be with Jackie during the filming. Her father starred as himself in the movie, while actress Ruby Dee played the part of her mother.
Robinson’s childhood was lived in the public eye, and the media took many photos of the family. They were also featured in national magazines such as Life. The Robinson family lived in the St. Albans section of Long Island, and reporters and fans often came to the door unannounced for autographs or to take pictures. Robinson discussed this situation in her book Stealing Home: An Intimate Family Portrait by the Daughter of Jackie Robinson, “All I knew was that my dad was a famous baseball player on the Brooklyn Dodgers and that people loved to tell stories about his feats.”
When Robinson was two years old, her parents decided to move from Long Island. They desired a large country
At a Glance …
Born January 13, 1950 in New York City; daughter of Jack Roosevelt (Jackie) Robinson, a professional baseball player, and Rachel (hum) Robinson, a nurse; married to Molver Fieffe; children: Jesse Martin Robinson Simms. Education: Howard University, B.S., 1973; Columbia University, M.S., 1976. Religion: Baptist.
Career: Registered nurse, 1973; nurse midwife, 1976; assistant professor at Yale University School of Nursing; staff member at Columbia, Howard, and Georgetown universities; executive director of PUSH for Excellence 1989–97; national director of educational programming for National League Baseball, 1997-.
Member: Board of trustees of the American College of Nurse-Midwives Foundation; executive member of the board of directors of the Jackie Robinson Foundation; American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM).
Addresses: Agent —Marie Brown, Marie Brown Associates, 625 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.
home in an area where the schools were integrated and where their children could receive a quality education. The family decided to live in North Stamford, an all-white community in Connecticut. Upon their arrival in Stamford, the Robinsons experienced some racial discrimination and prejudice. However, they were eventually able to purchase some property and built a new home. Despite the fact that her parents wanted her to attend an integrated school, the school that Robinson and her brother attended was all white. Robinson’s brother became the first African American child to attend school in North Stamford.
When she was six years old, Robinson saw the movie about her father’s life for the first time while she was attending a summer camp. In her book Stealing Home Robinson remarked that, at the time, she was largely unaware of her father’s accomplishments. “By the time I was born the major trauma of the first few years in baseball were behind my parents. I did not grow up hearing horror stories of my father’s pioneering efforts…now, I was watching this story about my father for the first time… [and] I saw a story about his playing, a story of racism and one brave attempt to end an aspect of it. It would have been a peculiar situation for an adult to deal with. It was certainly beyond the powers of comprehension of a six-year-old.” She remembered being upset during parts of the movie, but also felt a deep sense of pride. “I felt ready to burst, or blossom, and I think I knew even then that something inside me had changed, and just as my father had changed the larger world, my own little world would never look quite the same again.”
Jackie Robinson retired from baseball in 1956. Although her brothers were disappointed that their father was leaving baseball, Robinson was glad because she could spend more time with her father. Even though Robinson’s father had retired from baseball, the family remained in the public eye. While eating dinner at a restaurant, they were often interrupted by fans seeking autographs. Although her father dealt graciously with these fans, Robinson and her family knew that he was greatly displeased that their dinner was interrupted.
Robinson’s childhood years were filled with typical school and family activities. She belonged to Jack and Jill, a national organization for the children of middle class African Americans. This organization offered opportunities for the children to socialize and participate in cultural and service activities. She also belonged to the Girl Scouts and attended summer camp. By the time she was finishing junior high school, the civil rights movement was in full swing. In 1963, Robinson and her family participated in the March on Washington and she heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his “I Have A Dream” speech. After the march, the Robinsons hosted a fund raising party at their home to benefit the civil rights movement and Dr. King attended. Robinson recalled in Stealing Home, “Ordinarily, I wasn’t thrown by celebrities, but Dr. King was different .standing in his presence was as close to God as I figured I would ever get.”
During Robinson’s first year in high school, Stamford began to integrate their public schools. She was bussed across town to Stamford High School, even though a new school had been built closer to her home. It marked the first time that Robinson had attended school with other African Americans. She found that she enjoyed the experience and became actively involved in school sports.
Began Nursing Career
During her junior year, Robinson became a nursing assistant at a local hospital. She received her interest in nursing from her grandmother, who thought that it was a good way to meet and marry a doctor. Robinson would often spend time with her grandmother knitting and watching The Doctors soap opera. Her grandmother also read doctor-nurse romance novels and Robinson found that she enjoyed them too. At the age of sixteen, she became engaged and also made plans to attend nursing school. After a nursing school accepted her into their program based, Robinson believed, on her father’s celebrity rather than her application and test scores, she refused to attend. This experience reinforced Robinson’s need to establish her own identity and she later told Ebony, “And my reason for getting engaged was to change my last name. I didn’t realize it at that point but I wanted to be anonymous.”
Robinson got married at the age of 18, but divorced one year later. She enrolled at Columbia University as a nursing student and met Joe Mitchel, who was enrolled in a pre-med program. They were married in 1968, but this marriage also ended in divorce. Robinson left Columbia and enrolled at Howard University, where she graduated with a degree in nursing in 1973. She began her nursing career and, at the age of 26, earned her master’s degree in maternity nursing from Columbia University’s School of Nursing. She also became certified in nurse-midwifery, where she said in Stealing Home that she “joined the modern version of an ancient order. Fascinated with birth from childhood, raised by my mother to nurture, fueled by observing my parents find fulfillment in a life of service, I accepted my calling when it came.”
In 1977 Robinson gave birth to her son, Jesse Martin Robinson Simms, and raised him as a single parent. After sixteen years of nursing and midwifery and teaching positions at Columbia, Howard, and Yale Universities, Robinson left the medical field in 1989 to work as executive director of PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) for Excellence, Jesse Jackson’s civil rights organization. In 1997, she left PUSH to resume teaching and practicing midwifery.
Became an Author
Robinson’s book, Stealing Home: An Intimate Family Portrait by the Daughter of Jackie Robinson was published in 1996. It provided many intimate details about growing up with a famous father. The book illustrated that even though the Robinson’s lived the American Dream and that her father was greatly admired, the family also had its share of problems and difficulties. Publisher’s Weekly gave the book a favorable review.
Robinson left the nursing profession in 1997. That year marked the fiftieth anniversary of her father’s entry into Major League Baseball and many activities were held to commemorate the event. She was also hired as the national director of educational programming for National League Baseball. This position allowed Robinson to continue her love of teaching and offered an opportunity to pay tribute to her father and his many accomplishments.