Roberta (Bobbie) Henderson was born in the small paper mill town of Mosinee, Wisconsin. At a young age, Roberta was active with the Camp Fire camp and outdoor program and found solace in nature. One of her earliest jobs was at an insurance company in Wausau, Wisconsin.
After high school, Roberta embarked on a successful collegiate career. In 1951, she completed a bachelor’s degree in English in Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. In 1958, Roberta earned a master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1968, Roberta was awarded a fellowship in school library administration at Columbia University Teacher’s College, New York, where she specialized in African Studies. In 1976, she received a master’s degree in English while at Northern Michigan University.
Like many young people then and now, Roberta dreamed of travel and adventures overseas. Soon after college, she launched a career in the field of education that opened up opportunities on four different continents. In 1951, Roberta began her career as a teacher and librarian at Pulaski High School in Pulaski, Wisconsin. A year later, she became a teacher and librarian at Platteville High school in Platteville, leaving this position in 1954. That same year, Roberta landed her first position abroad for the United States Defense Department Overseas Schools as a librarian at Wiesbaden Dependents’ School in Wiesbaden, West Germany. In 1954, she learned of this position from a Department of Defense informational flyer, and was hired because of her library experience. In 1955, Roberta returned home to be closer to her mother and worked as a librarian at Ashland High School in Ashland, Wisconsin. The following year, Roberta again found herself overseas in the Philippines as a teacher and librarian at the Clark Airforce Base, Wurtsmith Memorial School. In 1958, she returned to the United States and accepted a position as a librarian at Prescott Jr. High School in Prescott, Arizona.
Settled life in Arizona could not quell the international travel bug. In 1959, Roberta returned to West Germany as a Librarian at the Frankfurt American High School in Frankfurt. She worked at the school until 1963, when she accepted a position as a teacher and librarian at the Zama American High School in Camp Zama, Japan. In Japan, Roberta taught U.S. servicemen and dependents. After her position at Camp Zama, the Hitachi Company hired Roberta to direct an English language program for the Company’s physicists. Roberta remained in Japan until 1966.
After teaching in Japan, Roberta moved to Ankara, Turkey, to pursue a job as a secondary school librarian with the Defense Department school system. She spent two years in Turkey, traveling throughout Asia and Africa on the weekends. In 1968, Roberta began her final position overseas as a tutor at the all Nzoki Teacher Training College in Nabusanke, Uganda. She left this position and returned to the United States in 1970.