Feast of Artemisia Bowden (August 18)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Historical Marker for the Original Site of St. Philip’s College, San Antonio, Texas

Image Source = Darrylpearson

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ARTEMISIA BOWDEN (JANUARY 1, 1879-AUGUST 18, 1969)

African-American Educator and Civil Rights Activist

The Episcopal Church added Artemisia Bowden to its calendar of saints at the General Convention of 2015.

Above:  St. Athanasius Episcopal Church, Brunswick, Georgia, Late 1950s

Scanned from Henry Thompson Malone, The Episcopal Church in Georgia, 1733-1957 (1960)

Bowden was a native of Georgia.  She, born in Albany on January 1, 1879, was a child of former slaves Mary Molette Bowden and Miles Bowden.  She grew up in Brunswick.  The family was active in St. Athanasius Episcopal Church.  Our saint and her siblings attended the parochial school.

Above:  St. Athanasius Episcopal Church, Brunswick, Georgia

Image Source = Ebyabe

Then Bowden left Georgia.  She attended St. Augustine’s Normal School, Raleigh, North Carolina, graduating in 1900.  Our saint taught at a parochial school in North Carolina then at High Point Normal and Industrial School, High Point, before departing for Texas in 1902.  James Steptoe Johnston, the Episcopal Bishop of West Texas, recruited Bowden to take charge of the St. Philip’s Day School, San Antonio, founded in 1898.  The institution, which changed its name and expanded its mission over time, was at the time a school for African-American girls.  Bowden transformed the day school into St. Philip’s Normal, Grammar, and Industrial School, added dormitories, and, in 1926, became the president of the new junior college.

Bowden led the school in all its incarnations from 1902 to 1954, when she retired.  The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of West Texas could not support the college financially during the Great Depression, but our saint kept the school operating.  In 1942, after years of effort, she succeeded in persuading the San Antonio Independent School District to take over the college, with our saint assuming the title of Dean.  She had argued that the district already operated a white junior college, therefore had an obligation to provide the same opportunity for African Americans.  The college, integrated in 1955, has become a racially and ethnically diverse institution with majority Hispanic enrollment.

While our saint presided over an educational institution she continued her education.  Bowden graduated from St. Augustine’s College (her alma mater, renamed) in 1935, and did graduate work in education in social work at several universities.  She also received honorary degrees, which she deserved.

Bowden, who never married, also found time for civil engagement.  She served as the President of the San Antonio Metropolitan Council of Negro Women, founded and led the Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, and sat on the executive committee of the Coordination Council on Juvenile Delinquency of the Texas Social Welfare Association, as well as (from 1947) the Texas Commission on Interracial Relations.  She also made the African-American nursing unit of Robert B. Green Hospital possible, secured Lindbergh Park for African-American residents of San Antonio, founded the East End Settlement House in the city, and helped to found the State Training School for Delinquent Negro Girls (later the Crockett State School) in 1950.  The State of Texas, citing the state budget, closed the school in 2011.

Bowden received a variety of honors.  The Zeta Phi Beta sorority named her its woman of the year in 1955.  The school district named an elementary school after her.  And the National Council of Negro Women listed Bowden as one of the ten most outstanding female educators in the United States.

Bowden, a member of the Southern Conference of Christians and Jews, as well as St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio, died in that city on August 18, 1969.  She was 90 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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O God, by your Holy Spirit, you give gifts to people so that

they might faithfully serve your Church and the world:

We give you praise for the gifts of perseverance, teaching, and wisdom

made manifest in your servant Artemisia Bowden,

whom you called far from home for the sake of educating

the daughters and granddaughters of former slaves in Texas.

We thank you for blessing and prospering her life’s work,

and pray that, following her example,

we may be ever mindful of the call to serve where you send us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25

Psalm 78:1-7

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Matthew 11:25-30

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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