The Rt. Rev. James Steptoe Johnston, Bishop of the Missionary District of Western Texas (1888–1916), desired to provide education and skill development for newly emancipated blacks in the mission field. Bishop Johnston traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, in search of a young, black, female teacher. In 1902, Ms. Artemisia Bowden courageously accepted Bishop Johnston’s invitation and assumed leadership of the St. Philip’s Vocational Day School for Colored Children in San Antonio, Texas.
She began with less than ten students. After leading the school for 52 years, a small day school was transformed into a fully accredited junior college offering over 100 degree and certificate programs. In 2016, St. Philip’s College has an enrollment of over 11,000 students. St. Philip’s College carries the dual designation of being a Historically Black College and a Hispanic Serving Institution Bowden’s work, which began more than 110 years ago, continues to be an essential piece of the educational system in South Texas.
Her participation in various social causes included the Texas Commission on Interracial Relations, the Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, the City Federation of Clubs, the Southern Conference of Christians and Jews, the Coordination Council of Juvenile Delinquency in the Texas Social Welfare Association, the American Friends Service Commission, the Texas T.B. Association of Bexar County, and the National Association of College Women’s Clubs.
Her visionary leadership at St. Philip’s, as well as in the community, earned her honorary degrees, and recognition as one of ten outstanding women in the field of education by the National Council of Negro Women in 1946; she was honored as Zeta Phi Beta’s Woman of the Year in 1955. Dr. Bowden died in 1969, after a full and rich life of faith in Christ and fidelity to Christ’s Church, having served both the School and St. Philip’s Church in the Diocese of West Texas for more than sixty-seven years.
Great Cloud of Witnesses
Collect for this Remembrance
O God, by your Holy Spirit, you give gifts to your 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 with you and the Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Here is an example of what faithful discipleship looks like. Here is our prayer to “be ever mindful of the call to serve where you [O God] send us.” Here is our request to be as faithful in our ministry. Surely our God will answer such a prayer and bless us for ministry. ~Fr. Dan
Be well. Do good. Pay attention. Keep learning.
- Artemisia Bowden (Episcopal Diocese of West Texas)
- Artemisia Bowden (University of the Incarnate Word)
- What is a Collect?
Image: Satucket Lectionary Page