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Artemisia Bowden: Holy Woman

Artemisia Bowden: Holy Woman

At this summer’s General Convention, a number of names were added to the calendar of Holy Women, Holy Men, including that of Artemisia Bowden. Now, St Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas, the school to which she dedicated her service, is planning a celebration of her “sainthood.”

The Diocese of West Texas website gives some background

Artemisia Bowden surpassed all the criteria set forth in “Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints.” …

The ministry of Dr. Bowden stretches back to 1902 when Bishop Steptoe Johnston brought her from North Carolina to take over the fledgling St. Philip’s School in San Antonio. The school had its roots in a sewing class for Black girls begun in 1897 that had been held in the rectory of St. Philip’s Church. Bowden oversaw the continual expansion of the school, seeking to develop and send forth, “true, God-fearing women, who are not ashamed of the truth and whose characters are spotless.”

By 1927, Bowden had succeeded in guiding the school to junior college status, and in 1942 St. Philip’s Junior College joined with San Antonio Junior College to constitute the San Antonio Union Junior College District, later renamed the Alamo Community College District.

Bowden devoted her entire life to serving God and assisting the Almighty in raising up worthy Christians. She anticipated success, never failure. “A person who has courage must be full of faith,” she said. “A goal is set for the purpose of achieving it.”

The Ranger, a publication of the Alamo Community College District, adds comments by the current president of St Philip’s College, Dr. Adena Williams Loston, and by the Rector of St Philip’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Patricia Riggins.

“Once she took the helm, we grew from a Saturday night sewing class to an accredited junior college,” Loston said. “She wasn’t married to anyone because she was married to the school.”

Bowden’s goal was to continuously provide opportunities for African Americans in San Antonio.

Her personal motto was, “Learn to do something and do it well.”

Becoming founder and principal of St. Philip’s was not enough for Bowden. She went on to become president of the San Antonio Metropolitan Council of Negro Women and founder and president of the city’s Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club.

“Her mission was greater than her title,” Loston said.

For the Episcopal Church, Bowden displayed great service to her community and faced many obstacles, but never lost her faith, Riggins said.

“She was a role model, iconic figure and a person who never strayed from their values … I don’t have to look far for a role model,” Loston said.

Artemisia Bowden died in 1969. She will be commemorated on August 18th. The Collect for her commemoration, in contemporary language, reads as follows:

II        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.

St Philip’s College will host a reception in celebration of this honor on November 20.

Photo: Artemisia Bowden, via the Diocese of West Texas


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