Believing Thomas

musings on the church calendar from one who seldom doubts

Artemesia Boden, courtesy of DWTX

The subject of this month’s discussion is a relatively new honored person from the Diocese of West Texas of the Episcopal Church. On August 18, 2016 we shall be remembering the distinguished educator Dr. Artemisia Bowden in our liturgical proceedings. Her saintly life was examined by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops meeting at the 78th Triennial Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Dr. Bowden was born in 1879 at Albany, Georgia. She was the daughter of Milas and Mary Bowden.

In 1902, Bishop Steptoe Johnston of what was then the Missionary Diocese of West Texas contacted Artemisia who was a 1900 graduate of St. Augustine Normal School in Raleigh, North Carolina, and had been teaching in that state for two years. Bishop Johnstone was very active in his belief in educational institutions with connections to religious institutions, having expanded St. Mary’s Hall, founded the West Texas Military Academy which has become TMI The Episcopal School of Texas and St. Philip’s Normal and Industrial School, a day school for girls. Thus, needing a leader for a group of young African American girls then at that school, he contacted this great lady who was then quite young and persuaded her to come from North Carolina to become its principal and to assume responsibility for the then developing school. That institution was rooted in a sewing class for African American young women originally begun in 1897 holding classes within the rectory of St. Philip’s Church.

From then for many years, Dr. Bowden was involved first with what, through her efforts and others in 1927, became St. Philip’s Junior College. In 1942 that school she had worked so hard to develop joined with San Antonio Junior College to form the San Antonio Junior College District. Today these and several other campuses around San Antonio compose the Alamo Community College District. These educational institutions have a distinguished record of making practical college training available to young people who might otherwise have been unable to obtain higher education preparing them for better careers.

During her career Artemisia not only was awarded a Bachelor’s degree from St. Augustine College in 1935, but also pursued graduate studies at Columbia University and the New York School of Social Work. Additionally, she was awarded honorary degrees from Wiley College and Tillotson College.

Dr. Bowden’s faith was ever present during her lifelong career in education. Starting her leadership in Texas her guiding philosophy was to succeed in developing “true, God-fearing women who are not ashamed of the truth and whose characters are spotless.”

While spending her life in service to our Creator supporting the advancement of Christian principles in her students, Dr. Bowden would not accept failure, but was constantly expecting success. Her goal was always to point her fortunate students toward living with courageous faith.

On August 18, 2015 the Artemisia Bowden Diocesan Union of Black Episcopalians (Diocese of West Texas) hosted a Memorial Thanksgiving Service for Dr. Bowden at Christ Episcopal Church, San Antonio with the Right Reverend David Reed participating in the first designated liturgical remembrance of the newly acknowledged saint.

The impact of Dr. Bowden’s Christian life on so many collegians was incalculably valuable. Imagine how great it would be to have a professor of this caliber in more classrooms. +

(c) 2016 Thomas H. Peterson


Rev. Antonio (Tony) Regist. "Artemisia Bowden: Celebrating a Saint." Diocese of West Texas Office of Communications. Uploaded July 2 2015. Accessed July 2016.

Rosalind Hughes. "Holy Woman." Episcopal Cafe. Uploaded November 10 2015. Accessed July 2016.

Judith N. McArthur. "Bowden, Artemisia." Handbook of Texas Online. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. Uploaded June 10, 2010. Accessed July 2016.

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