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Sun, 01.24.1875

Eva Del Vakia Bowles, Activist born

Eva Del Vakia Bowles

*On this date, in 1875, Eva Del Vakia Bowles was born.  She was a Black administrator and activist.

From Albany, Athens County, Ohio, her grandfather, John R. Bowles, served as chaplain of the all-Black, 54 Massachusetts Infantry during the American Civil War and later became the first Black teacher hired by the Ohio Public School Fund. Her father was also a teacher. When they moved to Columbus, Ohio, her father became the first Black postal clerk for the Railway Mail Service.  

She began her career in education as the first Black faculty member of Chandler Normal School in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1905, she was called to New York to work as secretary of the Colored Young Women's Christian Association (later, the famous 137th Street YWCA) in Harlem. With this position, she became the first Black YWCA secretary. President Theodore Roosevelt was so impressed with the work Bowles was doing during World War I that he designated $4,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize Award to be disbursed at her discretion. In her international work, Bowles advocated for increased work with Black women in Africa and the Caribbean.

She also served as an important liaison between the associations and such organizations as the National Urban League, the National Interracial Conference, the American Interracial Peace Committee, the NAACP, the National League of Women Voters, the Commission of Church and Race Relations of the Federal Council of Churches, and her own denominational Episcopalian women's interracial organization.  Eva Bowles died on June 14, 1943. 

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