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Tue, 01.19.1869

Ida Elizabeth Asbury, Musician, and Teacher born

Ida E. Asbury

*Ida Elizabeth Asbury was born on this date in 1869. She was a Black musician and teacher.

She was from Philadelphia, the daughter of painter David Bustill Bowser and his wife, Elizabeth Harriet Stevens Gray. Her ancestry can be traced to African, Native American, English, and Scottish forbearers in New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, going back to the colonial era.  When she was ten, the 1880 census listed her family as living at 481 North Fourth Street in Philadelphia. Her sixty-year-old father was described as an "ornamental painter," her forty-seven-year-old mother as a maker of regalia, and her twenty-two-year-old brother Raphael as an artist.

Ida Bowser began her coursework at the University of Pennsylvania in 1887. She earned a Certificate of Proficiency in Music in June of 1890, making her the first Black woman to graduate from the University.  Bowser earned a Certificate of Proficiency in Music in 1890 and was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. A violinist and teacher of music, she married John Cornelius Asbury, a politician and member of the Pennsylvania State Assembly.

Later in life, she was a member of the board of the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons (later the Stephen Smith Home) at 45th and Belmont Avenue.  Ida Elizabeth Bowser Asbury died in Philadelphia in 1955, fourteen years after the death of her husband.

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