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Ida Elizabeth Bowser Asbury

February 10, 2010

Ida Elizabeth Bowser Asbury was born on January 19, 1870 in Philadelphia, PA.  Her father was a painter named David Bustill Bowser and her mother was Elizabeth Harriet Stevens Gray. Asbury began her course work at the University of Pennsylvania in 1887. She became the first African-American woman to graduate from the University when she earned a Certificate of Proficiency in Music in June of 1890. She worked as a violinist and music instructor until 1901, when she married John Cornelius Asbury. Her husband was a successful attorney, businessman, and politician. They lived in Philadelphia, where he became one of the first African-American alternate delegates to the 1912 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. He was also the Assistant City Solicitor (1916-1920), a Republican member of the State Assembly (1921-1925), the Republican leader of the city’s 30th ward, president of Keystone Bank, and Sunday School Superintendent of the Union Baptist Church. Ida Elizabeth Bowser Asbury died in Philadelphia in 1955. She remains a celebrated figure in both Black History and Women’s History at Penn.

Mariama Perry
COL ’10

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