Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Georgia Stewart Bond, 1870-1947

By Sheena Harris, Tuskegee University

Georgia Stewart Bond, educator, clubwoman, and suffragist, was born Georgia Evangeline Fagain in Montgomery, Alabama in 1870 to Caroline Reese Fagain, a washerwoman and James Fagain, a successful builder. Georgia was the fifth of seven children born to Caroline and James. However, her younger two siblings died in infancy. She is described as inheriting the light, reddish brown hair and mixed eyes of her father, as well as his "ruddy" complexion. Georgia lived a relatively comfortable middle-class upbringing and remained in Montgomery, Alabama until she relocated for school in Nashville, Tennessee in 1885.

After making the nearly 300-mile journey to Fisk Institute, located in the heart of Nashville, the ambitious fifteen-year-old Georgia Fagain enrolled in preparatory school and college. Sources suggest that Georgia did not work during her time at Fisk Institute. This, in many ways, was not the typical college experience of many black women at the turn of the century. Most blacks during this period encountered difficulty paying for school, similar to her schoolmate Margaret Murray (soon-to-be the third wife of Booker T. Washington) who attended school part-time as she worked in the community and in the homes of Fisk faculty. Still, despite not working, Georgia understood the importance of hard work, family, and a greater commitment to the race.

In addition to her studies, Georgia began courting Moses Stewart as early as 1887, while still a student at Fisk. Her classmates at Fisk included W. E. B. Du Bois and Margaret Murray Washington, who nearly twenty years later would be her supervisor. Georgia Stewart never completed her studies at Fisk. Rather, by 1888 she had moved back to Montgomery, Alabama, married Moses Stewart, and given birth to a daughter named Caroline (affectionately known as Carrie). By 1889 the new family moved to Boston, Massachusetts. In 1894, Moses Stewart died, leaving Georgia a widow and a single mother. She fell on somewhat difficult times and by 1900 she boarded at the combined home and office of Dr. Samuel Courtney. Now thirty-years-old, Georgia and ten-year-old Carrie were two of more than ten other boarders, including Courtney, his wife, their three children, Courtney's two brothers, a niece, and an office nurse.

Following her husband's death, Stewart began to take up various jobs. One job in particular involved assisting with Booker T. Washington's oldest son, Baker Washington, while he attended a nearby boarding school in Boston. Stewart prepared his meals, helped with his homework, sent out his laundry and even forced him to attend Boston's Trinity Church. This working relationship between Baker and Stewart also fostered a relationship between Booker T. Washington and Stewart. Washington even visited Stewart and Carrie during his trips to Boston.

Despite this seemingly difficult season, in 1901 Stewart wrote a short story in The Colored American about the lack of moral character of a preacher featured in the title of the piece, "The Wooing of Rev. Cummings." During this time Stewart was being courted by a local businessman, Virginia-born John Percy Bond. By 1902 Stewart, Carrie and Bond left Boston and moved to Tuskegee, Alabama to work at Tuskegee Institute. John Bond had secured employment in the academic department under the supervision of Roscoe Bruce, the son of former U.S. senator Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi and Josephine Beall Willson Bruce, an educator and clubwoman.

The relationship between Margaret Washington and Georgia Stewart was complicated. For a few years Josephine Bruce served at Lady Principal as Washington took a temporary leave of absence. During this time the two women could not secure an appropriate job for Stewart, prior to her arrival to Tuskegee in 1902. They eventually placed her in the Industries for Girls department where Washington served as the Director. Stewart was given the back-breaking task of teaching laundry, an occupation she seemed ill-fitted for. Yet, Stewart remained at the Institute for a year before she took up "more suitable" work at the Cotton Valley School, a part of the Institute's "extension" project. Since Stewart had not completed her degree at Fisk, she was not qualified to teach within the academic departments. In addition, Washington was known to be a stern leader who despised the idea of teachers working in areas for which they themselves were not qualified.

There were still some benefits to working at Tuskegee Institute at this particular time. Carrie was able to attend Tuskegee Institute at no cost. Stewart also started working with clubwomen. Margaret Murray Washington founded the Tuskegee Women's Club (TWC) in 1895. The club was exclusive and only accepted female faculty and the wives of male faculty. The TWC placed Stewart in the Tuskegee community and kept her abreast of political issues, including female suffrage. This particular division of the club was headed by Adella Hunt Logan, activist and wife of Tuskegee's Treasurer, Warren Logan. Stewart formed a close relationship with Logan and they remained friends even after Stewart left the Institute. According to Adele Logan Alexander, "For several years when Adella Logan wanted to attend suffrage conferences, she persuaded a young hazeleyed, auburn-haired widow teaching at Tuskegee named Georgia Stewart to serve as her alternate delegate and companion. Although suffrage was not Georgia Stewart's primary interest, her friend's enthusiasm and forcefulness were contagious." Stewart also remained loosely involved in clubwork throughout her time in Alabama. She was active in the Alabama Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, which under the initial presidency of Washington, implemented programs that served as examples for other clubs and state groups. However, most of Stewart's social life occurred within her very elite religious affiliations.

Living in Tuskegee also placed Stewart closer to her relatives in Montgomery, Alabama, which was less than forty miles away. The town of Tuskegee and the Institute had both grown substantially by the time of Stewart's arrival in 1902. Founded in the early 1830s, by the 1850s Tuskegee was a thriving market town. However, the Civil War left the town looking deserted and rundown, leaving ample room for expansion and improvements by the time the Institute was established in1881. As with much of the South, Tuskegee was not immune to the backlash and resentment of local whites, who resented the presence of an all-black school. Thus, ideas of "respectability" were enforced to prove that the race was refined and morally grounded. Although Stewart and Bond were informally engaged, they could not live together nor could they make their relationship public, until they were officially married. It would not be until 1905, after Carrie's graduation from Tuskegee Institute and following the death of J. Percy Bond's father, that Georgia Stewart and John Percy Bond, by then a life insurance executive, wed in a small ceremony at the Presbyterian Church of the Good Shepherd in Montgomery, Alabama, amongst Georgia's family and some of her closest friends from Tuskegee, including Adella Hunt Logan.

After her marriage to Bond, the couple lived in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1916. J. Percy Bond adopted fifteen-year-old Carrie and by 1909 he and Georgia Stewart had two more children, a daughter Wenonah (whom Carrie had the honor of naming) in 1906, and a son John, Jr. (affectionately called Jake) in 1908. Georgia Stewart Bond settled into her middle-class status by working within her home, rearing her children, and working on behalf of suffrage for women.

Bond's last recorded suffrage activity came in February 1921, when she joined a delegation organized by Addie Hunton to meet with Alice Paul to lobby for the National Woman's Party convention to call on Congress to investigate Southern states' refusal to register Black women voters for the 1920 presidential election.

Shortly after the end of World War II in 1947, Georgia Stewart Bond died, leaving behind a husband, three children and a wealth of knowledge that she imparted on her family, students, and the communities she belonged to.

Sources:

Alexander, Adele Logan. Homelands and Waterways: The American Journey of the Bond Family (1846-1926). New York: Random House, 1999.

________. "How I Discovered My Grandmother . . . and the Truth about Black Women and the Suffrage Movement," Ms. Magazine, 12:5 (November 1983), 29-37.

Lane, Linda Rochell. A Documentary of Mrs. Booker T. Washington. Lewiston, Me.: Mellen, 2001.

Sollors, Werner, Caldwell Titcomb and Thomas A. Underwood. Blacks at Harvard: A Documentary History of African-American Experience at Harvard and Radcliffe. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

Booker T. Washington's papers are located in Archives, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama.

List of NAACP Delegation Members to Alice Paul, 12 February 1921, NAACP Papers, Part 04 Voting Rights and Voting Rights Campaign, 1916-1950 (Feb. 8, 1921-April 3, 1921) frames 61-64, Library of Congress. Accessed online in the NAACP Papers in ProQuest History Vault.

 

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