Ida M. Bowman Becks

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Ida M. Bowman Becks, 1880-1953

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton

Ida M. Bowman was born in Armstrong, Missouri in 1880, the daughter of Milton Bowman. The valedictorian of her high school class, Bowman attended college or business school in Wichita for two years and then moved to Dayton, OH where she worked as the secretary of the Colored Women's League.

In 1907 she married Howard W. Becks in Greene, OH and the couple moved to Kansas City, MO the next year. In 1909 H.W. was working as a porter; by 1911 he was a mail carrier. By 1920 the couple was living in ward 10 of Kansas City. Howard was recorded as a mail carrier in 1920 and 1930; Ida did not have a recorded occupation. While they cannot be found in the 1940 census of Kansas City, their death records and city directory listings indicate that they continued to reside there through Ida's death in 1953.

Ida Becks worked for two years as a "field representative for the Florence Crittenton Home in Topeka, Kansas." Florence Crittenton homes were established in more than 50 cities, evangelical missions that worked with unwed mothers and addressed issues of prostitution. As a devout Baptist, she next became a field representative of the National Training School in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of Nannie Helen Burroughs. She was a member of the Second Baptist Church in Kansas City.

She became a "fearless advocate of woman suffrage and is an uncompromising defender of the Afro-American race," as noted in 1913 in Who's Who Among the Colored Baptists. As her biographical sketch in that source elaborated, she "claims for her sex every privilege, every honor, that is accorded to man. She is not one whit behind the white women who are laboring for the advancement--the emancipation--of her sex. She is bright, keen-witted, and persuasive. She realizes that those who desire the ballot must express their wishes, earnestly, decidedly, if they would attain their object."

Her support of woman suffrage continued until the passage of the 19th Amendment. In 1919 she offered a eulogy for Theodore Roosevelt, noting his support of woman suffrage. The same year she participated in a debate about woman suffrage.

She supported a wide range of community organizations, including those working for racial uplift. These included the Wheatley-Provident Hospital, the Red Cross, the YWCA, the Urban League, and the NAACP. She attended the NAACP annual convention in Detroit in 1921 as a Kansas City delegate. She also helped found the local chapter of the Negro Women's National Republican League. She also represented Kansas City blacks at the National Negro Educational Congress in 1925.

Ida M. Becks passed away in September, 1953, a resident of Kansas City for fully 45 years. Her husband moved back to Ohio after her death and passed away in Columbus in 1972.

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