Lucy J. Boulding Stephens

Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Lucy J. Boulding Stephens, 1856-1924

By Kelly Marino, Sacred Heart University

Lucy J. Boulding was born into slavery in Burkeville, Virginia in 1856, to R.B. Boulding and C.A. Boulding. After emancipation, she attended Hampton Institute to qualify for a teaching career. She first worked as an instructor and matron at Virginia Collegiate and Industrial Institute (opened in 1893 on Seabury Avenue) in Fairview Heights (near the site of the modern-day William Marvin Bass Elementary School) in Lynchburg.

Affiliated with the larger Methodist Morgan College in Baltimore, the school was the second institution developed for African Americans seeking advanced education in Lynchburg. There students prepared for college, industrial work, or teaching occupations. Locally, the institute received backing from the Jackson Street Methodist Episcopal Church and the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Lucy's position at the school put her in touch with prominent African American educators such as Professor Frank Trigg, a respected black administrator in Lynchburg, who served as the first principal, and Reverend George E. Stephens, a later Virginia Collegiate principal, who would become Lucy's husband. The couple were married in December 1889.

The 1910 census recorded the couple living with five children and a servant in Brookville, in Campbell County, VA. Lucy was listed as a college principal and George as a college teacher.

Throughout her career, Stephens also taught classes in Hampton, Staunton, and Farmville, VA, as well as for five Teacher's Institutes, teacher training programs, in North Carolina and Virginia. Popular in academic circles, Lucy Stephens eventually was hired as a supervisor of African American schools in the Campbell County (VA) Public School System where she worked for most of her career. She served as the primary liaison between the superintendent and the teachers in the schools that she oversaw and was elected treasurer of the local Teachers Association.

Stephens also took an interest in social and political reform in VA. She supported the issues of women's suffrage, moral reform, and temperance. She served as one of two state vice presidents of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, representing the Lynchburg area. Although Virginia was slow to ratify the

Nineteenth Amendment, and black women in the South faced many obstacles to full political voice when the Nineteenth Amendment became federal law in 1920, she was one of the first of Lynchburg's African American women to register to vote.

After retirement, she moved to New York City with her husband and lived with her daughter until she died in 1924. Her husband died the next year and both are buried in Flushing Cemetery in Queens.


"Black Schools and Colleges in Lynchburg, A Digital Exhibit." Lynchburg Museum. Accessed July 16, 2022.

"Boulding, Lucy J." Twenty-Two Years' Work of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute at Hampton, Virginia: Records of Negro and Indian Graduates and Ex-students. Hampton: Normal School Press, 1893, 159-60.

"Deaths." Southern Workman 53, no. 4 (April 1924): 185.

Julienne, Marianne E. "‘Really and Truly a Citizen': Virginia Women Register To Vote In 1920." The UncommonWealth (Library of Virginia). September 16, 2020.

Simms, Hunter. "First Three Lynchburg African American Women Voters." Lynchburg Museum. February 12, 2019.

"Teachers Association," Richmond Planet, December 20, 1919, 5.

Consulted with and used Information from Ted Delaney, Lynchburg Museum Director, Chief Public History Officer, Lynchburg, VA.

Consulted with and used Information from Marianne E. Julienne, Education and Outreach Department, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

Consulted with and used Information from Brett Rivera, Assistant Superintendent, Flushing Cemetery Association, Queens, NY.

Marriage and 1910 census records for Lucy Boulding Stephens and George Edward Stephens found in Ancestry Library Edition.

Find-a-Grave death entries found at: and

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