The Nugent Sisters: Georgia (circa 1872), Alice (1875), Ida (1880) and Mollie (1867)

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This biosketch was written by Dr. Carol Mattingly, Professor Emerita of English at the University of Louisville. For her full project on “African American Women and Suffrage in Louisville,” visit https://arcg.is/1O8muW.


Georgia A. Nugent, Alice Emma Nugent, Mollie Nugent Williams, and Ida B. Nugent Paey were daughters of George and Anna Foster Nugent. George was a janitor most of his life, Anna a laundress. This stands in stark contrast to the record of three of their daughters, Georgia, Alice and Ida, who became schoolteachers. All four Nugent children became leaders in their communities. Alice, Georgia, and Mollie lived together, with their parents, until their deaths.

The Nugents are typical of many Louisville African American suffragists. Their parents were born during slavery but worked hard to provide a better life for their children. The three younger children were educated in the Louisville Colored Schools and graduated from Central High School, became teachers upon graduation, and continued to accrue educational credentials. Georgia and Alice attained degrees from both State University (later Simmons) and Kentucky Industrial College (later Kentucky State University). The family pooled its resources, all members but Mollie, the eldest, working outside the home, but even Mollie, who remained at home and apparently cared for the home, was employed as a dressmaker. By 1920 the Nugents had moved next door to the Charles and Mary Parrish family and remained neighbors for more than twenty years. By 1930, the Nugents owned their home, worth $7,000, their residence becoming a social hub for entertaining local African Americans, as well as out-of-state dignitaries.

Georgia Anne Nugent (circa 1872-1940)
Teacher, Activist, Community Leader

Census reports and her death certificate give varying dates for Georgia Nugent’s birth. However, she graduated Louisville Central High School in1889, making 1872 the more likely date. She began teaching in the Louisville Colored Schools upon graduation. During the 1920s, she took extension courses through a variety of schools: Indiana State Normal School, Hampton Institute, and Chicago Normal. In 1930, she completed a B. A. at Simmons University and an additional B.A. at Kentucky State College in 1936. A teacher for more than forty-eight years, she was employed at a number of Louisville schools, including Lincoln Colored School and Jackson Street Colored Junior High. She taught Sunday School for more than fifty years.

Georgia Nugent helped to organize the Woman’s Improvement Club in 1896 and served as both president and secretary. The Club, the earliest Louisville club to become affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women, worked on behalf of many efforts for African Americans: it initiated the first day-nursery in the city and introduced the city’s first volunteer probation work. The Club focused especially on kindergartens; Nugent sought to create a training class for African American women so that they could take charge of kindergartens for African American children. After efforts to create such a training school faltered because of inadequate funding, Nugent reached out to the white Louisville Free Kindergarten Association for help in training kindergarten teachers. The successful effort graduated six women in its first training class. The Club was later renamed the Georgia A. Nugent Improvement Club in her honor.

Georgia Nugent was among those who formed the Kentucky Association of Colored Women’s Clubs in 1904 and served as both Secretary and President. In 1906, the state Association joined the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). Nugent, Mamie Steward, and Mary Cook Parrish had already been prominent in the NACW; Nugent had a long tenure on the Resolutions Committee and served on other committees as well. At every convention, the NACW had expressed its support for woman suffrage, and/ or universal suffrage, to include both women and Black men, as Black men in the South were often disfranchised. In 1904, at its St. Louis Convention, the organization unanimously amended the Suffrage Department to read, “That the Suffrage Plank/ Suffrage Department be organized under the supervision of the National Association of Colored Women for the purpose of teaching our women the principles of civil government, political economy, etc., that they may thus be prepared to become intelligent voters and responsible citizens of the republic.” At the 1920 Tuskegee Convention, as Chair of the NACW’s Executive Board, Nugent called for a Committee on Citizenship because “The ballot without intelligence back of it is a menace instead of a blessing, and I like to believe that women are accepting their recently granted citizenship with a sense of reverent responsibility.” When the NACW met in Louisville in 1911, Georgia Nugent made the general welcome.

Georgia Nugent also served as representative to the National Negro Business League and was a member of the Baptist Women’s Educational Convention. She was active in local efforts involving Black high schools and charities devoted to the good of African Americans. The image of her below comes from an announcement from the NACW in The Crisis (February 1917) about those who were leading the fundraising campaign for the restoration and refinancing of the Frederick Douglass house in Washington D.C.

***Sources***

  • American Baptist: 8 January 1904.
  • Georgia A. Nugent Personnel File, Jefferson County Public Schools Archives.
  • (Louisville) Courier-Journal: 6 December 1940, 13 June 1941.
  • Davis, Elizabeth Lindsay. Lifting as They Climb. New York: G. K. Hall & Co. 1996 (orig. pub. 1933).
  • Louisville Leader: 29 January 1921; 29 April 1922; 30 September 1922; 28 May 1927; 15 June 1929; 12 October 1929; 18 January 1930; 25 January 1930; 19 April 1930; 26 July 1930; 29 November 1930; 11 April 1931; 20 June 1931; 8 August 1931; 4 March 1933; 18 March 1933; 15 April 1933; 15 April 1934; 28 April 1934; 17 June 1939.
  • Louisville Times: obituary 26 November 1940.
  • Smith, Gerald L., Karen Cotton McDaniel, and John A. Hardin, eds. The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 2015. 299, 387, and 542.
  • Smith, Lucy Harth, ed. Pictorial Directory of the Kentucky Association of Colored Women. Lexington: Kentucky Association of Colored Women, 1945.
  • U. S. Census: 1870-1880; 1900-1940.
  • Williams, Lawrence A. Black Higher Education in Kentucky 1879-1930. The History of Simmons University. Studies in American Religion. Volume 24. Lewiston/Queenston: The Edwin Mellen Press. 1987.
  • Williams, Lillian Serece, ed. Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1895-1992. Bethesda, MD. University Publications of America, 1995. Part 1, Reel 1, frames 00292, 00293, 00308, 00310, 00345, 00356; Part 1, Reel 8, frame 749; Part 2. Reel 23, frames 283-84; Reel 24, frames 286 (photo), 358, 484.

Alice Emma Nugent (1876-1971)
Teacher, Musician, Church Worker

Alice is seated, 4th woman in from the right in Lucy Harth Smith’s photo of the Georgia A. Nugent Improvement Club in Pictorial Directory.

Alice Nugent, daughter of George and Anna Foster Nugent, graduated Central High School in 1894, the speaker at her commencement in the Masonic Temple Theatre. She attended a variety of post-secondary institutions: Louisville Municipal College; Northwestern School of Music; Bouregard College of Music, where she studied piano; Hampton Institute; and Indiana University. She graduated from Simmons University with an A.B. in 1930, and from Kentucky State, also with an A.B. in 1936. Alice Nugent taught in the Louisville Colored Schools, primarily at Paul Dunbar High School. Although she applied to become principal and served more than once as interim principal, she never achieved that goal. She retired in 1946. A scholarship in her name, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Louisville Alumni Chapter Alice Nugent Scholarship, continues to be awarded.

Alice Nugent was active in many church and civic organizations, choosing to take a less visible role than her sister Georgia. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Georgia Nugent Improvement Club. A long-time member of the Kentucky Association of Colored Women, she wrote the group’s official song. She often took charge of music programs at meetings and conventions and organized programs for children, taking charge of children’s programming when the National Association of Colored Women held its convention in Louisville in 1910.

The Nugent home became a welcoming station for important figures visiting the city. Alice Nugent had been instrumental in the family’s hosting of out-of-town guests and continued that role after the death of her sisters. When Mary McLeod Bethune visited Louisville in 1941 as director of the National Youth Administration, a New Deal program, she was Alice’s guest at the Nugent Sixth Street home.

Alice Nugent died in 1971 at age 98, the last surviving member of the Nugent family.

***Sources***

  • Alice Nugent Personnel File, Jefferson County Public Schools Archives.
  • American Baptist: 8 January 1904.
  • Davis, Elizabeth Lindsay. Lifting as They Climb. New York: G. K. Hall & Co. 1996 (orig. pub. 1933).
  • (Louisville) Courier Journal: 18 and 19 June 1894; 22 June 1897; 1 December 1971; 13 June 1990.
  • Louisville Leader: 28 January 1922; 20 May 1922; 24 March 1923; 27 June 1931; 3 March 1934; 13 October 1934; 24 November 1934; 4 January 1941; 14 June 1941; 18 January 1947; 26 April 1947; 25 March 1950.
  • Smith, Gerald L., Karen Cotton McDaniel, and John A. Hardin, eds. The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015. 387.
  • U. S. Census: 1870-1880; 1900-1940.
  • Williams, Lillian Serece, ed. Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1895-1992. Bethesda, MD. University Publications of America, 1995. Part 1, Reel 1: frame 00356.

 

Mollie Nugent Williams (1867-1936)
Seamstress, Church Worker, Activist

Mollie Nugent, the oldest daughter of George and Anna Foster Nugent, lived with her husband, Tom Williams, on 6th Street with the Nugent family. Mollie worked as a dressmaker/seamstress; Tom worked as a porter. The couple had no children.

Early in life, Mollie was less active publicly than her younger sisters. However, later she became a member of the Kentucky Association of Colored Women, serving as chair of its Executive Board; she served on the Board of Managers of the Baptist Women’s Educational Convention and spoke at the Baptist Women’s Convention on behalf of the Children’s Band. Mollie Williams was comfortable being a quiet helper. She often assisted with maintenance at state University and was president of the Helping Hands Club.

***Sources***

  • American Baptist: 8 January 1904.
  • [Louisville] Courier Journal: 5 October 1907; 8 October 1907.
  • [Indianapolis] Freeman: 11 September 1909.
  • Louisville Leader: 1 October 1921; 27 August 1921; 31 December 1921; 28 April 1928; 28 July 1928; 15 June 1929; 27 January 1934; 16 August 1947.
  • U. S. Census: 1870-1880; 1900-1940.
  • Williams, Lillian Serece, ed. Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1895-1992. Bethesda, MD. University Publications of America, 1995. Part 1, Reel 8, frame 749.

 

Ida Bell Nugent Paey (1880-1958)
Teacher, Civic Leader

Ida Bell Nugent lived with her parents and siblings and taught in Louisville until 1908. In 1903, she was assigned to Main Street Kindergarten when the Louisville School System established public kindergartens, incorporating existing church sponsored kindergartens. She later taught at Eastern Colored School and South Louisville Colored School. In 1907 she spoke on kindergartens at the state meeting of the Colored Teachers Association. In 1908, she married Andrew Lyman Paey, a physician, and moved to Norfolk, Va.

Nugent Paey became active in civic affairs in Norfolk. The U. S. Census and City Directories list her in a variety of roles, including superintendent (1914), probation officer (1913 and 1918) and manager (1947). She became founder and president of the Day Nursery and Children’s Home, whose purpose was to care for children while their parents were at work, and included “without charge destitute, neglected, mistreated or abandoned children” to instruct them “in morals, religious principles, and the rudiments of education.” She served as a vice president of the Negro Organization Society, whose purpose was “to use every possible means to see that the Negro not only has his chance, but that, having it, he will use it in the wisest possible way for the good of his race and his country.” A Cleveland Gazette article credits this Society with “stirr(ing) the whole city to the realization of the needs of colored people, who though they pay large sums of taxes and are for the most part law abiding, have received relatively scant attention at the hands of the Norfolk city government,” and for the bi-racial Norfolk Social Services Bureau.

Ida Nugent Paey visited her sisters often, usually with a reception in her honor at the Nugent home. She died in Norfolk in 1958. Her remains were returned to Louisville, where she was buried with her birth family and husband, who had died earlier and had been brought to Louisville for burial.

***Sources

  • Indianapolis Freeman: 22 January 1916: 3
  • (Louisville) Courier-Journal: 19 February 1899; 6 March 1903; 21 June 1904; 7 July 1906; 28 December 1907
  • Louisville Leader: 20 January 1934; 16 August 1947
  • “Negroes Co-Operate.” Broad Axe 15 December 1917: 1 and 22 December 1917:2.
  • Norfolk City Directories: 1913-16, 1947.
  • “Purpose of the Norfolk Social Services Bureau.” Cleveland Gazette: 9 January 1915.
  • Savannah Tribune: 15 December 1917.
  • U. S. Census: 1870-1880; 1900-1940.
  • Williams, Lillian Serece, ed. Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1895-1992. Bethesda, MD. University Publications of America, 1995. Part 1, Reel 1: frame 00356.

The Nugents, George, Anna, Mollie, Georgia, Alice and Ida, are buried together in Eastern Cemetery, along with Mollie’s husband Tom Williams, and Ida’s husband Andrew L. Paey.