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Elizabeth J. Forrester papers on Episcopalianism


Held at: African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas [Contact Us]6361 Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19151

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

"Elizabeth J. Forrester, [1916-1991], known as Bette to her friends and the wider community, was the eldest daughter of the late Louise Peyton and Arthur Johnson. Born in Staunton, Virginia at her mother's ancestral home, she grew up in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Staunton where she received her formal schooling through the teacher training level.

"For many years, Mrs. Forrester worked as a Social Worker in the Philadelphia area and was widely known during her ten year tenure as the first Executive Director of the Neighborhood Gardens Association, a community improvement project begun by the late Mrs. Louise Bush-Brown, the renown[ed] horticulturalist and widely publicized through the beautification campaign of Mrs. Lady-Bird Johnson during President Johnson's White House years.

"Her efforts on behalf of her community were most strongly felt in her acts of Christian mission, through her involvement in the parish of Historic St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, and in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, where she served as the first African-American president of the Episcopal Church Women.

"Over the years, Mrs. Forrester served as a valued member of the Board of numerous charitable, health and educational organizations, including the Philadelphia Association of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers, the Planned Parenthood Association, Personnel Resources, Inc., the United Way of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Center for older people. For these efforts, she received many honorary awards and citations.

"In her retirement, Mrs. Forrester continued to devote her energies to the community. She instituted the Historical Society of St. Thomas' Church, the oldest Black Episcopal religious institution in America. She also remained a consultant for urban beautification programs and developed and implemented travel groups desired to enrich family unity."


Quoted text from: Obituary in Elizabeth J. Forrester memorial program, St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, June 14, 1991. Document found in collection, June 2014.

This collection consists of papers accumulated by Elizabeth J. Forrester on Episcopalianism, church issues, Episcopal organizations with which she was involved (principally the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and Episcopal Church Women), and other Episcopal congregations. Included are pamphlets, newsletters, and other printed ephemera; correspondence; handwritten notes; and a few photographs.

A large portion of this collection is material on the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, of which Forrester was an active member. Administrative records, such as correspondence, financial records, and vestry minutes; documentation of church programs, including the Emergency Food Cupboard and Music Committee; and research on notable people associated with the church, such as clergyman Absalom Jones and composer Francis Johnson; can be found amongst these materials. There is also a significant quantity of records of the Episcopal Church Women (of which Forrester was the first African-American president), including mailings from the parent group and newsletters/ephemera from other Episcopal churches.

Gift of Elizabeth Forrester.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas directly for more information.

African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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