African American business leader in cosmetology and civil rights activist Eva Lowery Bowman was born to William and Alice Lowery in Nashville on April 25, 1899. She attended Pearl High School, Walden University, and Tennessee A&I State Normal College. Her early cosmetology training came from Madam C. J. Walker's Lelia College in Indianapolis, Indiana. She also trained at the Institute of Cosmetology in Jersey City.
Eva Lowery married Dr. Leonard Cardell and later wed Dr. L. A. Bowman. After the latter marriage, she established and operated, among other businesses, the Bowman Beauty and Barber College and the Bowman Art School. She is credited with introducing the “cooler curl” to the beauty culture business. She also helped to organize and served as president of the Nashville Chapter of Beauty Culture, which eventually extended statewide to include about seven thousand beauticians across Tennessee.
The administration of Governor Prentice Cooper appointed Bowman the state's first African American beauty inspector and examiner of cosmetology, a position she held through the administrations of Cooper, McCord, and Browning in the mid-twentieth century. In 1951 she assumed the position of the Negro Chief Inspector and Examiner to the Board of Cosmetology after the general assembly approved legislation creating the post. Bowman also pushed for cosmetology to be included in the curriculum of the Tennessee Vocational School for Colored Girls. She further established a summer course on the rules and regulations of the Cosmetology Board at Tennessee A&I.
Throughout her life Bowman had supported civil rights and the African American community in many different ways. After 1956, however, she assumed a more public role. In that year, she organized and served as president of the South Nashville Civic League, urging the City of Nashville to build new parks and recreational facilities for African Americans. Between 1959 and 1960 she traveled between Nashville and Fayette County regularly to bring supplies, food, and support to the county's Tent City. In 1960 she began to help establish a Nashville chapter of the Urban League, a process that met with success in 1968. She also announced her candidacy in 1960 for a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives. She was the first African American woman to seek election to the Tennessee General Assembly, but she lost the August Democratic primary.
Although denied state office, she served ably in various civic and women's club positions in Nashville during the 1960s and early 1970s. She was an active member and leader of the Spruce Street Baptist Church, one of the oldest African American congregations in the state. She died in Nashville on September 13, 1984.
Article Title Eva Lowery Bowman
Author Carroll Van West
Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
Access Date February 16, 2021
Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
Original Published Date October 8, 2017
Date of Last Update March 1, 2018