Center for Archival Collections

Archival Chronicle

December 2006: Volume 25, Number 3

Feature: Foundations of the Civil Rights Movement | Archival Chronicle Index | Archival Chronicle Index

Ella Stewart Scrapbooks

This issue of the Archival Chronicle Gallery features highlights from the Ella P. Stewart Collection (MS 203). Mrs. Stewart began collecting personal and family photographs in the 1920s and continued the practice for the rest of her life. They illustrate her growing importance in the community as she reached out beyond her neighborhood business to embrace the cause of racial equality throughout the nation. Eventually, she became a spokeswoman for northwest Ohio and for all Americans as she represented our country in international organizations and as Commissioner for UNESCO. Her simple yet challenging motto: "Fight for human dignity and world peace."

The Early Years

Ella Stewart in an evening gown

  Ella Stewart poses in a formal evening gown, ca. 1916

Ella Nora Phillips Stewart, born 1893 in Stringtown, West Virginia, was among the first African American women licensed to practice pharmacy in the United States.

After working in Pittsburgh, Youngstown, and Detroit, Ella Stewart and her husband William learned that there was no black-owned pharmacy in Toledo. They purchased a commercial building and established their business in 1922, quickly becoming an important part of their community.

Business card for Stewart Pharmacy 


Exterior of Stewart's Pharmacy

   Exterior of Stewart Pharmacy
Located at the corner of City Park & Indiana, Toledo.

The Stewart Pharmacy was located in a typical 20th century commercial building, with the retail part of the business located on the street level, with large display windows. Upstairs rooms could be used for office work or rented out.

Ella Stewart at her pharmacy in the 1920s 

Drugstores often became social centers in their communities, thanks in large part to the soda fountain. Fountains became common in drugstores in the late 19th century when druggists often mixed prescriptions themselves and carbonated beverages (like Coca-Cola) were promoted for their health benefits. Just as today, drugstores stocked a wide variety of personal products.

Active in Her Community

Visit from Santa

 A visit from Santa Claus, ca. 1930s

The Enterprise Charity Club was a community organization. At this club-sponsored Christmas party, Ella Stewart is dressed as Santa Claus (at left).

Baby Contest in Columbus, Ohio 

Here, Ella Stewart serves as a judge in a Columbus area baby contest. Throughout the United States, baby contests were very popular in the mid-20th century. Besides allowing proud parents to show off their handsome children, they emphasized health care for infants and toddlers.

Judging a baby contest

In the Nation and the World...

With MAry McLeod Bethune

  Ella Stewart and Mary McLeod Bethune at President Truman's Inaugural Ball, 1949

Mary McLeod Bethune was among the most influential African American leaders of the 20th century, an advisor to President Roosevelt, and a spokeswoman for educational opportunity. She had served as President of the National Association of Colored Women some twenty years before Ella Stewart was elected to that post.

Ella Stewart as President of the National Association of Colored Women. 

Ella Stewart is shown conducting business at the NACW offices in Washington , DC. She was president of that group from 1948 to 1952.


Ella Stewart, President of the NACW, 1952


Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association

  Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association

Representatives of the PPSEAWA pose with Queen Salote of Tonga. Ella Stewart is at left.

With Girl Guides in Pakistan 

On another good will tour as a UNESCO representative, Ella Stewart poses with Girl Guides in Pakistan.

With Girl Guides in Pakistan
Virginia ControversyVirginia Invitation

  Facing Discrimination

 Virginia Invitation

Because she had become well-known for her work across the nation and around the world, the state of Virginia invited Mrs. Stewart to be among the honorees at a banquet celebrating "distinguished Virginians." When the event organizers discovered that she was not white, they rescinded the invitation.

Article from The Bronze Raven, 1957 Look Right

Outraged at Virginia's treatment of Mrs. Stewart, Toledoans came together to honor her.

Bronze Raven Article

Retirement and Recognition

Ella and Doc

   Ella Stewart and her husband "Doc"

At the Ella P. Stewart School Dedication, 1961
Toledo named the Ella P. Stewart Elementary School to honor one of the city's most outstanding citizens. It was her most cherished achievement, and she visited often with students and teachers.

Ella P. Stewart School under construction 

Ella P. Stewart School under construction
  Honorary Degree from University of Toledo

 Honorary Degree from University of Toledo.  

The University of Toledo presented Ella Stewart with an honorary doctorate in 1974. At 81, she was still a vibrant positive force for understanding.

Ella Stewart on her 90th birthday, 1983 

Family and friends gathered at the University of Toledo's Faculty Club to honor Ella Stewart on her 90th birthday.

Ella Stewart on her 90th birthday