Part Three: The Flowers Family and The Black Church

Harry Flowers —-/—-Nancy Sawyer

Chauncey  Fred  John  Rachel  Theodore  Vincent  Gladyce  Hilda


In West Philadelphia born and raised…perhaps not the best introduction; however, the young women of the Flowers family did call Philadelphia home following their father’s death. For Rachel and Gladyce, Wesley AME Zion became their spiritual home during the late 1920s. It does not seem as if Hilda attended this church though her presence is acknowledged at the church’s festivities. For Hilda, she turned to the Catholic church alongside her husband, Herbert Wilson.


Wesley AME Zion Church

The image above is of the Wesley AME Zion Church built in 1925. The church was originally found in 1885 at the same location–1500 Lombard Street. Since the church’s beginning, it has played a critical role in the improvement of the social and political uplifting of blacks in Philadelphia. This was a shared interest of both Wesley AME churches the women attended in Harrisburg and Philly. Rachel, Gladyce, and Hilda’s lives were a reflection of activism and obtaining justice for blacks and it is no surprised that they supported churches whose mission centralized around issues affecting the lives of their black brothers and sisters.

Rachel, Gladyce, and Wesley AME Zion

Newspaper articles document Rachel’s and Gladyce’s time with Wesley beginning in 1927, which creates even greater complexity in Rachel’s timeline (will post about this next). Gladyce served as the church’s secretary at the age of nineteen.


Philadelphia Tribune, October 27, 1927

This is the extend of her documented work with the church outside of being a featured soloist for events. Her older sister’s, Rachel, work was regularly recorded in the Tribune. Rachel served in the church’s choir, played lead roles in play, organized events, led services, and was president of the church’s Osiris Club.

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Rachel presented a paper on “Christian Endeavor in All Lands” for the Wesley AME Zion Christian Endeavor Society. A public speaking skill that was perhaps obtained during her time as a student at Messiah where she participated in the debate club. She also served as the president of the church’s Osiris Club.Her work also extends to her leader beyond the Osiris Club to leading worship, planning events, and organizing community activist.

Gladyce and Hilda, 1931

Although HIlda and Gladyce were not members of the Osiris Club they did attend as guest to the organization’s events. Philadelphia Tribune, June 4, 1931

It is also important to note that Gladyce would attend this church with her husband, Paul Stevenson. This could potentially be the place where the two met.

Hilda and the Catholic Church


Philadelphia Tribune, 1939

There seems to be no new articles documenting Hilda’s attendance at Wesley outside of her guest appearances at events. She could have attended another church or her name was simply not included in these articles. Who knows? A link to Hilda’s religious affiliation is seen in an article pertaining to her marriage to Herbert.


Philadelphia Tribune, Sept. 29, 1931

The wedding was held at St. Augustine Church, a Catholic church, in Harrisburg, with Reverend Father Corbin officiating the ceremony. The church merged with St. Paul Episcopal Church in the 1950s and according to a college professor a member recalled playing bridge with one of the Flowers:) Although Herbert and Hilda hosted their wedding in Harrisburg, the couple called Philadelphia home and raised their three children there. I am unsure of their church affiliation at that time; however, at the time of Herbert’s death he was a member of the Catholic Layman’s Association of Philadelphia.

Rachel and St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran Church 

St Phillips

By the late 1940s, Rachel started to attend St. Philip’s Evangleical Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. There, she was the director of the junior choir. This church was also attended by her younger sister’s, Gladyce, family. If you note her husband Paul is listed as a present member and their daughter, Arnita, as the secretary of the junior choir.

This week I plan on contacting St. Paul Episcopalian Church as well as Wesley AME Zion Church. I have already spoke to the Wesley Church the Flowers attended in Harrisburg and they have been a huge assistance to my research. They even attended the jazz production on Rachel’s life.  St. Philip’s never contacted me back after multiple phone calls; therefore, I am going to have to make a trip out to Philly on Sunday and just grace the church with my presence.

Until the next post,



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