An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

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Stokes, Olivia Egleston Phelps

(Jan. 11, 1847-Dec. 14, 1927), and Caroline Phelps Stokes (Dec. 4, 1854-Apr. 26, 1909). Benefactors to African Americans. Both sisters were born in New York City and never married. The family was Presbyterian, but the sisters in later years joined the Episcopal Church. They are primarily known for their philanthropy to charitable and religious enterprises. They gave generously to the public baths in New York, St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University, a new building for the Peabody Home for Aged and Infirm Women in Ansonia, Connecticut, and a library in Ansonia. They donated Woodbridge Hall, an administration building at Yale University. The sisters provided an open-air pulpit for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York and a chapel for Berea College in Kentucky. They also supported missionary causes. However, they are best known for their benefaction and recognition of the plight of African Americans. Upon her death, Caroline's bequests included a chapel for Tuskegee Institute, the Calhoun Colored School in Alabama, and an endowment fund for the education of Negroes and Indians at Hampton Institute in Virginia. The remainder of her estate went to establish the Phelps-Stokes Fund for tenement housing in New York and to educate Negroes and Indians. In 1901 the sisters financed a "model" tenement for African American housing in New York with the help of their nephew, I. N. Phelps Stokes, an architect with special interest in tenement housing. Olivia published several inspirational writings, including Pine and Cedar: Bible Verses (1885), Forward in the Better Life (1915), and Saturday Nights in Lent (1922). Olivia died in Washington, D. C., and Caroline died in Redlands, California.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.