Bishop Imagene Stewart, D.C. Social Advocate and Founder of House of Imagene, Dies at 69


Bishop Imagene Bingham Stewart, a revered D.C. social advocate and founder of the House of Imagene Shelter and Women's Center, died on May 30 after a lengthy illness. She was 69.

According to WUSA-TV, Stewart's death came after the D.C. resident had battled breast cancer for two years.

Born in Dublin, Ga., in 1942, she arrived in the District in 1963 to participate in the March for Jobs and Freedom, according to Historymakers.com. After falling ill, she stayed she stayed in the city and eventually became homeless.

While residing in the city's Lincoln Park, Stewart knew she had to make a change. She soon became employed at the Government Printing office, where she worked full time.

After getting back on her feet, Stewart was determined to help others who were experiencing what she had been through. With the assistance of volunteers, she found boarder rooms to house over thirty homeless people. But her work didn't stop there.

She later roused the interest of then-mayor Walter E. Washington and he helped her open her own shelter. Shortly thereafter she made history as the first African-American woman to open a homeless shelter when the House of Imagene Shelter and Women's Center launched in 1972. Also during that year, Stewart earned her A.A. degree from the University of the District of Columbia.

She ran the shelter for over 45 years and was feted for her work by a host of U.S. Presidents and dignitaries.

After taking in distressed women and children for nearly five decades, The House of Imagene burned down in 2010. Also that year, Stewart was diagnosed with cancer.

But even as her final days approached, she was still concerned about the well-being of those around her, her son Michael Johnson told WUSA.

"It hurt my heart because she tried so bad to make sure everyone around her was [fine]," he said. "Even from her deathbed, she was still making phone calls trying to make sure everything was okay."

Stewart's viewing will be held on June 8 at 6 p.m. at the Bacon Funeral Home in the District. Her funeral will take place 9 a.m. the following day at Columbia Lodge #815 BPOE, 1844 Third St. N.W.

Bishop Imagene Stewart, D.C. Social Advocate and Founder of House of Imagene, Dies at 69

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