Alice Emma Nugent was born in Louisville, Kentucky, ca. 1875. She was the third of four daughters born to George and Anna Nugent. Alice attended Central Colored High School in Louisville. When she graduated in 1894, she delivered one of her class’s commencement addresses, “None but the Brave Deserve the Fair,” at the Masonic Temple Theatre.
Alice began teaching in 1896 and worked in Louisville’s segregated schools for forty years. For most of her career, she taught at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky. After studying at several different colleges, Alice received an bachelor of arts from State University in 1930, now Simmons College of Kentucky, and another bachelor of arts from Kentucky State Industrial College, now Kentucky State University, in 1936.
Like her sister Georgia, Alice Nugent played an active role in Black women’s clubs and other civic organizations in Kentucky. Both Alice and Georgia were founding members of Louisville’s Women’s Improvement Club (WIC). WIC promoted education and health for African American women to demonstrate their “worthiness” of the vote.
Alice was a member of the Louisville and Kentucky Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. In late 1903, she joined her sister Georgia to establish the Kentucky Chapter of the State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. It was later called the Kentucky Association of Colored Women’s (KACWC). At the time of its founding, Alice was elected to the KACWC Committee on Credentials as a representative of WIC.
As a talented pianist, Alice Nugent created musical arrangements for several KACWC events. One of her most notable contributions was the KACWC’s song, “Kentucky Clubs.” Alice wrote the song in 1916 while serving as the KACWC corresponding secretary. Sung to the tune of “Kentucky Schools,” Alice applauded the enthusiasm and pursuits of Kentucky’s Black women’s clubs in the song. She also alluded to Kentucky’s place within the national movement, by including the National Association for Colored Women’s (NACW) motto, “Lifting as we climb.”
In June 1919, Georgia and Alice Nugent bought a house on 6th Street in downtown Louisville. The house became home to Georgia and Alice, their sister Mollie, their brother-in-law Thomas Williams, their father George, and various boarders. Because of the Nugent sisters’ civic involvement, their home hosted many events and guests associated with their work.
Over the years, guests at the Nugent House included Annie Malone, the president of Poro College, an African American-owned cosmetology school in Chicago. Mrs. Ora Brown Stokes, a National Consultant of the National Youth Administration, also stayed at the house. The National Youth Administration provided work for youth during the Great Depression. Stokes also served as the president of the Southeastern Section of the NACW and the Virginia Negro League of Women Voters. In 1939 and 1941, Mary McLeod Bethune visited the Nugent House. Bethune was a civil rights activist, suffragist, and the first elected African American female official in the United States. Alice sometimes accompanied Bethune while she worked as the director of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration.
Although Alice Nugent is perhaps better known for her hostess role, she continued to contribute to club activities. Throughout her life, Alice staunchly advocated for children and education. As a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, she was a big supporter of scholarships for women seeking to attend college. She also served on the Kentucky Negro Educational Association’s Scholarship Loan Fund Committee.
Alice Nugent retired from teaching in 1946. She died on November 30, 1971. She was the last remaining member of her family. Today, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s Louisville Alumni Chapter awards the Alice Nugent Scholarship in her honor.
The content for this article was researched and written by Jade Ryerson, an intern with the Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education.
 Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the most significant African American poets during the early 1900s.
Bache, Laura. “Nugent House Completed Draft.” National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. Kentucky Heritage Council, Frankfort, July 1, 2020.
Courier-Journal. “Big Graduating Class: Tenth Commencement of the Colored High School This Evening.” Published June 18, 1894.
Davis, Elizabeth Lindsay. “Echoes from the Past.” Lifting as They Climb. Chicago: National Association of Colored Women, 1933.
League of Women Voters of Kentucky. “Alice Nugent (1876-1971).” Significant Women in Kentucky History. Published March 13, 2020.