Coles wanted to be a missionary after high school, but there was no support for unmarried female missionaries. She enrolled in Armstrong Normal School and began her studies to become a teacher. Later, as the only female student, she enrolled in Virginia Union University’s Theological Seminary. She received a letter from Edward H. while studying to become a teacher.
She received a letter from Edward H. Bouey while studying to become a teacher. Edward H. Bouey, a Morehouse College graduate, was also the son of missionary parents who served in Africa. Bouey proposed marriage to Coles the first time they met. They married and moved to Liberia to support her parents’ work. Family and friends in the United States generously supported the couple by sending boxes of needed supplies twice a month from the Coles’ home in Richmond, which served as headquarters.
In Liberia, the two founded a school and a hospital. They returned to Richmond with their children and adopted an African child in 1929. Bouey went on to become a public school teacher while also studying theology at Virginia Union University and earning a master’s degree in education from Columbia University.
Dr. Bouey proposed a national association for ministers’ wives after learning about the lack of training available. Her idea was well received in the community, and the National Association of Ministers’ Wives established its first chapter in Richmond in 1939. Dr. Bouey organized additional chapters throughout Virginia and corresponded with other minister wives across the country.
Dr. Bouey was elected president of the first national conference in Richmond in 1941, a position she held until her death. Over the next sixteen years, Dr. Bouey oversaw the recruitment of members from more than thirty states and West Africa, the launch of the organization’s journal, Ministers’ Wives Herald, and the purchase of a Richmond building.