#TBT - Black Girl Magic has been alive and well in the Central District for nearly a century.
Bringing Beauty, Business and Social Consciousness to Seattle’s Central District.
The #TBT series is a collaboration between the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and Africatown Seattle to give historical insights and perspectives into Black history and Black contributions in the Seattle area and Washington State as a whole.
In the late 1930s to ‘40s in Seattle, a Black woman by the name of Ruth Whiteside saw the need for an institution to train Black women as cosmeticians in the Pacific Northwest. She was known with respect as “Madame Whiteside” and was one of the youngest and most successful businesswomen in the region. The beauty school was located at 7th Ave & Jackson Street.
Whiteside retired in 1946 after a rewarding career and Marie Edwards who studied at her school purchased the business. Edwards renamed the business to Marie Edwards Beauty School and moved it to 23rd Ave & Jackson Street where she continued teaching students to shape hair, but she also taught them how to shape lives. During the ‘40s, the school was the only Black beauty school north of San Francisco. Edwards was deeply invested in the Black community and estimates indicate that over her career more than 1,400 men and women graduated from her school. She was determined to make her school accessible to all who wanted the training. In 1947, Edwards persuaded the state Department of Social and Health Services to let women receiving public assistance enroll in her school. She provided scholarships.
Among Edwards students was DeCharlene Williams who often talked of how Edwards influenced and encouraged her as a young 18-year-old to create her own success as a beautician and future business role model.
Community organizer, Odessa Brown studied at Edwards school. Her name graces the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic where her ultimate dream was realized to provide medical attention to anyone in need. Brown passed away of leukemia in 1969, but not before laying the groundwork for the clinic, which opened in 1970. Edwards social consciousness spilled over to create an atmosphere and incubator for young Black thinkers and change-makers.
Edwards was devoted to her church, Mount Zion Baptist Church and found ways along with her husband, Isaiah Edwards to give back to the community through professional and civic service.
On August 20, 2011, Marie Edwards passed away at 99 but not before leaving a legacy as a community-builder and advocate for Black people and business success. Many beauticians learned their trade at Marie Edwards Beauty School and went on to have long and accomplished careers.
Read this 1991 Seattle Times article to learn more about Mrs. Edwards.