Site 3 - Ruth Whiteside’s Beauty Parlor and Beauty School

Ruth Whiteside's Beauty Parlor and Beauty School

614 S Jackson St

Audio on this page read by Asha Noble

This building at the corner of Nihonmachi Alley and Jackson Street once housed Ruth Whiteside’s Beauty Parlor and School of Beauty Culture. Ruth Whiteside's school was first included in the 1947 Green Book, the first to be published after the guide's World War II hiatus, and it continued to appear through the 1950 edition. While you're here, be sure to explore the mural and neighborhood information displayed in the alley. You can also peer into Chiyo's Garden from the alley.

This feature on Ruth Whiteside's was researched and written by the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and is shared here with permission:

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… 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 Willams who often talked of how Edwards influenced and encouraged her, 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. [Marie] Edwards’ social consciousness spilled over to create an atmosphere and incubator for young Black thinkers and change-makers.

Announcement regarding the opening of Ruth Whiteside's School of Beauty in the Northwest Enterprise on August 16, 1944

Neighborhood Changes

The varied businesses at this address over the decades can give us a sense of the successive changes this neighborhood has undergone.

The below list is based on a search for this address in the Seattle Times Historical Database (accessible with Seattle Public Library card) which turned up advertisements and news blurbs about the following businesses:

1910 - 1917 - Italian Importing Co.

1919 - “Independent Meat Co.”

1924 - soft drink parlor

1924 - Business Men’s Social Club, elsewhere referred to as the "Colored Business Men’s Club"

1929 - cafe

1932 - restaurant

1934 - Hayashi Furniture Store

1942 - Japanese shoe store

1944 - Filipino gambling club

1946 - Ruth Whiteside’s School of Beauty Culture

1950s - Yan’s Parakeet Shop, sold Mynah canaries, squirrels, chipmunks, hamsters, turtles, and fish

1984 - advertises for experienced hair stylists to inquire within

Present - Asian Pacific Tours and Travel

Read More
The text 'Never Again is Now' appears next to several historical photographs of a Japanese-American women and her baby during incarceration, and other images too small to make out clearly.
Today, the alley next to this address hosts a mural, Never Again is Now, created in partnership by Friends of Japantown, Wing Luke Museum, Purple Gate Design, and Densho. The mural honors Day of Remembrance, a commemoration of Japanese American incarceration, and stands in solidarity with people harmed by the Trump administration's attacks on immigrants.

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