Segregated Seattle

KKK-CrystalPoolThis photograph is from the 1920s, at the Crystal Pool in Seattle.

Racism in Seattle was written into neighborhood covenants.  In Ballard, Queen Anne, even on Capitol Hill, the fictional home of the Benedicts, wording like this survived well into the latter half of the twentieth century:  “No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage, or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property.”

The Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project features extensive research on Segregated Seattle.  The shocking aspect of this information is how long segregation persisted in the Pacific Northwest.  In 1923, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Renton, claiming tens of thousands of attendees.  Historians estimate the number to be far smaller, but still well into the thousands.

Hospitals and schools were segregated as well as neighborhoods.  Abraham Blake and the Benedict cook, Hattie, would only have been allowed to live on Capitol Hill as servants, and Sarah Church was part of a very new tradition of African American nurses, a tradition begun by Mary Eliza Mahoney barely thirty years before.



If the history of Benedict Hall intrigues you, and you’d like to know more, or if you’re just curious about where Cate finds her information, here is a partial bibliography of sources:

Manual of Surgery, 1921, 6th Edition, by Alexis Thomson and Alexander Miles.  Cate has this in a digital version.

Materia Medica for Nurses, 4th Edition, 1924, by A. S. Blumgarten, M.D., F.A.C.P.  This marvelous book came from a used bookseller, and is inscribed Kathleen W. Hayes, K. W. Hospital, Berwick, M.S.  in a beautiful copperplate hand.

Manual of Emergencies, by J. Snowman, M.D., M.R.C.P., 1918.  This efficient little guide for physicians is inscribed by one A. Gerend.  If only we knew something about that physician of nearly a century ago!

Stick and Rudder, An Explanation of the Art of Flying, by Wolfgang Langewiesche, 1944, 1972.

Deep Stall, by Philip K. Lawrence and David W. Thornton, is a deeply Eurocentric book about the Boeing Airplane Company, published in 2005, which purports to explain why Boeing failed and Airbus won.  Really?  It’s worth noting that even sources with which an author disagrees can be useful.

Anything Goes, a Biography of the Roaring Twenties, by Lucy Moore, 2011.

Websites are invaluable for finding the small details of historical periods.  Some Cate has used are Segregated Seattle, HistoryLinkClickAmericana, and many, many web pages showing 1920s advertisements, examples of 1920s fashions for both men and women, photographs and films of the period, and lists of Jazz Age expressions and customs.


Hemlines to Hairstyles

In the midst of a time of social and cultural upheaval, fashions in clothes and hair also changed abruptly.  In the space of a decade, ladies’ hemlines rose from the ankle to the knee.  Hair, which previously had been allowed to grow more or less unchecked, was bobbed–in barbershops!  Ladies’ hairdressers didn’t typically cut hair.

The heavy makeup used by silent film stars like Louise Brooks encouraged the more daring ladies of the 1920s to wear cosmetics themselves.  Women smoked, drank in mixed company, and scandalized their elders by wearing flesh-colored stockings and using birth control.



Pioneer Square

Pioneer square 1917

Pioneer square 1917

Pioneer Square is a neighborhood in the southwest corner of Downtown Seattle, Washington, USA. It was once the heart of the city: Seattle’s founders settled there in 1852, following a brief six-month settlement at Alki Point on the far side of Elliott Bay. The early structures in the neighborhood were mostly wooden, and nearly all burned in the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. By the end of 1890, dozens of brick and stone buildings had been erected in their stead; to this day, the architectural character of the neighborhood derives from these late 19th century buildings, mostly examples of Richardsonian Romanesque.

The neighborhood takes its name from a small triangular plaza near the corner of First Avenue and Yesler Way, originally known as Pioneer Place. The Pioneer Square-Skid Road Historic District, a historic district including that plaza and several surrounding blocks, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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