Tuesday, September 14, 2010

living through difficulties

About 1938, fresh with experience of the Great Depression's hard times, Mamie Bell Mackley Brown opened a beauty salon, called Friendly Beauty Salon, at 2424 S. Shirlington Rd. in Arlington.  She subsequently also started a cosmetology school.  The school held its first graduation ceremony at Mount Olive Baptist Church, where Brown's husband, Rev. Aaron Mackley, was pastor.  Brown's school graduated over 300 students. Because Virginia did not issue cosmetology exams and licenses, Brown led her students to DC for these services. Brown gained a reputation throughout the Washington area as a leading instructor in cosmetology. Her philosophy was "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."

Perhaps because of business difficulties, Brown took on a job at the U.S. Patent Office from 1957 to the mid-1960s.  She then began working at the Federal Drug Administration, where her job involved analyzing the chemical content of animal feed.  Her hair salon, which changed its name to the Friendly Beautorium in the early 1960s, apparently closed in 1968.  Brown retired from government work in 1980.

Brown prevailed through a variety of difficulties.  As an African American living in Arlington in 1938, she lived in a racially segregated community in which blacks were treated as inferior human beings.  She almost surely had no access to the (white) banking system.   Being a pastor's wife, a mother, and a business operator, all at the same time, must have been very difficult.  The failure of her marriage surely caused her, the Rev. Mackley, and their family and friends great pain.  But she endured and subsequently married Rev. Paul W. Brown.  They remained married through to Brown's death at age 72 in 1987.  In 1957, Brown, at age 42, apparently had to develop a new career.  That's never easy and becomes more difficult as one gets older.  But Brown made the switch from beauty to the Patent Office, a bastion of ugly bureaucratic work.  She subsequently moved to a job that may have drawn on chemical knowledge that she would have developed as a cosmetologist.

Mamie Bell Mackley Brown lived a full life despite great social and personal difficulties.  So can you.

*  *  *  *  *

Sources and notes:  Information about Mamie Bell Mackley Brown's development of a beauty salon and a cosmetology school was displayed on a poster at the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington's booth at the Arlington County Fair.   Additional information about her education, career, and second marriage are from her obituary in the Washington Post, Nov. 27, 1987, p. B4.  Rev. Aaron Mackley's obituary in the Washington Post, Apr. 6, 1997, p. B9, notes that his marriage to Mamie Brown, with whom he had two children, ended in divorce.  Both Brown and Rev. Mackley received degrees from Storer College in Harpurs' Ferry, WV.  Rev. Mackley took up the job of pastor at the historic Mount Olive Baptist Church at age 26 in 1938.  He continued there as a beloved pastor for 55 years.  He married Adele T. Mackley in 1951.  They remained married to his death at age 83 in 1997.  Rev. Mackley was the first black to serve on the Arlington County School Board and was a forceful advocate for school desegregation.  On Rev. Mackley's service at Mount Olive Baptist Church, see Washington Post, "A Pastor Who Tended His Flock for 55 Years," Sept. 30, 1993, p. DVA10, and Mount Olive Baptist Church's 135th Anniversary DVD.

No comments: