Madge Copeland  (b. 1895, d. 1988)
Madge Copeland George Washington Carver Museum and
Cultural Center
Madge Copeland opened the first beauty parlor for African American women in Phoenix and went on to become the first African American appointed as Deputy Maricopa County Recorder. She was extremely active in the fight to end segregation in Arizona and an important leader in the Democratic Party.

Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women and Social Reform

Madge Johnson moved from Louisiana to Arizona in 1919. Divorced and the mother of one child, she soon married Clarence Copeland and had two more children. When Clarence died in 1929, Copeland searched for a way to make a living and raise her children. She secured training in the new hairstyle of the time, the Marcelle wave. She opened a beauty parlor in her home at 1318 E. Jefferson Street, operating it from the 1930s into the 1960s. As the only shop serving African American women on the east side of Phoenix for many years, her parlor became a significant meeting place for the black community. Many women frequented her salon, and community action followed meetings at her house and business. Eventually, Copeland had six other women working with her. This business supported Copeland and her family for 25 years.

Madge Copeland also became active in Democratic politics, beginning in 1932. Inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, she served as precinct committeewoman in her segregated central Phoenix neighborhood. She played a crucial role in bringing new blacks from the South into the Democratic Party and pushed for change in the legislative boundaries so African Americans had better representation in the State Legislature. As a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Copeland picketed segregated businesses, such as Woolworth's store, playing a crucial role in desegregating public facilities. She worked with others to integrate the only café at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in 1952.

Madge Copeland left her business when she was appointed Deputy County Recorder in 1947, which at the time was the highest political office any African American had held in Arizona. She served as Deputy County Recorder until she retired in 1961. During her years of political activities, she never considered running for office herself, believing that women should remain behind the scenes, supporting male leaders. She maintained this traditional view of women's roles even as her activities led to her filling prominent public positions.

Visit the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center at 415 E. Grant Street in Phoenix to learn more about African American history in Phoenix. For more information on Madge Copeland, see Mary Rothschild and Pamela Hronek's Doing What the Day Brought: An Oral History of Arizona Women.


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