From the Madison Books newsletter
I hurried past Cal Anderson Park this week in time to join a crowd gathered in front of the light rail station there. It was a joyful throng, although it was a death that had brought us all together. We were present to honor the memory of Barbara Bailey, a native daughter of Seattle who made a major impact on the city and its residents. As Mayor Jenny Durkan said about her, “She cheered on public good and fought against any injustice. She championed civil rights here in Seattle for communities of color and for the LGBTQ+ community. Her mark on Seattle cannot be overstated; Capitol Hill would not be Capitol Hill, were it not for Barbara. She went to school there, lived there, built a business there and cheered the neighborhood on like few others. No LGBTQ+ person would have been elected to any office in this region were it not for Barbara Bailey. Always and forever, Barbara will be an incredible example of a leader who demanded equity, justice and fairness for all.” These were the reasons why the mayor stood on a podium under a brilliant blue sky and pulled a cover off a street sign, officially rededicating the stretch of Denny Way between Broadway and 10th Avenue as Barbara Bailey Way, and why we clapped and cheered.
Clearly she was an energetic activist and doer of good in too many ways to count, but for me and many others, Barbara Bailey’s greatest contribution was as a bookseller. Starting in 1977, she founded and ran a bookstore that moved and morphed a couple of times before finding a lasting home and form as Bailey/Coy Books, which for almost three decades was the heart of Broadway, the heart of Capitol Hill. Before Barbara there had of course been many general interest independent bookshops, and a number of gay and lesbian specialty stores, but as far as I know there’d never been a bookstore that combined those things. She made LGBTQ+ books as essential as those in any other section of the store and created a haven for everybody in her neighborhood. The eclectic mix of titles on her shelves appealed to readers young and old, gay and straight, representative of any dichotomy you’d care to name or invent.
Bailey/Coy Books closed in 2009, a victim as much of the vagaries of the local economy as it was the larger market forces that were sweeping the industry back then, but it remained until the end a model of what a bookstore can be. It served thousands of customers, but also employed scores of booksellers and taught them not just what it means to be part of the publishing industry but to be part of a literary and artistic community. Those who worked in Barbara’s store went on to become writers, editors, librarians, and yes, career booksellers. When I didn’t know where else to go or what else to do, I found my way to her bookstore and found a calling. Would there be a Madison Books today if not for her? Hard to say, but here it is, and I know I have her to thank.
—James, Jeff, Cindy, Paula, and Erica of Madison Books, Seattle, WA
Have you noticed any changes on Capitol Hill?
We have: Part of East Denny Way has officially become East Barbara Bailey Way!
On Tuesday [August 6, 2019], Mayor Durkan stood with community members and loved ones of the late Barbara Bailey to unveil the new official street sign for East Barbara Bailey Way:
Barbara Bailey Way honors one of Seattle’s great civil rights champions, Barbara Bailey, who passed away in late 2018. Her store, Bailey/Coy books, served as a welcoming space and a de-facto LGBTQ+ community center during a time when such spaces were almost unheard of. She loved her community, and frequently contributed to LGBTQ+ movements around the nation. She will be sorely missed, but her work paved a way for so many others, many of whom came on Tuesday to celebrate Barbara’s phenomenal life and legacy at the unveiling ceremony.
To honor her memory, we recommit to building a more inclusive, loving city, and now we have a sign that will remind us every time we visit Capitol Hill. The energy she brought to our communities was remarkable, and we are thrilled to honor her life and legacy.
To read more about the late Barbara Bailey, click here.
–From Seattle Mayor’s Durkan Digest newsletter August 9, 2019