Women Who Move Us Series

The Great TakeoverWomen in SavannahLeave a Comment


Bridie “Madame” Freeman, an African American owner of a beauy school in Savannah,Ga in the 1900s.
Original image from City of Savannah research library and municipal archives.
Artwork added by Morgan Lawrence.

by Morgan Lawrence
Strong women are everywhere we look. Within our leaders, mothers, and so many more, we see women finding ways to “rock it” in the 21st century. As part of this great experiment, humans are exhibiting a knack for obsessive interests and tend to dive deep into the subjects of interest. Speaking out and helping others is one of the many things women have found themselves privy to. More than just a gendered stereotype, strong women throughout history have found ways to turn their common day frustrations into passion packed projects to help others. Read the lesser told stories of the Savannah women who passionately worked hard to bring about change, and not just to benefit themselves, but to help the less fortunate. In the late 1800s, these women had to make it on their own and power their own success.

We hereby honor our forewomen by regaling others with their stories and sharing some wicked tales of true doyennes (badass female leaders) below and discovering the all-pervasive awesomeness that you won’t find in the monuments in Savannah.
Join us each Tuesday over the next few weeks for a new story.

“A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.”

Nancy Rathburn
Bridie “Madame” Freeman

An unseen force in shaping Savannah’s history was Madame Freeman, born in 1886 as Bridie Andres in Beaufort, SC. She relocated to Savannah later in life and opened Madame Freeman’s Beauty School in 1919. The school opened with thousands of ladies that gathered from all over the Southeast to be part of the experience. Once they arrived, they rejoiced in having the once in a lifetime opportunity to become a “Freeman’s Girl”. This opportunity helped women find meaningful work and be treated respectfully while doing it. Many of the women being mothers themselves, found they could even better their children’s lives by attending the institution. In a not so traditional salon, students learned about more than just beauty, their manuals focused on biology, anatomy, which in turn prepared them for other life opportunities. Madame Freeman’s inspiration carried others to open their own beauty salons after the education they earned at the beauty school.

Freeman also found different ways to help others. When a local black man had been convicted of a crime, a crime that many tried to appeal to no avail, the case tugged at Freeman’s heart strings. Consequent, a collection of funds was started at Madame Freeman’s Beauty school, to provide assistance. Freeman’s passion for the African American working class lifted many out of poverty during the time the school was open. After her death in 1957, her memory remains captive by those so prominently touched by Freeman’s efforts.

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