Marion West grew up in rural Washington state, daughter of a Scandinavian immigrant family. While attending the University of Washington in the late 1940s, she met her husband Ray West, an African American veteran who was attending college on the GI Bill. She and her husband were active in the Christian Friends for Racial Equality and later Seattle CORE. They also joined the Young Pioneers— an informal and multiracial group of families who both socialized and were involved in civil rights advocacy.
In 1952, the couple purchased an old fraternity building in the University District, intending to provide housing to black students, who until then had trouble renting in the area. This attempt to break north Seattle's segregation earned them the enmity of neighbors. For the next seven years they endured taunts and harrassment. One night in 1958, the Wests found a cross burning in their front yard.
Partly in response to the harassment, Marion, Ray, and their two children moved to Madrona in the late 1950s, on the edge of Seattle's historically black neighborhood, where Marion continues to live today. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Marion became active in the State Democratic Party.
On June 21st, 2005, West shared her memories about Seattle’s postwar race relations with Trevor Griffey.