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Pioneering Women in Architecture

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1NV059
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Clockwise: Louise Blanchard Bethune; Marion Mahony Griffin (National Library of Australia); The Hearst Castle façade (Photo: King of Hearts)

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the emerging profession of architecture in America was very much a man’s world. But several talented and tenacious women created doorways into it.

Louise Blanchard Bethune became the first woman to establish an independent practice in the United States by opening an office with her husband in Buffalo, New York in 1881. Seven years later, she became the first female associate of the American Institute of Architects. Her work included schools, homes, and industrial and commercial buildings including the Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo. 

In 1894, Marian Mahony was the second woman to graduate from MIT in architecture and later became the first woman registered as an architect in Illinois. Hired as Frank Lloyd Wright’s first employee in 1895, she was responsible for much of the drawings produced at his Oak Park studio, and she completed Wright’s unfinished architectural work when he went to Europe in 1909. As an artist, designer, and architect she later worked with her husband Walter Burley Griffin in the Midwest, Australia, and India.

In 1902 Julia Morgan was the first woman to receive a certificate in architecture from the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and two years later became the first woman architect licensed in California. Other than the Hearst Castle, her work is largely unknown outside of that state, but during her career she designed more than 700 buildings including residential, educational, religious, and commercial structures.

In a richly illustrated presentation, lecturer Bill Keene examines the careers of these pioneering women and their importance in the development of the profession of architecture.

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American Women's History Initiative