New Website Spotlights America’s Forgotten Female Architects

The site is the culmination of a five-year research effort by the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation.

50 Pioneering Women of American Architecture
Ada Louise Huxtable Courtesy Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation

The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF) has launched a new website that highlights 50 trailblazing women architects, many of whom have been obscured by history. The website, Pioneering Women in American Architecture, aims to bring these inspiring women’s legacies to the fore through in-depth and photo-rich biographies.

The launch concludes a five-year research effort funded by BWAF and the National Endowment for the Arts. According to the website’s co-directors, scholars Mary McLeod and Victoria Rosner, the project is one of the largest to focus specifically on women architects who made an impact on the built environment of the United States.

The architects, who were selected by a jury, were all born before 1940 and completed works roughly between 1880 and 1980. This time frame was intentional, says BWAF in a statement: “Within the context of broad social changes from 1848 to the adoption of the Nineteenth Constitutional Amendment, women have risen from the status of chattel to almost full participation in contemporary politics and society. This online collection will benefit architectural scholars, historians, educators, students, practitioners, and the general public.”

50 Pioneering Women of American Architecture
Georgia Louise Harris Brown (third from right) at work in the office of Frank Kornacker, structural engineer. Courtesy the Brown family

The list begins with Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer (1851-1934), an influential critic, and ends with Susan Maxman, who in 1992 became the first woman president of the American Institute of Architects.

The website spotlights recognizable figures such as Ada Louise Huxtable, Florence Knoll Bassett, Ray Eames, and others, but many names in the database will be unfamiliar. Take Anna Keichline (1889-1943), who, in addition to being an architect and inventor, campaigned for women’s suffrage. Or Blanche Lemco van Ginkel (b. 1923), the first woman dean of a North American architecture school who also produced films and helped organize the Montreal International Film Festival.

At the moment, only a few dozen architects of the eventual 50 are featured on the website, but the foundation will add additional names to the roster throughout 2018.

“The fifty women [who will be] profiled here are just a beginning of an effort that we hope will continue to expand as more women’s lives and careers are added to the historical record,” McLeod and Rosner write. “Going forward, we hope this project can move architecture created by women to the center of architectural history and invite more young women to [the] study and practice of architecture.”

You might also like, “Q&A: Beverly Willis on Finding Design in Everything.”

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