Among those women is Elizabeth Wright Ingraham, FAIA, NCARB, now in her 80s, who “designed and drafted with children hanging down my back.” She says she was 44 before she stopped competing with her famous grandfather and found her own vernacular. Her advice? “Women should make sure they have the energy to do what they're doing and keep expressing their ideas.”
Still passionate about architecture after four decades of practice, Scott Brown also helped set an example for today's female architects. “I wouldn't have been in any other profession,” she says. “The mixture of intellectual and artistic battle you do around the idea of a building is addictive ... pulling out of hard material something beautiful that's got a mind and an art. If you love doing that, why would you do anything else, even if it's very hard?”women's work
The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation in New York City recently announced funding for a fellowship that will help archivists ferret out the work of women architects in The Library of Congress' architectural collection—one of the largest in the world. The fellowship, which runs from June through December 2007, is the first step in preparing a research guide to the most likely places to look. “This is not just about having original drawings; it's anywhere in the library's collections where we might have evidence of women architects, including the vast architectural photography archives,” says Ford Peatross, curator of the library's Architecture, Design, and Engineering division. “We're just thrilled to have the opportunity.
“Often when we have a big collection of photos, there is no information on the projects' creators,” he adds. “You can be sure that there are works of women architects in certain people's archives, but no one has winnowed it out. This project is going to make us more aware of our holdings, and the more we know about what we have, the more able we are to build on our strengths and correct our weaknesses.”
Beverly Willis, FAIA, the first female president of AIA California Council, set up the foundation in 2002 to establish a history and tradition for women architects. The foundation focuses primarily on the post-World War II era, when women began emerging as mainstream. Willis notes that women came late to architecture—at the end of the 1800s, after centuries of architectural traditions had already been established. But in the years since then, “women have typically been whitewashed from history; you don't really see women's work hanging side by side with men's in exhibits,” she says. “That doesn't mean there haven't been books about women architects, but it's almost a ghettoization that treats them as something apart.” She's hoping that the existing tradition will “molt” to become inclusive, so that young women don't feel like they're constantly reinventing the wheel.
“What I see today is that there's still a bit of that feeling that women are without historical models,” Willis says. “And I think this is part of the complexity of the glass ceiling.”