While George Smart, founder and executive director of the modernist design archive, Triangle Modernist Houses, researched the work of North Carolina architect Elizabeth "Lib" Bobbitt Lee, he found himself wondering: Where were all the other pre-1970s women architects? Lee stood out as the first female graduate of the North Carolina State University School of Design in 1952, but surely there must have been others who followed, he reasoned.
Investigating further, he found a small group of only 18 women, in addition to Lee, who had graduated from the NC State School of Design before the 1970s. Despite an awareness that architecture has been a male-dominated industry, Smart says, "I was amazed how few women there were, especially during the boom years of modernism in the '50s, and [considering] the fact that the Bauhaus movement in Germany—I'm told—was originally about half composed of women. That didn't seem to translate to its American counterpart."
Struck by their courage in entering an all-male field (one in which they were routinely shown outright disrespect), Smart became fascinated by the strikingly similar histories of women such as Mary Olive Johnson, Constance Grottola Mitchell, Anne Kathleen Tennent, Jean Middleton, and Georgina Pope Yeatman, among others. To share their stories, he has compiled a special archive of profiles on www.trianglemodernisthouses.com: "Pioneering Women of NC Architecture."
Currently 11 profiles have been posted, and over the next month Smart expects to add profiles of up to eight more North Carolina pioneering women architects. Visit www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/ncwomen.htm.