Honoring Pioneering Women in American Architecture

Throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month—we’ve been inspired by AIA National’s social media series featuring “Pioneering Women in American Architecture” based on the work of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF). This collection profiles 50 women who have made important contributions to American architecture. All of these women were born before 1940, at a time when women struggled not only to join the profession of architecture, but to recognized for their work. These women broke barriers of gender and race, bucked social conventions, and challenged the institution of architecture, yet many of their names are not well known, even among architectural historians.

The effort to document the lives and works of these 50 women required hundreds of interviews, research, fact-checking, and photographic documentation. According to the Co-Directors of the project, Mary McLeod and Victoria Rosner, “The scholars who worked on these profiles represent one of the largest groups ever to focus exclusively on women’s contributions to the U.S. built environment and to place the work of women squarely at the center of architectural history.”

As a women-owned firm comprised of nearly 50% women, we believe that centering architecture created by women is essential in the movement toward gender parity in our profession. A quote featured on the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation’s website poignantly captures the significance of representation:

“When a young person, even a gifted one, grows up without proximate living examples of what she may aspired to become – whether a lawyer, a scientist, artist or leader in any realm – her goal remains abstract…But a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, “Yes, someone like me can do this.””

– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Today’s generation of women in architecture is made possible by previous generations of women, many whose stories have yet to be told, in whom girls and women saw themselves. The 50 profiles in “Pioneering Women in American Architecture” are just the beginning—the effort is expected to expand as more women make their mark on the industry. Access the profiles here.