Pioneering Women of American Architecture is a collection of profiles of fifty women who have made important contributions to American architecture. All of these women were born before 1940, at a time when women struggled both to be allowed entry into the architectural profession and to be recognized for their work. As such, the names of many of these women are not well known, even among architectural historians. However, as these profiles show, each of these women has made significant individual and collective contributions to the history of American architecture and the built environment. While their work is stylistically varied and ranges in its scope from urban plans and institutional buildings to domestic interiors and furniture, many of these women were important innovators, designing utopian communities, humane tenement houses, “rational” kitchens, built-in storage units and fold-out beds, and even early solar houses. They also broke many barriers, both sexual and racial, challenging the institutions of architecture itself as well as many of the social conventions and gender stereotypes of their time.
Documenting the lives and works of these women was an enormous task, requiring hundreds of interviews and countless hours digging through archives, as well as endless fact-checking and photographic documentation. 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. The fifty women 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. Going forward, we hope this project can move architecture created by women to the center of architectural history and invite more young women to study and practice of architecture.
Mary McLeod and Victoria Rosner