America's First Female Architect Finally Receives Recognition

Louise Bethune was a trailblazer in architecture, yet her burial place didn't even bear her name for over a century. Buffalo's industry heavyweights honored her with a memorial marker last month.
January 5, 2014, 5am PST | Alek Miller
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Louise Bethune was the first woman elected to the American Institute of Architects and was the first female AIA fellow, in addition to founding her own firm in 1885. When she applied for membership in the Western Association of Architects, which would later merge with the AIA, Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan supported her application.   

"While Bethune handled most of the design and construction work for her firm, as with any woman trying to carve a place for herself in a previously male-only field, she faced some pushback. 'Both she and Julia Morgan were told by members of the media that they could not be architects,' Bethune biographer Kelly Hayes McAlonie tells Co.Design. 'It was thought that a woman couldn’t be an architect and supervise construction and wear a dress at the same time,'" explains Shaunacy Ferro of Bethune's challenges in the field. 

In addition to overcoming barriers to building a career in architecture, Bethune advocated for equal pay for equal work, co-ed architectural education, and professional licensing for architects. Despite the progress made in the century since her death, women remain underrepresented in the field: just one in five architects today is female. 

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Published on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 in Fast Co. Design
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