It’s sad to say, but the contribution of women to the built environment of Australia hasn’t been particularly well documented. In an effort to address this, the Wiki-D project, powered by Parlour, has encouraged female architects, town planners, designers and more to be added to a Wikipedia database commemorating their efforts. We’ve dipped into the records to list twelve women whose input into Australian architecture was of special note.
1. Florence Mary Taylor
Florence was born in England but migrated to Sydney with her family in 1884. With the death of both her parents, Florence was forced to find work to support her two younger sisters. She eventually found a position as a clerk in an architectural practice in Parramatta, and, inspired by the work of the architects around her, enrolled in night classes. She graduated in 1904 and is believed to be the first woman to complete architecture studies in Australia. During her career, Florence also trained as an engineer.
2. Ellison Harvie
In 1938, Ellison Harvie became the first Australian woman to graduate with a Diploma of Architectural Design in Victoria. She was an advocate for the professional development of women, as the first woman to be elected into an Australian architectural institute, the first female Fellow of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects and the first woman to partner in a large firm. Ellison specialised in hospital architecture, working on the Jessie Macpherson wing of the Queen Victoria Hospital, and designs for the St Vincent’s, Mercy and Freemason’s hospitals.
3. Margaret Feilman
Margaret – born in 1921 – was the first female town planner in Perth, Western Australia. She had also practised as an architect and landscape designer and founded the Western Australian Town Planning Institute in 1950. Margaret was vital in the establishment of many residential neighbourhoods across WA, most notably Kwinana. She also introduced innovative environmental controls into local government in such places as Northam, Albany and Busselton.
4. Muriel Stott
Born in 1889 in Melbourne, Muriel is thought to be the first female architect in Australia to have her own practice. She designed houses in Melbourne and the surrounding areas, the most notable, Little Milton, described as an outstanding example of an Old English, Arts and Crafts style, inter-war mansion. It is worth mentioning that the landscaping was also carried out by a woman, Edna Walling.
5. Elina Mottram
Born in England, Elina and her parents moved to Brisbane in 1906. She graduated with a diploma in architecture in 1925 and was Queensland’s first practising female architect. At the time, she was also the longest-practising female architect in the state, a part of the industry for 51 years. Elina worked on many commercial projects including the Winchcombe Carson Woolstores, and also remodelled the Australian Worker’s Union Building and the School of the Arts.
6. Stroma Buttrose
Stroma, who was born in 1929, was crucial in the town planning of Adelaide. Having completed the Master of Town Planning degree at Adelaide University, she was the first female Planning Assistant in South Australia, joining the Town Planners Office in 1957. She also published many well-known architectural publications, most notably a book for teaching children city planning in Australia.
7. Ruth Alsop
Born in 1879, Ruth was the first female to qualify as an architect in the state of Victoria. She began work at her younger brother’s architecture firm in 1907 but was forced to resign in 1916 to take care of her ill parents. Regrettably, most of her designs were attributed to the firm, so her works are not well documented. Only one building that she designed fully has been credited to her – a modest weatherboard house in Dorset Road, Croydon (a suburb in Melbourne’s east), in which Ruth herself lived.
8. Margaret Findlay
Instrumental in paving the way for Tasmanian female architects, Margaret was born in 1916 in Scottsdale. She was the first female architect in Tasmania, and the first woman in the state to qualify as an associate of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA). Throughout her career, Margaret stressed the importance of domestic architecture and its role in women’s health and happiness. Her designs were mostly residential.
9. Lily Isabel Maude Addison
Lily was born in 1885 and became an architect in Queensland at a time when very few females were in practice. Her father was a well-known architect, and she became the first woman on record as participating in and working in an architect’s office. She contributed to the 2.7 percent of female architects who practised throughout the 1950s. It is possible that she worked on the Ithaca Town Council Chambers in Enoggera Terrace (dated 1920) although because she worked as part of her father’s firm it is difficult to know for certain.
10. Eileen Good
Born in 1893, Eileen was the first female architectural academic and the first woman to graduate in architecture from the University of Melbourne. She continued to work at the University of Melbourne as an architectural lecturer for most of her career until her retirement in 1962.
11. Susan Phillips
A contemporary name to add to our list of notable women in Australian architecture, Susan Philips came to prominence between 1981 and 1984 when she worked on the New Parliament House in Canberra, while at the offices of Italian architect and academic Romaldo Giurgola. Now working in her own practice, Phillips Pilkington Architects, she has developed a style of architecture that enhances a sense of cultural identity in her work, a fact made evident in her tourism and community projects.
12. Dimitty Andersen
The final name on our list is another prominent, modern female architect in Dimitty Andersen. Dimitty became a Director of Grieve Gillett Andersen in 2015 after fifteen years of running her own successful, boutique practice. Having juggled the roles of mother and architect throughout the evolution of her studio, she is widely acclaimed for her residential work and has been featured in numerous books and publications.
Author Dean Dewhirst covers a further 20 women in Australian architecture in his new book Chasing the Sky: 20 Stories of Women in Architecture. You can read more about the book via ArchitectureAU here.
There is now a clear understanding among the architectural communities that there is much more work to be done on celebrating the work of women within the architecture and design sector.
For further information about how you can support or contribute to this very worthy cause please visit here.