You've probably heard some variation of the (outdated) axiom: A woman can be anything she wants, as long as it's a nurse or a schoolteacher. Until just a few decades ago, any woman who wanted more had to be extremely resourceful not to mention persevering, creative, and often just plain lucky. Take Emily Williams: Around the turn of the 20th century, she dreamed of being an architect like Julia Morgan, who worked in San Francisco and designed hundreds of buildings in California, including Hearst Castle. When Williams couldn't get hired after attending drafting school in San Francisco, she used inheritance money to buy a lot in Pacific Grove, then designed and built a small cottage with only the help of her lifelong partner, Lillian Palmer, a journalist who was able to drum up attention. The pair became something of a tourist attraction, and soon Williams got commissions to design houses for family members. That led to more work, including some from prominent women, from San Francisco to New York. Williams' story is among numerous covered by Inge S. Horton's talk for the San Francisco History Association, Julia Morgan's Cohorts in San Francisco. Morgan herself was able to employ some of the women Horton covers, but most found other ways into the field. Horton, a former city planner, did extensive research for her recently published book, Early Women Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area the Lives and Work of Fifty Professionals, 1890-1951.
Tue., Nov. 30, 7:45 p.m., 2010