Louise Blanchard Bethune : America’s First Female Professional Architect

america-is-first-female-professional-architectBy (author) Johanna Hays

Louise Blanchard Bethune was the United States’ first female professional architect. Bethune belonged to the influential group of pioneer architects-Daniel Burnham, John Root and Louis Sullivan-who supported her in becoming a fellow in the American Institute of Architects. In the booming industrial city of Buffalo, she preceded Frank Lloyd Wright and Alfred Kahn in factory design and she was the key designer of modern urban public school building, developing standards that we still use today.

During her career (1881-1905) Bethune was one of the five most successful architects practicing in Buffalo and the driving force behind New York State’s professional organisations for architects. Beyond setting standards for public schools, she was the go-to architect for factories, warehouses, police stations, a Nicola Tesla power transfer station, and the largest luxury hotel of the early 1900s. Bethune moved from a childhood in a small town on the Erie Canal-the economic and technological marvel of the antebellum period-to a rapidly industrialising major American city, following the urban migration of many Americans.
Unlike many women of her day she seized the promise of the growing nation to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in an occupation of her choice, and succeeded.


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