Among the many positive changes that the industrial revolution brought about, the most outstanding one was the impact it had on the lives of women. Before this period, the responsibilities of women were limited to house chores and non-technical duties such as repairing clothes. Their primary responsibility was to raise children. This notion and stereotype began changing as the revolution unfolded. For instance, many small farmers were forced to relocate from their small lands after the Enclosure Movement and Agrarian Revolution. Most women were affected by this mass women. Those who moved were forced to migrate to urban centers where they had to look for work in mines and factories to earn a living. During this time, gender inequality was highly rampant as females were perceived to be inferior. Women were less valued at the workplace and paid wages that were much less than their male counterparts. They were paid almost 50% less than men. Moreover, women were subjected to aggravating working conditions. Most of the works they were engaged in were dangerous and tiring.
With resilience, women began getting into the workforce as they now had access to opportunities that they did not have back when they lived in rural areas. They took advantage of the socialist values that sprung up during the industrial revolution. Workers began advocating for equal rights, better working conditions, and better pay. Ideologies such as utopian socialism and Marxism led to the emergence of the labor movement. At around the same time, various feminist movements started coming up, advocating for gender equality. For women, the first agenda they had was to advocate for equal voting rights even before trying to achieve equality with men. This fete was achieved when the government extended voting rights to women in the early 1900s (“Role of Women in the Industrial Revolution”, n.d.). The movement that fought for women voting rights has overtime been known as the suffrage movement and those involved are referred to as suffragettes.
In a nutshell, the industrial revolution gave birth to a breed of women that the world had never seen before. The role of women in society significantly changed as many of them started doing jobs originally stereotyped to belong to men. While working, they faced discrimination in every way which resulted in the formation of feminist movements that sought equality. Until date, feminist movements continue to exist as women fight for maternity rights, equal pay, and access to more opportunities. Women have overwhelmingly immersed themselves in the fields of science, medicine, engineering, construction, and architecture. The first women to get into the fields of architecture, construction, and design did a good job in ensuring that they left their marks. The resilience they showed may have inspired a lot of women to venture into the field. There are a lot of contributions that were brought forth by women in the construction and architecture industry. Some of them are briefly discussed below. However, more focus will be put on Charlotte Perriand who will be discussed last.
Margaret Ingels went down history books as the first woman to ever graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering in the US. She wanted to go to an architectural school at Kentucky University but there was no such school. With the guidance or a professor, she opted for mechanical engineering as it was close enough to Architecture. Margaret went on to help some companies develop game-changing technologies after she graduated. Such companies include the United States Bureau of Mines and the Chicago Telephone company. However, her fascination with air conditioning which was a rare technology at that time made her opt to work for Carrier Lyle Heating and Ventilation Corporation. It is here that Margaret helped to develop the Anderson-Armspach dust determinator and the psychrometer. The determinator is used as the basic air filtration industrial standard whereas the psychrometer is used to measure air humidity until today. She delivered lectures in most parts of the world. Her most popular lecture is the Petticoats and Slide Rules.
Ellen Biddle Shipman
Much of Ellen’s work was done to please herself. Most of them were small projects such as her home’s grounds. However, after her divorce, she swung hard into her career since she had to fend for herself. She partnered with Charles Platt, an architect who was also an old friend. Platt’s assistants were asked to teach Shipman how to come up with architectural drawings. Over time, she became good at it and managed to work with some big names including Ford, DuPont, and Astor. She even proceeded to own an office in New York with her goal being to drive more women into the field of Architecture. Hence, she only recruited women to her firm. With time, Shipman earned the title the Dean of American Landscape Architecture. Her main responsibility was to transform the industry’s thinking about women being gardeners to them being viewed as landscape architects. The most popular garden designed by Shipman is the Henry W. Longfellow Place found in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He advocacy for public space and social focus seemed to bear fruits. She fought for the construction of victory gardens during World War II.
Emily Warren Roebling
Emily Warren Roebling was introduced into engineering when she married a man whose family was full of engineers. Washington Roebling was a civil engineer whose father-in-law, John A. Roebling, came up with the famous design of the Brooklyn Bridge. As a couple, the two went to Paris together to research more on how to use caissons. They wanted to use the concepts on 2the Brooklyn Bridge (Walker, 2014). This was set to be a new idea that made use of pressurized chambers for workers to use to install underwater bridge pilings. One day, when surveying a construction site, the husband crushed one of his feet and contracted tetanus to which he later succumbed. Washington took over John’s role as the senior engineer which she steered for 14 years. She became the first person to cross the Brooklyn Bridge when it was finished.
Aine Brazil was once the vice chairlady of the popular engineering firm, Thornton Tomasetti. Her task was to oversee numerous groundbreaking methods that have since been used to develop some of the world’s popular, tallest, and unique infrastructure. Despite being Irish, she worked at Arup where she gained a lot of experience and decided to start her own company, Thornton Tomasetti. Here, she led the team that developed the 11 Times Square which is a revolutionary skyscraper in Midtown. Currently, Brazil is working on a project called the Hudson Yards development, a great architectural concept that aims to use a concrete apron to hold six city blocks afloat on train yard.
She is considered to be one of a kind having earned related degrees. One was an architecture degree whilst the other was a civil engineering degree. This is the ultimate combination in the field of construction. This moved her to become the most prolific architect during her time. Her best-known work was the Hearst Castle. Morgan managed to design, with the help of her team, over 700 buildings including the YWCA buildings. The architect also developed construction methods that utilized reinforced concrete which is a material that we use up to date due to its strength that makes it prone to earthquakes and a few other disasters.
Marion Mahony Griffin
She was among the first few women to be handed with an architect license in the US. Griffin was amazingly artistic which is why Frank Lloyd Wright, a renowned architect, made her his first ever employee (“Women In Architecture: 10 Successful Female Architects You Should Know – Arch2O.com”, n.d.). Her designs were centered on stained glass panels, decorative furniture pieces, and buildings. She utilized watercolor renderings of potential projects to transform architectural drafting. Her works were identifiable at first sight by anyone as Griffin’s drawing style was her signature. Her drawings were all fine-tuned by art. She won various projects due to her creativity. Her career went to the peak after she got married to Walter Burley Griffin, an architect. They worked together for 28 years handling beautiful projects.
Born in 24th October 1903, Charlotte Perriland is a French designer and architect who is popular due to her involvement in numerous beautiful 20th-century furniture. An example of her designs is the ‘Fauteuil Grand Comfort’, a living-room furniture set that comprised of an ottoman, two sizes of sofa, and a chair (Aujame, 2003). She collaborated with to industry legends, Pierre Jeanneret, to come up with that piece.
Perriand attributes much of her success to Dufrene and Rapin who were her mentors. She states that they encouraged her by giving her a piece of advice that she held dearly throughout her entire career life (Anderson, n.d.). “For you to be known, you have to show your work”. Perriand took the initiative to display her works at a number of exhibitions. In 1927, she exhibited one of her arguably notable entry at the Salon d’Automne. The design was a Bar in the Attic, a design that included a built-in bar, finishes, and installed furniture (Kermik, 2012). She used nickel in this design among many other different materials to come up with a bold design that aesthetically complemented the age that the machine was designed in. She added touches of finely handcrafted objects that were made using exotic woods. This project is what boosted her career. What was outstanding is that Parriand used steel in her design (Chapman, 2018). At that time, steel was only used by men.
In the midst of her celebrations for her success, she kept in mind that she had other projects to pursue. She was more anxious about pursuing them as she had no concrete plans for them. Perriand’s friend suggested that she reads Vers Une Architecture, a book by Le Corbusier among other several books. Her long term objective was set to be her getting to work with the author of the book (“Famous Female Architects”, n.d.). The writings on the books got her interested and absorbed in his works. The books were in line with her way of design. They are what shaped her education and her skill of decorative art. The first time she approached the author asking for a job, the author turned her down. However, she asked him to go and see her work. He did so and ended up hiring Perriand.
Perriand worked with her favorite author for seven years and this, she says, was a privilege as she earned a great experience (Bliss, 2013). She charged towards the field of modern dwelling equipment with the aid of her boss (Frearson, 2019). She helped to fabricate some of the prototypes they made together into final products. After getting off her boss’ hook, she went on to team up with other brilliant architects such as Lucio Costa from Brazil and Erno Goldfinger from Hungary. She designed a lot of different projects in several different locations. These include the unadorned rustic lodges that sit in the French Alps, the commercial interiors of airlines, and the kitchen prototype of the French’s president residence.
It is evident that the architectural world would not be the same without women. The industrial revolution is to be thanked for creating an avenue through which women could fight for themselves to get in to technical fields previously considered for men. Currently, there is a range of famous buildings that have been designed by women (Mafi, 2018). A lot of architecture competitions have had women topping and most of them leading the way (“Women in architecture: ‘Now is our time'”, 2018). Most of them are deeply immersed in the architectural field as they know their history in the field and some of the greatest contributors that have been discussed above. A lot of women draw their inspiration from these great women.
Anderson, C. Charlotte Perriand | French designer. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charlotte-Perriand
Aujame, R. (2003). Charlotte Perriand: an art of living. Harry N. Abrams.
Bliss, S. (2013). Charlotte Perriand, Ball-Bearings, and Modernist Jewelry. Modernism/Modernity, 20(2), 169-188. doi: 10.1353/mod.2013.0040
Chapman, L. (2018). An Icon of 20th Century Design: Charlotte Perriand – TLmagazine. Retrieved from https://tlmagazine.com/an-icon-of-20th-century-design-charlotte-perriand/
Famous Female Architects. Retrieved from https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-female-architects/reference
Frearson, A. (2019). 10 champions for women in architecture and design. Retrieved from https://www.dezeen.com/2019/03/08/international-womens-day-equality-champions-architecture-design/
Kermik, J. (2012). Charlotte Perriand—Designerin, Fotografin, Aktivistin [Charlotte Perriand—Designer, Photographer, Activist]. The Journal Of Modern Craft, 5(3), 347-350. doi: 10.2752/174967812×13511744764723
Mafi, N. (2018). 7 Beautiful Buildings You Didn’t Know Were Designed by Women. Retrieved from https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/bold-buildings-designed-by-women
Role of Women in the Industrial Revolution. Retrieved from https://www.historycrunch.com/role-of-women-in-the-industrial-revolution.html#/
Walker, A. (2014). Six Women Who Paved the Way for Female Engineers and Architects. Retrieved from https://gizmodo.com/six-women-who-paved-the-way-for-female-engineers-and-ar-1561870366
Women In Architecture : 10 Successful Female Architects You Should Know – Arch2O.com. Retrieved from https://www.arch2o.com/women-in-architecture-10-successful-female-architects-you-should-know/
Women in architecture: ‘Now is our time’. (2018). Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/top-women-in-architecture-advice/index.html