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Women in Architecture @ USC: Female Graduates in Architecture, 1910s-1950s

This guide attempts to capture information about female graduates of USC's architecture between 1927 and 1975. It also lists names of early female faculty.

1927-1958

Gretta Vera Gray

Bachelor in Art, College of Liberal Arts, 1916.

According to a note found in a paper file in the collection of University Archives, Gretta Vera Gray may have studied architecture, although El Rodeo did not specify the type of degree she received in the College of Liberal Arts. In 1917 Gray received a High School Teacher’s Certificate from the USC College of Liberal Arts Graduate Department. The 1917 El Rodeo states that she studied botany.

Gretta Vera Gray married architect Abelardo Lafuente Garcia Rojo, who practiced in the Philippines and China. She moved with him to Shanghai. Gray came back to Los Angeles in 1927 (LAT, March 14 1927 p. A2). In 1935, Gretta V. Gray filed an appeal to City Council for zone variance in order to permit construction of a gasoline service station at Sepulveda Boulevard and Sepulveda Way. (LAT, September 25, 1935). Taught at Lafayette Junior School in the 1930s, according to the Los Angeles School Journal, volume 16. Was listed in the Directory of Broker and Salesmen of the California Real Estate Division, volume 35. In 1943 was forced to reimburse LA County for care of her aged parents. (LAT 12 January 1943 p. 5) One of her children, Donald Lafuente, worked as a drafting engineer at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAT, November 17, 1951, p.3)

 

Doris Louise Johnson

Bachelor of Science in Architecture, 1927.

Officially the first female graduate of USC Architecture, Johnson was the only woman in a graduating class of eight (USC Commencement Program, 1927, p. 14) Johnson married R. van Buren Livingston in 1927 (also a graduate of USC Architecture). Sailed with her husband to Europe to study architecture in England, France, and Italy. (LAT July 30, 1928, also Southern California Alumni Review, vol. 9 no. 1, September 1927; vol. 9 no. 2, October 1927; vol. 10 no. 1, September 1928). Was listed as co-designer on their home in South Pasadena. (LAT April 21, 1949) Her husband, R. van Buren Livingston, was architect for the city of South Pasadena in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Edith Mortensen Northman

Danish born, received an architecture degree in Denmark. Immigrated to California in 1920. Northman was one of the few licensed women architects practicing in Los Angeles before World War II. She studied architecture at the University of Southern California from 1927-1930, but appears to not have formally graduated. Passed the state licensing examination in 1931. Northman had her own practice and employed a drafter. Designed individual and multi-family residences, religious buildings, and 50 gas stations for Union Oil in the western US and Canada. Worked in Fresno, CA. Biographical information from John Powell, http://historicfresno.org/bio/northman.htm. (original appeared in the Fresno Bee, May 11, 1990, page F4) Northman also designed for members of the film industry, including some women patrons.

 

Peggy (Margaret) Phillips

Bachelor of Architecture, 1936.

Phillips was class president in 1934 (El Rodeo, p. 75) Phillips had interest in residential and interior architecture (Southern California Alumni Review, no. 10, June 1936, p. 30). She married Franklin Kent Galloway, a graduate of UCLA, in 1942. Peggy Galloway was listed as designer and associate of Paul Frankl, (Southern California Alumni Review, vol. 21 no. 4, December 1939, p. 23 and LAT, November 20, 1949, Christopher Long, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design, Yale University Press, 2007). In the 1950s she was noted for designing units for kitchens and baths. Galloway was listed as kitchen consultant on the Edward Fickett-designed Los Angeles Times magazine home (LAT November 10, 1957), and as interior designer on the Cliff May Experimental Ranch House (ca 1954). Worked in the 1950s-1960s in collaboration with designer Reece Williams.

 

Flora Marjorie Minke, known as Marjorie Minke.

Bachelor of Architecture, 1937.

Married fellow architecture school graduate Daniel Denver Markwith in 1938 (LAT July 17, 1939). Marjorie Markwith does not appear to have pursued professional work. From email communication with their son, Jeff Markwith, 2/25/2013: “You're correct, my parents were Denver and Marjorie. Other than working as a draftsman during WWII, Mom spent her time raising my sister and me and never worked as an architect. Dad eventually took over BM&M (Buttress, McClellan and Markwith) and ran it until he retired. At that time it was a small firm with himself, his partner Ray Smullins (a USC Engineering grad, I believe) an office manager and 2-3 draftsmen.  The last few years he rented office space from his good friend Lee Kline, who was a classmate of his and Mom's at USC. Dad passed away in 2008 at 94 years old, Mom a few weeks ago [2013] at age 97.”

 

Elizabeth Adams Schmidt

Bachelor of Architecture, 1937.

Married fellow architecture school graduate Arthur Kenneth Acker in 1938 (LAT April 25, 1938). Listed as member of Telesis with her husband, participant in discussions with the LA County Museum of Art on organizing a contemporary architecture exhibition (LAT October 19, 1941). Per email from Jeff Markwith, son of Flora Marjorie Minke: “Mom and Dad had a classmate by the name of Elizabeth Schmidt. She became Elizabeth Acker, then Elizabeth Crahan. She now lives in Elk, CA.” (2/26/2013) Elizabeth Adams Crahan died at age 100 in 2014, according to Mendocino Beacon, (http://obituaries.mendocinobeacon.com/obituaries/mendocinobeacon/obituary.aspx?pid=171399565) The obituary in the Mendocino Beacon notes that “From 1937 to 1943, Elizabeth worked for architect Sumner Spaulding, and belonged to Telesis, a city planning group.”  Crahan eventually completed a library degree at USC and became a medical librarian for the Los Angeles County Medical Association Library (LAT, December 22, 1985). With her husband, Dr. Marcus Crahan, she was noted for her collection of rare works of cookbooks and gastronomy. (NYT, September 26, 1984 and LAT, October 4, 1984.)

 

Maria Cecelia Geier

Bachelor of Architecture, 1938.

Also received Master of Science in Education from USC in 1948 (USC commencement programs for 1938 and 1948) Appears to have been a teacher in a Los Angeles area high school. Did not practice architecture or a related design profession. Her father owned Standard Auto Body Co., and at some point she was president of the firm. (LAT August 25, 1967)

 

Ruth Schneider Jones

Bachelor of Architecture, 1938.

Married A. Quincy Jones, while both were students at the University of Washington. Both came to study at USC. Co-designed the Jones House and Studio (Cory Buckner, A. Quincy Jones, Phaidon, 2002). Divorced from Jones in 1942. Entered WAVES, the United States Navy Women’s Reserve (Southern California Alumni Review, vol 25 no. 10, June 1944) Unclear what happened to her after the divorce. She is not mentioned in A. Quincy Jones’s obituaries.

 

Tamara Olga Rees

Bachelor in Architecture, 1940

Was cited as the first woman to study engineering at USC in 10 years. (LAT June 9, 1940.) According to the article, she worked in her father’s office, and designed the family home. Married Rene Cailliet, cited as Tamara Cailliet in the Daily Trojan in May-June 1983 (in memoriam)

 

Helen Frances Friedrich

Bachelor of Architecture, 1944.

Mentioned as Frances Friedrich in the Daily Trojan, working on a post-graduation architecture project with Mildred Stewart and other Architecture school students (Daily Trojan, vol. 35 no. 170, September 29, 1944). In 1948 married Steiner W. McEachern, a graduate of USC. Left architecture for the profession of real estate (Southern California Alumni Review vol. 30 no. 5, January 1949)

 

Mildred Anna Stewart

Bachelor of Architecture, 1944.

Mentioned as Mildred Stewart in an August 1944 Daily Trojan article, working on a student architecture project (Daily Trojan, vol. 35 no. 170, September 29, 1944). In 1946 she was asked to join the American Institute of Architecture, and was a member of AIA’s regional planning committee, and worked for the USC campus architecture office. (Daily Trojan, vol 37 no. 86, March 18, 1946) She supervised the construction of the USC “Pentagon” annex, a temporary structure which was located at 929-947 West 35th Street.

 

Harriette Louise Ketcham

Bachelor of Architecture, 1946.

Married Fred B. Correa in 1947 (Southern California Alumni Review vol. 29, no. 3, November 1947). May be the same Fred Correa who was district engineer for California’s Division of Highways.

 

Zelma Gussin Wilson

Bachelor of Architecture, 1947.

Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Married the screenwriter Mike Wilson. The Daily Trojan called her a young architect-wife (Daily Trojan March 18, 1946). She designed a home on Mulholland Drive for herself and her husband. While her husband served overseas, Zelma Wilson studied a one-year course in aircraft engineering for layout draftsmen at the California Institute of Technology, later working at Lockheed and North American aviation companies. After her return to USC to finish her last term she won first prize in a competition for a storefront, sponsored by the owner of a chain of women’s apparel stores here. (Daily Trojan, March 18, 1946). Studied with Harwell Harrison. Mike Wilson was blacklisted by HUAC, and they moved from the US to France in the 1950s. Eventually, Zelma Wilson moved to Ojai, continued working as architect. She died in May 1996. The Los Angeles Times ran an obituary on May 14, 1996. Zelma Wilson’s papers are at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, inventory at http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=vt/viblbv00912.xml

As of August 2015 there is a Wikipedia article about her, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zelma_Wilson

 

Clara Cecil Morgan

Bachelor of Architecture, 1948.

Listed in the Daily Trojan as secretary of the architecture student body (Daily Trojan May 18, 1948). Married Robert D. Butcher. Died in February 2008. Obituaries in the Glendale News Press (February 15, 2008) and in La Cañada Valley Sun (February 21, 2008) list her architectural business, Clara Morgan Butcher Designers, located at various times in La Cañada and La Crescenta. Obituaries mentioned that a scholarship fund in her honor was to be set up at USC School of Architecture. The Los Angeles Times mentioned Mrs. Clara Morgan Butcher as designer of the Four Seasons Sports Center (LAT July 14, 1977)

 

Lesley Jeanne Penn

Bachelor of Architecture, 1949.

Studied landscape architecture (with Garrett Eckbo?) In 1949 submitted a landscape plan for a competition to rejuvenate Monrovia’s Library Park (LAT May 3, 1949). At that competition tied in 3rd place with Gin Wong. On the competition was listed as Ms. Lesley Penn, Eagle Rock. Married fellow architecture student William L. Rudolph in June 1949. They both planned to enroll in architecture school in Stockholm in the fall of 1949 (LAT June 9, 1949). According to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times (November 11, 2015), after the wedding they travelled for several years in Europe studying and traveling. After returning to the United States they established a joint architectural practice, co-designing their home in Laguna Beach.

 

Joan Christine Parker

Bachelor in Architecture, 1951.

Parker studied in the pre-med program at UCLA before getting a degree in architecture from USC (American Architects Directory, 1962) Joined as staff architect at O’Leary & Terasawa, 1954. Both Arthur F. O’Leary and Toshikazu Terasawa were graduates of USC, O’Leary getting his degree the same year as Parker and Terasawa in 1950. Parker is listed as member of AIA, 1956-1966 (http://public.aia.org/sites/hdoaa/wiki/Wiki%20Pages/ahd1033982.aspx). In a 1955 Los Angeles Times article Joan Parker was listed as member of the Association of Women in Architecture and the Allied Arts (LAT, January 23, 1955)

 

Carolyn McCarron

Bachelor of Architecture, 1954.

Married Laurence Kaehler Brink (engineer) in 1957. Was a licensed architect, 1957- (LAT September 14, 1957). Twin sister of Marilyn McCarron. Member of the Pasadena and Foothill chapter of the AIA, and its president in 1982. Designed her home in Arcadia. Served on the City of Arcadia Planning Commission, and also chaired it at some point. Worked as an architect for Kaiser Permanente. Died July 2011. Obituary appeared in the Pasadena Star News, July 19-21, 2011. For additional information see entry for Marilyn McCarron.

 

Marilyn McCarron

Bachelor of Architecture 1954. MS in Education Administration, 1974, USC

Married fellow architecture graduate Benjamin Porch Urmston in 1958 (LAT December 17, 1958). Was a licensed architect, 1957- (LAT September 14, 1957). Twin sister of Carolyn McCarron. Was listed under her maiden name as architect on Oceana (senior citizen) project together with Benjamin Urmston and Robert G. Jones (LAT April 3, 1966). Listed in the 1962 American Architects Directory with Benjamin Urmston. Marilyn Urmston resided in Arcadia. She worked as architect for 10 years before joining Los Angeles Trade Technical College in 1965 as architectural drafting professor. Became assistant dean for instruction at Los Angeles Trade Tech in 1979 (LAT October 7, 1979). She died in 1992. The following is from the Fall 2011 issue of Trojan Family Magazine: “Identical twins Carolyn McCarron Brink ’54 and Marilyn McCarron Urmston ’54, ME ’74 lived a life of togetherness. Born one minute apart, the sisters were so inseparable that there were only two years when they lived more than a mile apart. At USC, they were members of Delta Delta Delta, Amazons (now the USC Helenes) and the Architectural Council. Carolyn also was a member of Tau Sigma Delta, the National Architectural Honorary. After graduating from the School of Architecture, they worked at various firms throughout Southern California. Carolyn eventually went on to become head architect for Kaiser Permanente and helped spearhead the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in the San Gabriel Valley. Marilyn’s career took another trajectory. She went into teaching, first as an instructor at Los Angeles Trade Technical School and later as vice president at Mission College in San Fernando. She spent the last few years of her career working in the Los Angeles Community College District in downtown Los Angeles. Marilyn died June 10, 1992, in Santa Monica, Calif., after a two-decade-long battle with breast cancer, at the age of 60. Carolyn died July 19 in Arcadia, Calif., of lung cancer, at the age of 80.”

 

Evelyn Aranda Vales

Bachelor of Architecture, 1958

Vales is listed in both the commencement program for 1958 and 1959 as has having received a BA in Architecture. Was from the Philippines (Evelyn Vales is listed in an LAT article Feb 14, 1956). Possibly the daughter of Gonzalo Vales (USC Engineering, 1917) and sister of Yolanda Aranda Vales (USC Music, 1951)

 

Barbara Mary Elwood

Bachelor of Science, Industrial Design, listed in the commencement programs for 1957 and 1958.

Worked at USC in the Department of Art History. Member of the Association of Women in Architecture, served in various capacities. Elwood was quoted in a USC News article “Alumni with Designs for an Industrial Archive,” (September 16, 1996, https://news.usc.edu/12829/Alumni-with-Designs-for-an-Industrial-Archive/)

 

Georgia Ann Dee

Bachelor of Science, Industrial Design, listed in the commencement programs for 1957 and 1958.