Newsletter | Nov/Dec 1973

Letter from Illinois Architect Mrs. Whitman

by (via Mary Lelayan)


About a month ago Mary Laleyan received a letter from Mrs.Bertha Yerex Whitman, architect from Evanston, Illinois.

Who is Bertha Yerex Whitman?
Mrs.Whitman was born in 1892.She married Lloyd Whitman in 1921 and has a daughter and a son. In 1920 she received a bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from the University of Michigan. She believes she is the first women to receive a degree from the school of Architecture after it became separate from Engineering. She holds a State of Illinois License since 1926.She worked for many years for the State of Illinois, but continually carried on her private practice.She has traveled in many parts of the world Europe, South Africa, South America and in 1965 she went on an 18 month trip around the world "in no hurry".At 81, she still practices architecture and is also writing a series of books about her round the world trip.

In addition to the letter, Mrs.Whitman sent Mary Laleyan prints and originals of some of her projects, copies of articles about her from the Chicago Tribune - one dated 1932 and the other 1973, her resume and the resumes of two other women - Juliet Alice Peddle (born 1899) and Catherine Bortic Heller (born 1886).All the material will be available at our next meeting for those who would like to look through it.

Here is Mrs.Whitmant's letter:
OWA San Prancisco,Cal.
Dear Miss Laleyan; My cousin in San Francisco sent the article about OWA of May 13 to me. I like you - am very jealous of the place of women in architecture.Since I am a very early one, I thought you might like some history of us in this area,so I am enclosing some information and an article about me in the March 4-73 Chicago Sunday Tribune. I am also sending under separate cover a couple of my plans (do not return), but they are not too representative of my work.One thing you must remember is that although I have always had or private practice I was forced by circumstances to take outside work of many klnds, but mostly architectural to support my two children. Even in the 30's and 40's I was designing houses in the $345,000 range, about the highest was $3,100,000 in the 50's.I have also designed apartment houses and various types of warehouses. After the article in the newspaper I designed a large house for a family of ten.It will later be turned into a dude ranch in northwest Montana. The rooms are very large,the kitchen 144 x 192.1t has nine bedrooms and five and a half baths.I have worked in Fla.,Geo.,Tenn.,Mich., Wis.,besides Illinois.I am giving a larger more typical selection to the Chicago Art Institute for their historical file.I designed a booth in the Hall of Science for the World Fair in 1932 for professional women and exhibition plans and photographs of a house
I did here on the North Shore.

During the late 20's and 30's and 40's we had a very active womens architectural club. At the time of the World Fair we wrote all over the world for information - the English woman architectwho won the competition for the Memorial Theater at Stratford was a honorary member.Very few really had licenses so we took in draftsmen, interior decorators,
landscape architects etc. Some time around 1950 or so the Chicago Chapter of AIA talked the women into becoming a branch of the club where they detiriorated into shadows as you said in your article - -
"wives of architects".I never went then.

If you will check the licensed architects in Illinois now there are only about 35 and half of these are not in the state. The other 12 or so are practicing but four of these are the old ones like me. I have always meant to visit some of you and although I am in California (Menlo Park) a lot I have never made the time, but now I hope I shall.
If you care to acknowledge this I would like it very much.

Very Sincerely yours

Bertha Yerex Whitman
2656 Lincolnwood Drive Evanston, Illinois 60201

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