Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2015

Julia Morgan and Feminism: Letter to the OWA/DP Editor, April 1974

by Peggy Woodring

Responding to a review of the Berkeley lecture by Richard Longstreth in an earlier issue, Ms. Woodring had the following few choice words to say:

Dear OWA,

First, many thanks to all those responsible for the OWA Newsletter. It is not always possible for me to come to meetings, so I depend on the Newsletter to keep me informed.

Second, you may remember the review of Richard Longstreth’s lecture on Julia Morgan in the December issue. I would like to give another view of the Longstreth lecture which I heard at the Heritage Lecture Series in San Francisco.

My suspicions were aroused when Longstreth gave a short biographical sketch which included the following statement, “Julia Morgan was the son of an engineer.” SON! The fact that Julia Morgan’s father was not an engineer should not concern us here. What does concern us is the worldview which is represented in the lecture.

Mr. Longstreth made reference several times in the evening to his notion that Julia Morgan should not be considered interested in Women’s Lib. His insistent allusions that Morgan was not a proponent of feminism must be questioned. In fact, the statement tells us more about Mr. Longstreth than it does about Julia Morgan.

The slide material presented at the lecture said more about Julia Morgan’s interest in women than any amount of rhetoric could. Julia Morgan did buildings, not words.

Many buildings done by Julia Morgan were for women – women as clients, and women as users. Her relationship with women as clients has never been documented to my knowledge, but the clients ranged from women’s clubs, colleges and the YWCA to residences. Her contribution to the communal life style offered to women by the YWCA has never been documented. She did many residences for the YWCA; one can only assume that the users and the clients were pleased with the buildings produced by Julia Morgan.

Julia Morgan interacted well with other women from college presidents to Phoebe Apherson Hearst, from her model-maker to others on her staff. She designed good building, some even great buildings for women and was by all these means supportive of women. Julia Morgan was interested in action. She contributed to women what she could do best.

Judged in this light, Julia Morgan simply cannot be seen as indifferent to feminism.

The pool at Hearst Castle (from the Web)

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