Radical Woman of the Day: Julia Morgan

On this day in 1872 was born Julia Morgan, the first woman to be licensed as an architect in the state of California, and the first woman accepted to study as an architect at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Raised by a strong, independent mother, Morgan put off having a debutante party in favor of starting a career and took a civil engineering degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1894, the only female engineer in her class. At the encouragement of Bernard Maybeck, who had mentored Morgan in architecture during her time at the University, she applied to the Beaux-Arts school. At first refused entrance in 1896 because the school did not accept women, she reapplied in 1897 when activist pressure forced a change to the rule. Although Morgan initially failed to pass the entrance exam, she studied for two years under François-Benjamin Chaussemiche to pass the exam the second time, placing 13th out of 376.

Obtaining her certificate in architecture from the Beaux-Arts school in 1902, Morgan worked for a time as a draftsman in San Francisco before being licensed as a California architect in 1904. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 brought her initial success, but her later fame would come primarily from commissions by William Randolph Hearst, for whom she built (among others) Hearst Castle and its guest house, The Hacienda, and Wyntoon, another “castle” residence with accompanying smaller houses.

Morgan believed strongly in the advancement of women, and she built several YWCA buildings, some of which are still standing, and a number of buildings for Mills College, a women’s college in Oakland, CA. She died in 1957 and in 2008 was inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

Via Shelby Knox.