“Come and meet other female architects about coalition […] all invited” was the call Gertrude Lempp Kerbis sent to women in the Chicago architecture community. The call was answered, and on the morning of January 12, 1974 Kerbis welcomed colleagues to her office at 664 North Michigan Avenue and the organization Chicago Women in Architecture (CWA) was founded.
These twelve women founders—Gertrude Lempp Kerbis, Nancy Abshire, Pao Chi-Chang, Gunduz Dagdelen, Natalie de Blois, Laura Fisher, Jane M. Jacobsen, Barbara Ralph, Carol Ross Barney, Pu Hu Shao, Cynthia Weese, and Margaret Zirkel Young—felt the need to join together and support each other to combat the isolation felt by women architects at the time. Issues such as lack of recognition for their contributions, lack of access to public projects, lack of professional support for the challenges of raising children or caring for aging parents, lack of pay equity, and lack of sensitivity to gender differences have improved somewhat since 1974, but there are continuing challenges for women architects.
Though progress has been made since CWA was founded in 1974, it is clear that there is still work to be done to support an equitable future for all. CWA’s continuing purpose as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit, volunteer-led membership organization is to support women throughout their careers. CWA is the organization for women architects—licensed or not—students, professionals, or retirees, can spend a few minutes reveling in the company of like-minded individuals. Women who know what it means to want to be an architect.