“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 eight women founders—Gertrude Lempp Kerbis, Carol Ross Barney, Cynthia Weese, Nancy Abshire, Gunduz Dagdelen, Natalie de Blois, Laura Fisher, and Jane M. Jacobsen—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.
It is clear that there is still a need for CWA today. CWA’s continuing purpose is to support this professional journey for women, and give them a place to compare notes so that they know they are not alone in their struggles. It’s the place where 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.