Woman of the Century/Louise Bethune

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BETHUNE, Mrs. Louise, architect, born in Waterloo, N. Y., in 1856. She is of American parentage. Her maiden name was Blanchard. Her father's ancestors were Huguenot refugees. Her mother's family went to Massachusetts from Wales in 1640. Being a delicate child, she was not sent to school until the age of eleven. Meantime she had acquired habits of study and self-reliance which led her through school life to disregard the usual class criterions. In 1874 she was graduated from the Buffalo. N. Y., high school. A caustic remark had previously turned her attention in the direction of architecture, and an investigation, which was begun in a spirit of playful self-defense, soon became an absorbing interest. For two years she taught, traveled and studied, preparatory to taking the architectural course in Cornell University. In 1876 she received LOUISE BRETHUNE.jpgLOUISE BRETHUNE. an offer of an office position as draughtsman and relinquished her former intention of college study. The hours were from eight to six, and the pay was small, but her employer's library was at her service. In 1881 she opened an independent office, thus becoming the first woman architect. She was afterward joined by Robert A. Bethune, to whom she was married in December of the same year. During the ten years of its existence the firm has erected fifteen public buildings and several hundred miscellaneous buildings, mostly in Buffalo and its immediate neighborhood. Mrs. Bethune has made a special study of schools and has been particularly successful in that direction, but refuses to confine herself exclusively to that branch, believing that women who are pioneers in any profession should be proficient in every department, and that now at least women architects must be practical superintendents as well as designers and scientific constructors, and that woman's complete emancipation lies in "equal pay for equal service." Because the competition for the Woman's Building of the Columbia Exposition was not conducted on that principle, Mrs. Bethune refused to submit a design. The remuneration offered to the successful woman was less than half that given for similar service to the men who designed the other buildings. In 1885 Mrs. Bethune was elected a member of the Western Association of Architects. She is still the only woman member of the American Institute. In 1886 she inaugurated the Buffalo Society of Architects, from which has grown the Western New York Association Both were active in securing the passage of the Architects' Licensing Bill, intended to enforce rigid preliminary examinations and designed to place the profession in a position similar to that occupied by medicine and law. In the last five or six years a dozen young women have been graduated from the different architectural courses now open to them, and Mrs. Bethune has ceased to be the "only woman architect."