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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Landscape Architecture, A New Field for Women at the Turn of the Century

In the late nineteenth century, the relative newness of landscape architecture as profession offered some hope for women who wanted pursue it as a profession. It was not, however, without its road blocks. Marian Cruger Coffin, considered to be one of the first women to practice landscape design in America explained, “It is hard to get a start, as there is a prejudice in many offices against employing women…. A woman has to solve many problems and learn the ropes entirely by herself, while the man has the advantage of long office training and experience.” Despite the early challenges, women pioneers like Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand and Ellen Biddle Shipman pursued garden design through estate gardening. Coffin designed numerous estates on the East Coast, including the water gardens at Thornedale in New York. Her largest commission was at Winterthur for Harry F. du Pont.

Other women also found careers in garden photography including Frances Benjamin Johnston, Mattie Edwards Hewitt, Jessie Tarbox Beale, and (Mary) Marvin Breckinridge Patterson to name but a few.

--Kelly Crawford, Museum Specialist
Archives of American Gardens
Smithsonian Gardens


  1. Wish the pictures were bigger in the post (or at least got bigger when clicked on)! This image would be gorgeous blown up!

  2. How can I find out more about the commission at Winterthur?

  3. As far as published sources go, see Robin Karson's chapter on Winterthur in "A Genius for Place" published in 2007.