Measuring Milestones: Feminist Histories of Architecture in Canada and the United States

By Bassnett, Sarah | Resources for Feminist Research, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Measuring Milestones: Feminist Histories of Architecture in Canada and the United States


Bassnett, Sarah, Resources for Feminist Research


This paper reviews and compares selections from the feminist historiography of architecture in Canada and the United States in order to consider how feminist revisions have affected architectural history in each country. By looking at some Canadian and American exhibitions and publications focusing on women in architecture, I analyze how the notion of gender has been defined in feminist histories and what is at stake in their production. I set out to show that by contributing to the redefinition of what is considered historically significant, revisionist approaches to architectural history extend the relevance of Canadian histories to a wider audience.

In the 1970s, many academics began to define a new way of practising historical study within their disciplines. In art history, for example, T. J. Clark and John Tagg were involved in formulating a program of study on the social history of art,(1) and Linda Nochlin initiated a feminist challenge to the discipline with her groundbreaking essay of 1971, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?"(2) Drawing on contemporary feminist theory and studies such as Nochlin's, feminist scholars in architectural history began to question and challenge the "master" narrative of their own discipline. For many, this was an attempt not only to add women as new subject matter to historical study, but to critically re-examine what qualified as historically significant. In contrast to the canonical architectural history that focussed on the individual genius of "master" architects and major buildings, feminist histories addressed such issues as women's access to education and professional training, and the effect of women's social roles on their ability to practise in the architectural profession, along with domestic and vernacular architecture, which was more likely to have been designed by women than was "high" architecture. The undertaking to redefine historical study by incorporating gender issues, as well as issues of race and class, has led to a significant revision of the canonical history of architecture.

This paper reviews and compares selections from the feminist historiography of architecture in Canada and the United States in order to consider how feminist revisions have affected architectural history in each country. By looking at some of the Canadian and American exhibitions and publications that have focussed on women in architecture, I analyze how the notion of gender has been defined in feminist histories, who is represented in these histories, and what is at stake in their production. In discussing these issues, I set out to show that by contributing to the redefinition of what is considered historically significant, revisionist approaches to architectural history extend the relevance of Canadian histories to a wider audience.

Histories of Canadian architecture are commonly considered important within the country because they contribute to an understanding of Canada's cultural heritage and national identity. However, outside of the country, Canadian topics hold a somewhat peripheral place within the discipline. Questions regarding the significance of Canadian work in the broader field and the affects of engaging feminist theory within Canadian architectural history arose for me because, as a Canadian studying at an American university, I have encountered different priorities and divergent perspectives between the disciplinary practices in each country. Border crossing, with its regulatory mechanisms, requisite display of documents, and recounting of explanations is not only a physical practice enacted at customs, but it is also an intellectual one. On one hand, presenting papers, publishing articles and negotiating with committee members regarding Canadian topics involves different justifications of their relevance in the United States than they would in Canada. On the other hand, presenting Canadian material in the United States can have considerable effects in terms of the dissemination of national cultural production and in providing an alternative outlook on Canadian subject matter.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Measuring Milestones: Feminist Histories of Architecture in Canada and the United States
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?