Victoria’s Read

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05/02/2009 (11:28 am)

Esther Marjorie Hill

Filed under: Her Story

Marjorie Hill

Born Guelph, On, May 29, 1895; died Victoria, BC Jan 7, 1985.

Originally, Marjorie Hill applied and was accepted in 1916 as the first woman to be admitted into architectural studies at the University of Alberta. She later transferred to the University of Toronto and earned her BSc in Architecture in 1920, becoming the first woman to graduate in architecture in Canada. The head of the Architecture Department at the University decided not to attend her graduation.

In 1920, after her first graduation, the only work she could find was being an interior designer in the Eaton’s Department store. Marjorie then worked for a year as a draftsman at MacDonald and Magoon Architects before she decided to follow post-graduate studies in Town Planning at Toronto. She also attended a course at Columbia University, New York. Marjorie Hill remained to work in New York City before returning to Edmonton in 1928.

Architecture is a provincial domain in Canada and she became a registered architect in Alberta, 1925 only after the Alberta Legislature passed an act that allowed any graduate from a Canadian university to be accepted. Marjorie Hill worked in Edmonton on several projects, including the Public Library prior to the great depression. Jobs of all kinds were scarce and she applied herself to weaving, spinning and crafts. She also taught and published pamphlets on her work to survive.

In 1936, she relocated to Victoria, British Columbia, where her weaving and spinning became more of a lifetime award winning avocation. It was here that she would establish her own architectural business.  In British Columbia, Marjorie Hill was recognized as an architect in 1952. She was the first woman to serve on the Victoria Town Planning Committee, from 1946-1952. Marjorie designed houses, apartment buildings and the first purpose-build care home, Glenwarren Lodge Private Hospital. She used natural lighting and applied commonsense to working areas in kitchens and provided lots of storage spaces in her houses. Unfortunately, only a few of her original designs remain in the Archives at the University of Toronto.

She battled discrimination at her university, in her home province and within her chosen profession. Marjorie Hill survived the depression by establishing a lifelong interest in practical and artistic weaving and spinning. In the end she earned recognition in both her chosen profession and her artistic endeavors.

Submitted by Dawn Monroe.

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