Marion Lucy Mahony Griffin (1871–1961)

Detail from Marion Mahony Griffin seated, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Miles Franklin papers ref. PX*D 250/3 43.

Born: Chicago February 14 1871
Died: Cook County Hospital August 10 1961, ashes at Graceland Cemetery

Architect, community planner, delineator

Born and raised in Chicago Marion Lucy Mahony Griffin (1871–1961) worked as an architect in the United States, Australia and India. Her active professional career spanned 50 years: the early years as a young architect in turn of the century Chicago (1894–1914), the middle years in Australia and India (1914–1938) and the later years in Chicago (1938–c1944). As the second woman to graduate in architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (1894), and the first registered woman architect in Illinois, she helped pioneer women’s participation in architecture in the United States. She contributed as a designer to the development of the Prairie School which revolutionised American architecture, and to the dissemination of its ideas through her drawings. Her pursuit of democratic ideals in architecture and community planning in Australia, especially Canberra and Castlecrag and the United States, is significant, and throughout her life she maintained an outspoken position on environmental and planning matters.

Mahony Griffin’s professional life needs to be read against the backdrop of her working and personal relationships, especially with Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959), the pre-eminent Prairie School architect, and her architect husband Walter Burley Griffin (1876–1937), and in relation to late nineteenth century Chicago. Social conditions and social reform, and the search for spiritual alternatives to Christianity and materialism by artistic communities in Chicago (and elsewhere), bear on an understanding of Mahony’s personal and professional development.

More about Marion Mahony Griffin at the Walter Burley Griffin Society

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