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Over the Ocean: Women Immigrants in American Landscape Architecture in the 1940s and 1950s

Ulrike Krippner, Institut für Landschaftsarchitektur, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria, Summer Fellow 2010

In the 1920s and 1930s, a handful of women garden architects ran their own practices in and around Vienna. However, because they were Jewish, in 1938/39 they had to escape from Nazi terrorism. Two of them, Hanny Strauss and Helene Wolf, immigrated to the United States. This research project focused on two points: finding biographical data as well as looking at the roles of women landscape architects in the postwar era. It was based on a systematic review of contemporary and recent publications and biographical information systems, utilizing resources that were unavailable in Vienna.

Publications of the postwar era fail to address women's contributions to American landscape architecture. This seems to carry on the profession's prewar efforts towards professionalization, mirroring the shift from landscape gardening, considered as amateurish and female, to landscape architecture, viewed as competitive and male. Discussions only started in the early 1970s, when authors mostly referred to women pioneers of the early twentieth century and lamented the lack of women in the postwar era. Yet, a closer look at contemporary and recent publications as well as intense conversations with scholars show that many women successfully pursued their practices in the 1940s and 1950s, but were not widely recognized then. Even today women's contributions during this period are still hardly explored.

Regarding Hanny Strauss and Helene Wolf, this general insight helps explain why I have not found any evidence of their American professional experience so far. Having been garden architects and gardeners with their own nurseries in Vienna, they were not only deprived of their former connections, but did not meet American professional regulations of that time. They both might simply have worked as gardeners in order to survive. The results of this research project will be published in a book on Viennese women garden architects.