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Mary Ann Crawford (1901-1988)

Dates of Interview:

May 17, 1983

Location of Interview:

Crawford's home in Chicago


Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

40 pages
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Photograph by Betty J. Blum.

Biographical Summary

Mary Ann Elizabeth Crawford was born in 1901 in Girard, Illinois. She was one of the first women architects in Illinois. When she graduated in 1930 from the Massachusets Institute of Technology with both a B.A. and an M.A. in architecture, jobs were scarce, but Crawford found work with the Works Progress Administration, Historic American Buildings Survey, and with the Century of Progress International Exhibition, held in Chicago in 1933-34. In 1941 she obtained a license in architecture and in 1943 she was also licensed in engineering. During her career she worked independently for various architects, was the designer for Montgomery Ward stores, and collaborated with an interior designer. In 1959 she returned to private practice. In the 1980s, her early student Beaux Arts-style renderings were exhibited to great acclaim. Crawford died in 1988 in Springfield, Illinois.

Interview Highlights

Crawford speaks about her family background; her education and travels; schools in Boston: art school and MIT; her jobs after MIT; working for Lindberg Engineering Company; the role of color; working for Earl Reed; more about Lindberg Engineering; obtaining licenses; the Historic American Buildings Survey.

MIT student project: Shelter under a Terrace, c.1927.
Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

MIT student project: Monument, c. 1929.
Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Interview Excerpt

"Well, we had to do these color problems on Monday morning [at MIT]. It didn't matter whether you were a sophomore or what you were, you had to hand in a color problem. Sometimes they specified whether they wanted flowers, or sometimes they didn't even bother to specify....And the girls always placed first. These boys that came in from outside offices as special students complained. They didn't see why the girls always placed first. Finally, they jumped on the professor. He was standing there and he said, 'You boys don't need to bother. The girls will always be first. They know color from their first dress. They know how to pick out color. Besides that, most of you are color-blind anyway.'" (pp. 22-23)

Funding for this oral history was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.