Word and Image

Archive for January 31, 2018

Mary Coulter – Architect – (female)


Colleen has a penchant for biographies. Wherever we have been she haunts the bookstore for local women and their struggles and achievements. I hardly paid attention.

…Well, I do. It’s like when the kids were little and I half listened as the “wife” would prattle along at breakfast. I got practiced at listening and being able to repeat the last ten words so as to look engaged as I avidly read the sports page. (I can still do it, though I don’t need to… no current wife.) To paraphrase, she one day related, “You know (NYC) cabs like to come up beside you and honk while you are driving.” Distractedly, “Oh, what do you do?” (avidly reading said NY Times) She replied excitedly, “When they beep I look over and they jump ahead and cut me off. So instead, I step on the gas and don’t allow them past.” She sat with a satisfied smug grin while I cringed knowing that her next car accident was right around the corner. “No! Don’t do that!” as I realized that, indeed, I did have the ability to follow a conversation without listening.

We leased a Volvo wagon in 1991. It was a running joke among my friends that we had no original parts on that car when we turned that vehicle in. (She was a new driver.) We actually achieved the ignominious distinction of being uninsurable. Imagine paying $26,000 a year for auto insurance. Yep! A month later I shopped for another vendor and we were immediately invited to enroll in a major carrier at about $1500/year. Go figure. I did not ask why and we were still insured with them decades later.

…okay, back to my story. Grand Canyon. I’m there for the pictures and the scenery. We’re in the bookstore. Sunset is in an hour. Look! Surprise! Books! Mary was an architect at a time when there were no women in architecture. She (actually) had to have men draw her plans. And she designed some pretty strange stuff. So it’s good the men were there to help (watch over) her….KIDDING! Her designs at the Grand Canyon were to incorporate her buildings to fit in with the environment. She also was the designer/architect for the “Harvey houses.” (Remember: Judy Garland – “The Harvey Girls.) Yes, Mary was pretty special and a woman of achievement at a time long before “equality.” I learned something new. Wasn’t that special?