Creative Women with Tess McCabe – Marion Mahony

by Jenny Butler
Thursday 9th June 2011

Today we focus in on the life and work of Marion Mahony – another incredible creative woman being profiled this week by Tess McCabe. If you are loving this week as much as we are, be sure to pop over to the Creative Women’s Circle website for more great features! – Jenny x

Marion Mahony in 1930 with Cappy Deans, Walter Burley Griffin, and George Walter Griffin in Castlecrag, New South Wales (via National Library of Australia)

Marion Mahony was the first woman to become a licensed architect in the United States, and throughout her career left an impact on cities around the world, including several in Australia.

Marion spent 15 years working alongside Frank Lloyd Wright (as his right-hand woman), and played a leading role in the progressive architectural movement in Chicago during that time.

She came to Australia in the mid-1910s with husband Walter Burley Griffin (you see, he’d won the competition to build Canberra – though she was responsible for the plan and perspective drawings that made his entry successful!).

Marion was also a talented artist and lover of the Japanese block printing aesthetic – here’s a drawing using ink on silk of Eucalyptus (via The New York Times)

After Canberra, Marion and Walter partnered in the design of many of Australia’s most well known architectural landmarks, including the stunning Capitol Theatre in Melbourne.

The ceiling of Melbourne’s Capital Theatre, designed by Marion Mahony Griffin (image via Wikipedia)

The ceiling of Melbourne’s Capital Theatre, designed by Marion Mahony Griffin (image via National Library of Australia)

Marion is credited with designing the epic (and frankly a bit trippy) roof of the theatre, as well as many of the lead light windows which are scattered throughout the premises.

Left and right images via Powerhouse Museum

Marion was very fashion-forward in her architectural approach – these art deco style leadlight designs for the Capitol Theatre were implemented well before art deco became a popular design style in Australia.

Fun fact: Marion’s mother seemed to have a Creative Women’s Circle of her own back in the day, as this website cites a network of supportive women who aided Marion throughout her career.

Tess x

by Jenny Butler
Thursday 9th June 2011


  • Michelle 5 years ago

    Thanks Tess, really interesting!

  • Phoebe 5 years ago

    Fascinating there were so many women “behind” the famous men we hear so much about!

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