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HILL, (Esther) Marjorie

Guelph, Ontario, 1895
Victoria, British Columbia, 1985
Biography synopsis
Hill was the first woman to graduate from an architecture program in Canada, the first woman in Canada to receive the professional designation of Registered Architect (Alberta Association of Architects in 1925), and also served as the first woman on the Victoria Town Planning Commission (1945-1950). After obtaining a B.A degree from the University of Alberta in 1916, Hill enrolled in architecture at the same university. However, the program was cancelled in 1918, and she transferred to the University of Toronto where she was the first woman to graduate with a degree in architecture from a Canadian university (1920), and where she later pursued postgraduate work in urban planning. Hill was employed in the interior decorating department at Eaton’s in Toronto, and in 1922 she worked for MacDonald and Magoon Architects on the Edmonton Public Library. In the summer of 1923, she studied at Columbia University and later worked with the architectural firm of Schenck and Mead (1923-1924) and with architect Kathryn C. Budd (1925-1928) in New York. She returned to the Edmonton office of MacDonald and Magoon Architects from 1928 to 1930. During the Depression Hill turned her design skills to glove making and became a master weaver. In 1936 she moved to Victoria, B.C. where her modernist approach with a specialization in house and kitchen designs led to commissions for the following residences: Aspinwall (1946-7), Bellchambers and Sellers (1947), and the Begg and Gamble residences (1940s/50s). Considered one of Hill’s best designs is the Modernist apartment building on Fort Street (1952). Hill’s non-residential designs included the main building of Lincoln Cemetery, the Optimist Club Workshop, and an addition to Emmanuel Baptist Church. Her innovative design for the Glenwarren Lodge (1961) was one of the first purpose-built seniors housing in Canada. Hill retired from her architectural practice in 1963 but continued to pursue weaving until her death. (I. Puchalski)
Media used
University of Alberta, 1914 - 1916
University of Alberta, 1916 - 1918
University of Toronto, 1918 - 1920
University of Toronto, 1922 - 1923
Columbia University, New York, 1923 (under Summer course)
Alberta Association of Architects (AAA), 1925
Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC), 1953
File & Archive locations
University of Toronto, ON - Archives and Records Management Services
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Virginia Tech, VA - International Archive of Women in Architecture

Writings about
Constructing Careers: Profiles of Five Early Women Architects in British Columbia. Vancouver: Women in Architecture Exhibits Committee, 1996
"Architect E.M. Hill." Gazette (Montreal) 14 Jan. 1985: D12
"Canada's First Woman Architect to Work for a Better Housing System." Toronto Star Weekly 12 June 1920
"Canada's First Woman Architect." Saturday Night 12 June 1920:31
"First Woman Architect in Canada, Marjorie Hill Dies in Victoria at 89." Victoria Times Colonist 14 Jan. 1985: A3
"First Woman Architect Receives Big Ovation." Globe (Toronto) 5 June 1920: 8
"Miss Marjorie's Plans." Mail and Empire (Toronto) 7 Aug. 1920
"New Trail Blazed by a Varsity Girl." Globe (Toronto) 3 June 1920: 10
"One of Four is Sole Returnee." Oak Bay Star 3 July 1980
"Only Woman to Receive Applied Science Degree." Edmonton Journal 5 June 1920:10
"Pioneer Woman Architect Dies." Province 13 Jan. 1985: 23
"Studies Town Planning." Mail and Empire (Toronto) 24 Oct. 1922
"View and Sunshine in Privacy." Daily Colonist (Victoria) 13 April 1956: 26
Adams, Annmarie. ""Marjorie's Web" Canada's First Woman Architect and Her Clients." Rethinking Professionalism: Women and Art in Canada, 1850-1970. Ed. Kristina Huneault and Janice Anderson. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012. 380-399
Adams, Annmarie. "Gender Issues: Designing Women." Architecture School: Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America. Ed. Joan Ockman, and Rebecca Williamson. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2012
Adams, Annmarie & Peta Tancred. 'Designing Women': Gender and the Architectural Profession. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000
Adams, Annmarie and Peta Tancred. "Designing Women: Then and Now." Canadian Architect 45.11 (Nov. 2000):16-17
Adams, Annmarie and Peta Tancred. "One More Profession "Invaded"." Beaver 80.6 (Dec. 2000/Jan. 2001): 30-31
Bennett, Elizabeth. "Retired Architect Enjoys Many Hobbies." Victoria Daily Times 27 Aug. 1968
Contreras, Monica, Luigi Ferrara & Daniel Karpinski. "Breaking In: Four Early Female Architects." Canadian Architect 38.11 (Nov. 1993): 18-23
Dedyna, Katherine. "Designing Woman." Victoria Times Colonist 15 June 2000: B7
Grierson, Joan and the For the Record Committee, eds. For the Record: The First Women in Canadian Architecture. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2008
Herrington, Cobina G.. "The Elusive Miss Hill." Unpublished student paper. Victoria, British Columbia: Held in the Library of the Ministry of Tourism, Recreation, 14 March 1988
Langford, Elizabeth. "1170 Fort Street: Reading Hill's Modernism." Unpublished student paper. Victoria, British Columbia: Written at University of Victoria, 13 March 1997
Library and Archives Canada. "Esther Marjorie Hill." Celebrating Women's Achievements: Themes Science Sept. 2010
Little, Betty. "First Architect: Hill Celebrates Her Birthday." Oak Bay Star 30 May 1984
McGregor, Kay. "Marjorie Hill, Architect, Also is Skilled Weaver." Victoria Times Colonist 14 June 1953
Ridley, Hilda. "Pen Portraits of Progressive Women: Miss Esther M. Hill." Christian Guardian 30 March 1921: 8
Stainsby, Mia. "Women in Architecture Then and Now." Vancouver Sun 17 April 1995
Swoboda, Victor. "Breaking Barriers by Building: Book Details Progress Made by Women in Architecture." Gazette (Montreal) 5 Aug. 2000: J4
University of Toronto. For the Record: Ontario Women Graduates in Architecture, 1920-1960. Exhibition. 1986
Van Ginkel, Blanche Lemco. "Esther Marjorie Hill." Canadian Encyclopedia 2012
Van Ginkel, Blanche Lemco. "Slowly and Surely (and Somewhat Painfully): More or Less the History of Women in Architecture in Canada." Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada Bulletin 17.1 (Mar. 1991): 5-11
Van Ginkel, Blanche Lemco. "Slowly and Surely (But Somewhat Painfully): More or Less the History of Women in Architecture in Canada." Canadian Architect 38.11 (Nov. 1993): 15-17
Virginia Tech. "IAWA Database Information for (Esther) Marjorie Hill." International Archive of Women in Architecture Nov. 2003

Writings by
Hill, Esther Marjorie. "An Exposition of Town Planning." Housing and Town Planning Thesis. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1922-1923
Hill, Esther Marjorie. "Common Faults in House Design." Agricultural Alberta 1.8 (Feb. 1921): 10
Hill, Esther Marjorie. "House Design." Daily Colonist (Victoria) 13 April 1956
Hill, Esther Marjorie. "Location and Design." Agricultural Alberta 1.5 (Nov. 1920): 7, 25
Hill, Esther Marjorie. "The Problem of the Small House." Agricultural Alberta 1.10 (April 1921): 12
Hill, Esther Marjorie. "The Small House and Its Problems." Agricultural Alberta 1.3 (Sept. 1920): 29
Hill, Marjorie. Glove Making. Toronto: Macmillan, 1945

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