International Women’s Day Virtual Symposium – Chicago Women in Midcentury Design

Sunday March 7, 2021

Presenters: Susan S. Benjamin, Kim Soss, Julia Bachrach, Victoria Matranga, Lynn Martin Windsor

Moderators: Christina Morris, Senior Field Director & Program Manager for “Where Women Made History,” National Trust for Historic Preservation and Lisa DiChiera, Director of Advocacy & Project Manager for “Women Who Built Illinois,” Landmarks Illinois.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Where Women Made History” campaign and Landmarks Illinois’ “Women Who Built Illinois” project join forces to present leading Chicago women in Midcentury Design.

During the decades surrounding World War II, Chicago was frequently called “the Crossroads of America” and “the Hub of American Industry.” From 1940-1970, societal expectations and economic realities often made it difficult for women to pursue collegiate education and professional careers, yet many did – and excelled, becoming role models for the generations of young women who followed. Most of these pioneers have been forgotten – and yet they were responsible for many of the best-known places, products or images representing Midcentury modern design.

With growing awareness and appreciation of Midcentury design and Chicago’s legacy as an industrial and economic powerhouse, we will celebrate some of Chicago’s women forerunners in five design professions: architecture, interior design, landscape design, industrial design and graphic design.

Please join us for this very special two-hour Zoom Webinar in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8. Our webinar will include brief stretch-breaks and moderated Q&A’s with the presenters. All registrants will receive a one-time customer-specific link prior to the webinar, with future access to the recorded session.

Supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Where Women Made History” campaign. 

Co-hosted by the Farnsworth House Historic Site and Landmarks Illinois.

Christina Morris is Senior Field Director, Los Angeles, for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Chris is also currently the Campaign Manager of “Where Women Made History” for the National Trust, a new, multi-year effort to increase recognition and respect for women’s contributions to American history. A skilled preservation professional and dedicated advocate, Chris is passionate about helping people, organizations, communities, and civic leaders strategize to save places that matter most to them. She is an experienced project manager and excels at bringing together an array of preservation tools and strategies to find creative, community-oriented solutions. To be inclusive of sites and issues that represent our collective and diverse American story, Chris’s work is wide-ranging – but she has a personal interest in the history, design, and materials of the twentieth century. Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Studies from Trinity University and a Master’s in Historic Preservation and Conservation from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Lisa DiChiera is the Director of Advocacy for Landmarks Illinois, where, among other things, she is project manager for the “Women Who Built Illinois” project. Lisa has been Director of Advocacy for Landmarks Illinois since 2003 and was the Director of Chicago Programs from 1994-1997. Lisa is on the frontline of all calls from the public when preservation assistance is needed, and she manages major preservation advocacy initiatives in the Chicagoland area. She worked previously for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Hines Interests. She serves on the board of Glessner House and on the Land Use & Housing Committee of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). She has been twice included in the Newcity “Design 50” list of the 50 people shaping Chicago design. Lisa holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art and Architectural History from University of California Los Angeles and a Master’s of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.

Susan S. Benjamin is an architectural historian with 40-plus years of experience in a broad array of preservation activities. She and members of her firm, Benjamin Historic Certifications, have written numerous local landmark and National Register nominations for Illinois buildings of all periods and styles. Susan frequently lectures on topics ranging from historic landscapes to residential architecture to the history of shopping malls. Her most recent book, Modern in the Middle, Chicago Houses 1929-1975, (Monacelli Press, 2020) was co-authored with Michelangelo Sabatino. Prior to writing about modernism, Susan and architect Stuart Cohen wrote two books together on Chicago area architecture: Great Houses of Chicago: 1871-1921 and North Shore Chicago: Houses of the Lakefront Suburbs 1890-1940, (Acanthus Press, 2008 and 2004, respectively). Modern in the Middle is likely the first book in history to reference both spouses as the original owners of a house. Susan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Brown University and a Master’s of Arts in Art History from the University of Minnesota.

Kim Soss is the Director of the Graham Resource Center (GRC) at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) College of Architecture. Her research as a former dealer in 20th Century Design prepared her for a career in library and information science. She now continues to explore her broad interests in 20c design which now includes many of the architecture and design luminaries associated with IIT and the Institute of Design.  In 2018, she co-created the Graham Foundation-funded program series, Alfred Caldwell and the Performance of Democracy with Ron Henderson, Professor and Director of the Master of Landscape Architecture + Urban Design program at IIT. In addition to assisting faculty, students and alumni with their reading and research interests, she organizes occasional exhibitions at the GRC. Kim holds a Bachelor of Fine and Applied Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Julia Bachrach is an author, lecturer, historian, preservationist, and urban planner. She served as historian and planning supervisor to the Chicago Park District for more than two decades. Her books include The City in a Garden: A History of Chicago’s Parks and Inspired by Nature: The Garfield Park Conservatory and Chicago’s West Side.  She contributed essays to AIA Guide to Chicago Architecture, Oxford Companion to the Garden, Midwestern Landscape Architecture, and Encyclopedia of Chicago. Her broadcast appearances include “10 Great Parks That Changed America” (PBS), “Chicago Tonight” and “Biking the Boulevards” (WTTW), “Jens Jensen: The Living Green” (Viva Lundin Productions) and “Curious City” (WBEZ). In 2009, she received the National Stewardship Excellence Award from the Cultural Landscape Foundation, and in 2015, she received a Distinguished Service Award from the American Institute of Architecture-Chicago. Julia holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Culture Studies – Historic Preservation from Roger Williams University and Master’s in Landscape Architecture and Historic Preservation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Victoria Matranga is a curator, author and design historian primarily focused on the industrial design history of Chicago to include women and other minorities in the profession. The Industrial Designers Society of America awarded her honorary membership in 2004 for her special efforts to enhance the public’s appreciation of industrial design. She has consulted on exhibitions for the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago), and The Toledo Museum of Art (Ohio). She was a contributing author to the books, Encyclopedia of Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2004) and Art Deco Chicago: Designing Modern America (Yale University Press, 2018), and has appeared in films, such as the 2019 documentary, “The New Bauhaus” (Opendox, 2020). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Architecture and Art from the University of Illinois – Chicago and a Master’s in Marketing from Northwestern University. She completed the Summer Intensive in Design Writing and Research at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Lynn Martin Windsor is a graphic designer with nearly 60 years of experience, focused primarily on publications for art museums and non-profits. She has created magazines, annual reports, books, newsletters, capital campaign materials and ephemera for institutions such as the University of Chicago, American Bar Association, Brown University, Missouri Botanic Gardens, Lincoln Park Zoo, the Newberry Library, and the City of Chicago. Her work for art museums, galleries and dealers has included exhibition catalogues, books and ephemera for the Art Institute of Chicago, Detroit Institute of Arts, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. She has received numerous awards and has been featured in two solo exhibitions and an exhibition of eight notable designers. Recently, she designed and curated an exhibition at the Koehnline Museum, entitled “Vision in Motion: The Chicago Bauhaus of Moholy-Nagy”, scheduled to open in May, pending COVID restrictions. Lynn holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago and completed graduate study at the Institute of Design.