Marking 40 Years, Chicago Women In Architecture Launches a New Exhibit

The second week of January, 1974 had a few noteworthy events:

  • Richard Nixon refused to hand over tapes to the Watergate Committee
  • The Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” hit #1 on the pop charts
  • The Loch Ness Monster was reportedly photographed

And, at 664 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago Women in Architecture held its first official meeting, with nine attendees.

Chicago Women in Architecture logoThis year, C.W.A. celebrates its 40th anniversary, and the organization will be featured in a Chicago Architecture Foundation exhibit opening June 13. The exhibit is free and will remain open through the end of 2014 at the C.A.F. at 224 South Michigan Avenue.

In a nod to the group’s past, the invitation to the first meeting on January 12, 1974 (handwritten, on fax paper) is included in the exhibit. Visitors will learn about the contributions to Chicago architecture by women. The exhibit also looks at the C.W.A.’s present, and future.

Left to right: C.W.A. 1st V.P. Gail Cavanaugh, President Charlene Andreas and Past President Marsha Spencer

Left to right: C.W.A. 1st V.P. Gail Cavanaugh, President Charlene Andreas and Past President Marsha Spencer

“Our organization has been around for 40 years, we’re celebrating that,” said Gayle Cavanaugh C.W.A. first vice president and treasurer. “Early on, we offered scholarships to women in the final years of getting their degree. Initially it was just a couple hundred dollars, but this past year it was closer to $4,000.”

Through the years, the group has also been active in advancing the role of women in the profession, Cavanaugh said. Times have changed, and the C.W.A. has worked to remain viable and relevant.

“We continue to exist and been a good organization because Chicago has a strong architecture community, so we’ve lasted longer than women’s architecture groups in other large cities, said Charlene Andreas, C.W.A. president. “Some have had women’s organizations that come and go, but we’re the only one that has been here since its inception.”

CAF Women In Architecture ExhibitAndreas said the C.W.A. was committed to continuing its legacy, and the group will conduct a strategic planning program in the fall.

“We want to make sure it’s still relevant, and be a good support network for women in the profession.”

Location: 224 South Michigan Avenue, The Loop



Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at

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