- Women Journalists - A Marvellous Feat of Memory - A Woman Police Inspector
We must go far back for the pioneer women who led the way in architecture and house decoration as a profession for their sex. Miss Agnes Garrett, who has now retired from work, and her cousin, Miss Rhoda Garrett, were, I believe, the first women to follow this occupation professionally.
Miss Agnes Garrett was a daughter of that remarkably progressive family of Mr. and Mrs. Newson Garrett, of Aldeburgh, which sent forth Elizabeth Garrett (Anderson) to conquer for women the stronghold of the medical profession, and Millicent Garrett (Fawcett) to be the leader of the Woman Suffrage Movement through the forty odd years of its constitutional propaganda.
Miss Agnes Garrett filled her part in the family history by instituting a new career for women. She and her partner, Miss Rhoda Garrett, were received as articled pupils by Mr. J. M. Brydon, the architect who built the municipal buildings in Bath and the new Home Office in Whitehall. They developed special talent for interior decorative work, and, on the conclusion of their apprenticeship, set up as a business firm, and had a most successful career as house decorators, designers of interior panellings, chimney-pieces, and patterns of textiles.
A Womanly Profession
Now, women have sufficiently triumphed over prejudice as to have obtained wide facilities for following this most womanly occupation of planning and decorating the "house beautiful." The School of Architecture, at the Royal College of Art, South Kensington, is open to women; they are admitted as students at University College and King's College - the latter, in its women's branch in Kensington Square, makes architecture a subject in its curriculum - and they may study in the school of architecture of the Royal Academy. We have already seen that the Institute and the Society of Architects admit women to their examinations and membership.
The profession of house decorator is followed with great success by women in America, some of whom have executed decorative and allegorical paintings for important public buildings, besides commissions for hotels and clubs. All the hotels of the Canadian Pacific Railway - from Quebec to Vancouver - have been decorated by a woman.
The question arises as to the ability of a woman following this profession to deal with workers of the opposite sex.
"Are you not afraid of your workmen?" a lady asked Miss M. Cohen, one of our most accomplished designers and decorators.
"Afraid of my workmen?" replied Miss Cohen. "Why, I count them all among my friends. They are willing, polite, and obliging, and it has done me good to know them."
Nothing conduces so much to the respect of the employed as the knowledge that the employer understands what he or she is talking about; and at this stage of the entry of women into professions hitherto followed by men the fact that they have "got there" proves them to be women of conspicuous ability, and must operate in winning them the confidence of their employees.
Engineering is another profession which is beginning to attract feminine talent, and indeed it seems a natural sequence that if women can deal successfully with plans and specifications for houses and public buildings, and can acquire the technical knowledge of wall-building, paving, and drainage for the laying out of grounds, they are also capable of learning the construction of bridges, aqueducts, and roads. In Russia women have demonstrated this beyond question. At the Higher Technical College in St. Petersburg, women are taught the principles of engineering, with the result that several Russian women have become fully qualified engineers.
In Great Britain it is rare to find a lady engineer at present. Reference has been made in a previous article to the scientific attainments of Mrs. Hertha Ayrton, the only woman member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. If we cross to the Emerald Isle we shall there find in Miss Alice Perry, county surveyor to the county of Galway, a lady who has taken her degree as a Bachelor of Engineering. She gained practical experience under her late father, and was appointed to succeed him as county surveyor.
To turn to yet another unique occupation for women, we find at Whippingham, Isle of Wight, a woman stationmaster. Mrs. Emily Merwood has discharged the duties of that responsible position for close upon a quarter of a century, and she proudly affirms that she has never had an accident or any disturbance happen at her station. All visitors to Whippingham must have very pleasant memories of its brisk and obliging "station-master," and admire her alert, keen eye, and general air of knowing what she is about, while her courtesy never fails.
When Mrs. Merwood was appointed to the post the public jumped to the conclusion that her husband was dead, and that she had been allowed to take his place. Mrs. Merwood, however, was not a widow, and was appointed to her post because of her general fitness for it, her husband following at the same time his own occupation as a platelayer upon the line.
Miss Alice Perry, who has taken her degree as Bachelor of Engineering and been appointed county survey or to the county of Galway, Ireland, in succession to her late father Illustrations Bureau