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Women's School of Planning and Architecture Records, 1974 - 1992 (Bulk: 1974-81)
18 boxes (12.25 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 306

Abstract:
Educational program and feminist collective. The Women's School of Planning and Architecture Records provides a detailed account of the successes and struggles of an experimental, non-hierarchical educational institution founded at the height of the 1970s women's movement. Records document the School's sessions on feminist architectural planning and design. There is also rich documentation of the founding, planning, and operation of the School. Materials include correspondence; histories; photographs; extensive audio-visual material; publications; publicity and memorabilia.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the WSPA records. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." The donors request to also be informed of any publication from these records.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Historical Note
Women's School of Planning and Architecture  participants forming a woman symbol, 1975

Women's School of Planning and Architecture
participants forming a woman symbol,
1975

The Women's School of Planning and Architecture (WSPA) was an experiment in feminist education for women interested in architecture, planning, and environmental design. The School was founded by Katrin Adam, Ellen Perry Berkeley, Noel Phyllis Birkby (see also N. Phyllis Birkby Papers, Bobbie Sue Hood, Marie I. Kennedy, Joan Forrester Sprague, and Leslie Kanes Weisman. The founders had met as a result of the formation of professional organizations for women architects and planners (beginning in 1972) and through attendance at the first U.S. conferences on women in architecture in 1974 and 1975. These opportunities to meet and share experiences with other women professionals led them to a conviction that an alternative educational experience would be a valuable way to address the "shared common goals and interests not being met within the existing professional contexts" according to the 1975 WSPA brochure.

The same brochure describes the founders goals:

...to create a personally supportive atmosphere and a stimulating exchange of ideas in a vacation setting. We hope to encourage both personal and professional growth through a fuller integration of our values and identities as women with our values and identities as designers. Our aim is to create a forum within which we may discover and define the particular qualities, concerns, and abilities that we as women bring to the environmental design professions.

WSPA was deliberately experimental. It was to be a new form of organization providing a new style of educational experience. The Coordinators used feedback from participants to make adjustments and innovations designed to help the organization better meet its goals. WSPA's founders understood that the development of an effective alternative school meant that there would be no set format for WSPA sessions. Within a general set of criteria, they envisioned an ever-changing and evolving entity responsive to the needs of the participants.

The School aimed to attract participants from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations by making an interest in environmental design the only admission "requirement" and by holding each session at a different location. Tuition was kept to a minimum and work-study scholarships were available. While the focus of the earlier sessions could be characterized as "consciousness raising, skill building, and [theoretical discussion]" among women who were primarily professionals and academics, in its latter years WSPA was moving toward involvement in political activism based on collaboration with "grassroots women."

According to co-founders Noel Phyllis Birkby and Leslie Kanes Weisman, all participants in WSPA were considered members of a peer group "equally responsible and equally capable of making a contribution" (in "The Women's School of Planning and Architecture," in Learning Our Way: Essays in Feminist Education). Sessions were planned by a group of Coordinators who were essentially self-selected, based on their willinginess and ability to devote the time and energy necessary to bring off a successful session. This was not a volunteer commitment, but a professional engagement paid through income generated by tuition fees.

The curriculum was designed to offer subject matter unavailable in standard academic or professional settings. Courses were conducted by methods designed to "eliminate some of the effects of male-defined and identified educations." Instructors emphasized "the active participation of all members of the group, minimizing the role of the coordinators as experts or authorities," while maximizing their "roles as information sources and organizers" (Birkby and Weisman).

There were five WSPA sessions in all: at St. Joseph's College in Biddeford, Maine, in 1975; at Stephenson College in Santa Cruz, California, in 1976; at Roger Williams College in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1978; at Regis College in Denver, Colorado, in 1979; and a weekend symposium in Washington, DC, in 1981. A session planned and advertised for 1980 at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, was cancelled when registration targets were not met.

The level of energy and commitment required to create a new style of organization offering an ever-changing educational experience soon proved difficult to sustain. Adding to the complexity was the fact that Coordinators were scattered around the country, making communication and consensus-building extraordinarily difficult. Though WSPA remained a legal corporation after the final session in 1981, no additional sessions came to fruition. Internal struggles developed, the School was perpetually short of money, and, probably most importantly, no group of Coordinators came forward to take on the challenge of planning a session. In a 1989 piece on WSPA for the book Architecture: A Place for Women, Leslie Kanes Weisman described it as a product of its time, ideal for "the consciousness-raising task of defining problems," but less useful for "designing and implementing solutions."

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Women's School of Planning and Architecture Records consist of 10.5 linear feet of audiotapes, correspondence, memorabilia, memoranda, minutes, films, photographs, publications, slides, videotapes, and other materials. They date from 1974 to 1992 with the bulk of the materials documenting the period between 1974 and 1981. The Records contain rich documentation of the founding, planning, and operation of the School. They provide a detailed account of the successes and struggles of an experimental, non-hierarchical educational institution founded at the height of the 1970s women's movement.

The intentions of the School's founders are well documented in the publications and publicity materials in Series I as well as the Coordinators' Records (Series II). Because the Coordinators were scattered geographically and thus forced to communicate primarily by mail, the written record of their work is exceptionally rich. True to the experimental and unconventional nature of the organization, information in Series II is rarely in standardized formal documents such as minutes and reports. Formal minutes exist for a relatively brief period, but other kinds of records of the work of the group, such as notes and circular letters, abound.

Nearly two-thirds of the total volume of the surviving records is materials created for or during the sessions themselves. Sensitive to the ground breaking nature of their endeavor, the Coordinators arranged for extensive written and audio visual documentation of the first WSPA session in 1975, when large portions of the session were captured on video and audiotape (available in Series III and Series IV). Included in the Records is a finished film about the 1975 session. Documentation of sessions after 1975 is less comprehensive.

Related materials in the Sophia Smith Collection can be found in the personal papers of WSPA co-founder Noel Phyllis Birkby.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the WSPA records. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." The donors request to also be informed of any publication from these records.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Records of the Women's School of Planning and Architecture, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The records of the Women's School of Planning and Architecture were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by the executors of the estate of founding coordinator Noel Phyllis Birkby in 1994 and by founding coordinator Ellen Perry Berkeley in 1997.

Accruals:

Periodic additions to collection are expected.

Processing Information

Processed by Maida Goodwin, 1999.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/
Language
English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Series Descriptions
Contents List
SERIES I. GENERAL AND HISTORICAL MATERIALS
(1975-2002, n.d.)


"Herstory"
1976-79

Box 1: folder 1
By-laws, incorporation papers,
1976

Box 1: folder 2
Financial,
1976-79, n.d.

Box 1: folder 3
Library/Bibliographies,
1975-79, n.d.

Box 1: folder 4
Logo, graphics,
1979, n.d.

Box 1: folder 5
Memorabilia,
1975-76, n.d.

Box 1: folder 6
Participant and mailing lists,
1975-79, n.d.

Box 1: folder 7
Publications



Brochures, application forms,
1975-80

Box 1: folder 8
Newsletter,
1975-80, n.d.

Box 1: folder 9
Publicity, press releases, clippings,
1975-84, n.d.

Box 1: folder 10-11
Publicity mailing lists,
1981, n.d.

Box 1: folder 12
Reunion program,
2002

Box 1: folder 13
Statement of goals, policies, purpose,
n.d.

Box 1: folder 14
SERIES II. COORDINATORS' RECORDS
(1974-92, n.d.)


Minutes,
Oct 1975-Mar 1979

Box 2: folder 1-3
Coordinator correspondence, memoranda, notes



1974-15 Mar 1976

Box 2: folder 4-12
16 Mar 1976-May 1977

Box 3: folder 1-14
Jun 1977-Nov 1979

Box 4: folder 1-15
Dec 1979-1980

Box 5: folder 1-4
Symposium "Community Based Alternatives and Women in the '80s": correspondence, memoranda, minutes,
1980-81

Box 5: folder 5-6
Jul 1981-83, 1992, n.d.

Box 5: folder 7-10
General correspondence,
1975-79

Box 5: folder 11-16
General correspondence,
1980-82

Box 6: folder 1-3
Symposium "Community Based Alternatives and Women in the '80s": conference packet,
1981

Box 6: folder 4
SERIES III. SESSIONS
(1975-82)


First Session
(1975), St. Francis College, Biddeford, ME, 10-23 Aug


Bibliography


Box 6: folder 5
Collective Journal


Box 6: folder 6
Core Courses [#3 cancelled]



#1 "The Community Context of Town Development" Ellen Perry Berkeley


Box 6: folder 7
#2 "Demystification of Tools in Relation to Design" Katrin Adam


Box 6: folder 8
#4 "Professionalism Redefined" Marie I. Kennedy and Joan Forrester Sprague


Box 6: folder 9
#5 "Urban Design: The Outside of Inside" Bobbie Sue Hood


Box 6: folder 10
#6 "Women and the Built Environment: Personal, Social, and Professional Perceptions" Noel Phyllis Birkby and Leslie Kanes Weisman


Box 6: folder 11
Correspondence with participants, A - Z


Box 6: folder 12-15
Documentation


Box 7: folder 1
Final Feedback Session


Box 7: folder 2
"Getting Acquainted" information forms


Box 7: folder 3
Housing


Box 7: folder 4
Memorabilia


Box 7: folder 5
Notes, miscellaneous


Box 7: folder 6
Part-time resource people


Box 7: folder 7
Publicity


Box 7: folder 8
Registration cards


Box 7: folder 9
Testimony from participants


Box 7: folder 10
Work study scholarships


Box 7: folder 11
Second Session
(1976), Stevenson College, Santa Cruz, CA, 8-22 Aug


Applications


Box 7: folder 12
Bibliographies


Box 7: folder 13
Core course: "The Writing Process: A Designer's Approach"


Box 7: folder 14
Evaluation of session by coordinators


Box 7: folder 15
Financial


Box 7: folder 16
Location


Box 7: folder 17
Memorabilia


Box 8: folder 1
Planning questionnaire


Box 8: folder 2
Publicity


Box 8: folder 3
Registration cards


Box 8: folder 4
Third Session
(1978), Roger Williams College, Bristol, RI, 13-26 Aug


Applications


Box 8: folder 5
Bibliography, reading list


Box 8: folder 6
Coordinator credentials


Box 8: folder 7
Correspondence with participants, A-Z


Box 8: folder 8-10
Financial


Box 8: folder 11
Memorabilia


Box 8: folder 12
Packet for participants


Box 8: folder 13
Participant information questionnaire,
1978

Box 8: folder 14
Planning for future of WSPA


Box 8: folder 15
Publicity


Box 8: folder 16
Registration cards


Box 9: folder 1
Schedule


Box 9: folder 2
Work study


Box 9: folder 3
Workshops



"Design for Non-traditional Living"


Box 9: folder 4
"Ecology of Sex Roles"


Box 9: folder 5
Weekend


Box 9: folder 6
Fourth Session
(1979), Regis College, Denver, CO, 9-23 Aug


Applications, two-week session,
1979

Box 9: folder 7
Applications, weekend session,
1979

Box 9: folder 8
Bibliography


Box 9: folder 9
Core courses,
1978-79

Box 9: folder 10
Financial aid,
1979

Box 9: folder 11
Information on resource women (faculty),
1979

Box 9: folder 12
Participant list


Box 9: folder 13
schedule


Box 9: folder 14
Proposed international session (1982): correspondence, notes,
1979-82, n.d.

Box 9: folder 15
SERIES IV. AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIAL
(1975-79, n.d.)


Audiotapes: Reel-to-Reel



"WSPA Narrative"
1975

Box 10: folder 1
"Master tapes" (5 reels)
1975

Box 10: folder 2-6
"WSPA stuff"
1975

Box 10: folder 7
"WSPA Sound Tape"
n.d.

Box 10: folder 8
Audiotapes: Cassettes



First Session
(1975), St. Francis College, Biddeford, ME


Discussion (coordinators doing planning?),
1975?

Box 11: folder 1
Orientation,
10 Aug

Box 11: folder 2
Core course #1: The Community Context of Town Development, Ellen Perry Berkeley

[Digital file available]



Box 11: folder 3
Core course #1: Judy Potter


Box 11: folder 4-5
Core course #1: Cheri Chaney, planning


Box 11: folder 6-7
Core course #2: Demystification of Tools, Katrin Adam

[Digital file available]



Box 11: folder 8-9
Interview: Katrin Adam with Noel Phyllis Birkby and Leslie Kanes Weisman


Box 11: folder 10
Core course #4: Professionalism Redefined, Marie I. Kennedy and Joan Forrester Sprague,
19 Aug

Box 11: folder 11
Core course #5: Urban design, Bobbie Sue Hood


Box 11: folder 12-15
Core course #6: Women and the Built Environment,
13-20 Aug

Box 11: folder 16-24
Final all-school meeting


Box 11: folder 25
Ellen, guest speaker and testimony re why came to WSPA

[Digital file available]



Box 12: folder 26-27
Discussion re Russia, Joan, Margot, Lorna, and Ginny


Box 12: folder 28-29
"Cake, Fantasy Clip," clips of testimony

[Digital file available]



Box 12: folder 30
Cake Fantasy film soundtrack


Box 12: folder 31
sound for slide tape


Box 12: folder 32
Interview with Susan Morrison, reporter from Biddeford Saco JOURNAL


Box 12: folder 33
Coordinators' wrap-up? planning for next session? (2 cassettes)


Box 12: folder 34-35
Second Session
(1976), Stevenson College, Santa Cruz, CA


Women and the Built Environment (2 cassettes)

[Digital file available]



Box 12: folder 36-37
Third Session
(1978), Roger Williams College, Bristol, RI


Women and the Built Environment, NPB on single women space


Box 12: folder 38
Group, Bristol Beach


Box 12: folder 39
Fourth Session
(1979), Regis College, Denver, CO


"Veggie City"


Box 12: folder 40
Hadley Smith


Box 12: folder 41
H.U.D. women, Joyce Skinner, Mary Anne McKenzie, Kati McDonald, Fern Robertson, Helen Helfner (parts of 2 cassettes)

[Digital file available]



Box 12: folder 42-43
Undated



WSPA #6, Brainstorming, Buglisting


Box 12: folder 44
Children's meeting


Box 12: folder 45
Jean Baker Miller


Box 12: folder 46
Core course wrap-up


Box 12: folder 47
WSPA 3 workshop session, Noel Phyllis Birkby "actualizing environments"


Box 12: folder 48
Symbolism workshop, Noel Phyllis Birkby and Leslie Kanes Weisman

[Digital file available]



Box 12: folder 49-50
discussion
18 Aug

Box 12: folder 51
Slides



1975

Box 13: folder 1
1976

Box 13: folder 2
1977-79

Box 13: folder 3
n.d.

Box 13: folder 4
Photographs



1975

Box 13: folder 5
1976

Box 13: folder 6
1977-78

Box 13: folder 7
Slides



1979

Box 13: folder 8
n.d.

Box 13: folder 9
Negatives,
1975-78

Box 13: folder 10



Written material


Box 13: folder 11
"WSPA" by Lorna McNeur, (of 1975 session)
1976

Box 14: folder 1
Note:

[See box 17A for use copy]

"Cake Campus"


Box 14: folder 2
"WSPA (condensed), reel 1" by Lorna McNeur


Box 14: folder 3
"WSPA (condensed), reel 2" by Lorna McNeur


Box 14: folder 4
"Mime"
1976

Box 14: folder 5
"WSPA 2"


Box 14: folder 6
Videotapes



Note:

All original open reel videotapes were sent to VidiPax company for preservation and transfer to Beta Cam and VHS cassette format. The VP number listed after titles are the reel numbers assigned to the original videotapes by VidiPax.

Open reel originals, Beta Cam preservation masters, and VHS "Restoration masters" ["Goofed Up Last Nite Tape" {VP# 1} which was not converted to VHS format]


Box 15-17
Restrictions on access:

THESE COPIES RETAINED FOR PRESERVATION ONLY. USE COPIES CAN BE MADE FROM THE VHS RESTORATION MASTERS. SEE BOX 17A FOR USE COPIES.

1975



"Judy Potter" core course #1 {VP# 6}


Box 17: folder 1
"Course #2 Tools" {VP# 17}


Box 17: folder 2
"Katrin's [Adam] class (core course #2), [core course] #4 with Marie, [core course #6] Beginning of Cake Campus" {VP# 15}


Box 17: folder 3
Note:

[See box 17A for use copy]

"Role Playing and tennis, town meeting, course #4" {VP# 16}


Box 17: folder 4
core course #5 "Sand Models at Beach (#5) Bobbie Sue's [Hood] and Volleyball in Lounge Party" {VP# 3}


Box 17: folder 5
"WSPA Sandcastle, [core course #5] Bobbie Sue Hood et al--Master Plan St. Francis College, Interviews--meaning of school, Group--lobsters/sex/beer" {VP# 23}


Box 17: folder 6
Core course #5 "Bobbie Sue Hood--Presentation, St. Francis College" {VP# 4}


Box 17: folder 7
"#6 core course, Fantasy workshop" {VP# 13}


Box 17: folder 8
Note:

[See box 17A for use copy]

[Core course #6, "Fantasy [workshop] #2, Introduction to Town Meeting" {VP# 24}


Box 17: folder 9
Note:

[See box 17A for use copy]

"Buglisting/Brainstorming #6 course" {VP# 18}


Box 17: folder 10
"Women's Organizations" {VP# 22}


Box 17: folder 11
Untitled {VP# 21}


Box 17: folder 12
"Cake Campus" {VP# 14}


Box 17: folder 13
Note:

[See box 17A for use copy]

"Day Care & WSPA Sign, Cheri Chaney speaking- regional planning, Katrin [Adam] speaking--carpentry tools, Ginny--informal speaking in grass" {VP# 19}


Box 17: folder 14
1976



Women and the Built Environment: Patti, Cynthia, Phyllis [Birkby], Jane, Mary, Myrna, Ena [Dubnoff], Betsy {VP# 2}


Box 17: folder 15
Women and the Built Environment: Jolie, Charlotte [Bunch], Carol M., Vicki, Judy, etc. {VP# 5}


Box 17: folder 16
Viewing copies, films transferred to VHS



"WSPA" by Lorna McNeur [transfer of film #1],
1976,

Box 17: folder 17
Note:

[See box 17A for use copy]

"WSPA (condensed), reel 1," by Lorna McNeur, 00h01m00s, [transfer of film #3]


Box 17: folder 18
"WSPA (condensed), reel 2," by Lorna McNeur, 00h19m40s, [transfer of film #4]


Box 17: folder 18
"Mime" 00h32m50s, [transfer of film #5],
1976

Box 17: folder 18
"WSPA 2," 00h35m22s, [transfer of film #6]


Box 17: folder 18
Video tapes: written material,
1975

Box 17
In-house use copies: Videos and films transferred to DVD



Video #3: "Katrin's [Adam] class (core course #2), [core course]; #4 with Marie, [core course #6]; Beginning of Cake Campus" {VP# 15}
1975

Box 17a
Video #8: "WSPA/#6--Fantasy Workshop" {VP#13}


Box 17a
Video #9: "Fantasy2--Intro to Town Meeting" {VP#24}


Box 17a
Video #13: "Cake Campus" {VP# 14}


Box 17a
Video #17: "WSPA" by Lorna McNeur, , [transfer of film #1]
1976

Box 17a
OVERSIZE MATERIALS



SERIES I. GENERAL AND HISTORICAL MATERIALS



Memorabilia: t-shirts, (?), 1979
1976, 1978

Box 18

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Architecture and women--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Architecture--Study and teaching--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Berkeley, Ellen Perry
  • Birkby, Phyllis
  • Feminism--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Lesbianism--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Vogel, Mary
  • Weisman, Leslie Kanes
  • Women architects--United States--History--Sources
  • Women artists--United States--History--20th century--Sources
  • Women's School of Planning and Architecture--History--Sources


Appendix: Descriptions by Barbara Hammer of WSPA films.

#1. WSPA, documentary, edited, approx. 30 min. 1976 Print- Original is reel #3 & #4. Lorna McNeur's name is on leader (?)

Shots of barns, houses, poster The Women's School of Planning & Architecture", 1976. Large number of women( probably the students and teachers) sitting on outdoor stairway, pan down to front steps, women all the way. Indoor shots of students in workshop. Scrapbook of black and white snaps shots of arch. patterns. Modules, pitched roofs, porches, etc. Diagrams and snaps probably used in workshop. Women making drawings. Women walking down path. Standing at seashore, exploring. Talking. Walking through reeds. Patting sand and building sand forms. Students making presentations. Phyllis' printing of description of days activities. Shots of video of women entering revolving glass doors/children in pushcarts. Class discussing situation. Children. At beach. (stopped watching here/second film break).

#2. CAKE CAMPUS. Color Sup. 8 film, will correspond to video tape.

WSPA. Interior shots of workshop, complete w/writing on wall. Women w/video cameras. Women in groups. Flying Saucer School - fantasy architectural school, could make spaces, women spaces, Flying Saucer - a plus for motion sickness. Someone drawing on someone's back. Writing on the wall - Vegetables Running Up Our Ears. Stuff like sauna and swimming pool. Sign - Be Able To Eat Our Own Forms. Mosquito Eaters, Mechanics, Plumbers. Film looks in good shape. Hardly any scratches. Women are building models, looks like a flying saucer model made out of cake, cutting forms. Decorating w/marshmallos and all kinds of sugar. Looks like they are building architectural models of gumdrops, cookies, cake, unfortunately, soft focus on a lot of closeups, but long shots are good.

#3. WSPA (CONDENSED) Reel #1, Edited, Approx 24 min.

Lorna McNeur's name on leader; seems to be the maker. original (I think is same as print # 1)

#4. WSPA (CONDENSED) Reel #2, Approx. 15 min. Lorna McNeur. Edited. original

#5. MIME, Original, Super 8, 2 min. 1976

Two women mirror mime; WSPA slides filmed.

#6. WSPA 2 Sup. 8, 3 min. Group shots; a little dark.

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