Ethel Mary Charles was the first woman to be admitted into the RIBA as a member in 1898. In the architecture community, today, June 5th, is marked as ‘Ethel’s Day’. A mere 58 years after the first Royal Charter and against organised protests from RIBA members, Ethel was eventually admitted as an Associate Member in 1898.
Ethel continued to fight many battles for equality and representation, including challenging the Architectural Association who at the time refused to acknowledge women as practicing architects. That position was maintained until 1917. Ethel was denied a place on the course but went on to be awarded Distinctions for her drawings at the Bartlett School of Architecture.
Despite the admission into the RIBA, Ethel was unable to secure Commercial work due to a prejudicial position still upheld by many and so worked instead on small domestic projects for labourers. Ethel won the RIBA Silver Medal in 1905 and is purported to have won an award for the design of a church in Germany.
Thankfully the situation is very different in the 21st century to that of the 19th, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go for complete parity.
This can be clearly seen in data shown in the latest issue of the RIBAJ the male – female ratio of chartered architects is 84.3% to 15.7% of the 914 members in the east midlands alone; despite having 1563 part one and part two students in the same area.
The NDSA promotes equitable representation for all. We support those who aspire to become architects and ask that they work towards contributing to the design and realisation of a better built environment, one to be shared and enjoyed by us all.
Please see below for more information on Ethel Mary Charles.