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Charles Todd at the recording machine

[Detail] Charles Todd at the recording machine

Primary Source Set A: Working Women in the 1930's

Miss Henrietta C. Dozier

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NOTE: This is an excerpt. The full text version of Miss Henrietta C. Dozier is in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940.

{excerpt begins}

March 1, 1939.
Miss Henrietta C. Dozier
Architect
415 Peninsular Life Bldg
Jacksonville, Florida.

Rose Shepherd, Writer.

MISS HENRIETTA C. DOZIER , ARCHITECT.

... "How did I happen to take up architecture - an unusual occupation for a woman? Well, even in my childhood I wanted to study architecture, and have drawn plans since I was seven. In fact, when I was just a little tot I used to draft patterns for doll dresses for my own and the neighbor children's dolls. So it seemed the natural thing when I reached the age to decide what my life work was to be, to select architecture as a vocation.

... "I served an apprenticeship of one year in an architect's office in Atlanta, then attended Pratt Institute for two years, afterwards enrolling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston, taking the full four years' course and graduating in 1899 with a B. S. degree in architecture.

... "In Jacksonville, the Federal Reserve Bank Building, southwest corner of Church and Hogan Streets, on which I was associate architect, is one of which I am always very proud. This building completed in 1924 is one on which the 'shifting sands of time' have had no effect, for its foundations are firmly anchored on a clay bed which extends two and one-half feet below the deepest footings. On account of the mean 13-ft. above water level of Jacksonville, it is sometimes a difficult engineering problem to secure firm foundations for large buildings and skyscrapers, but the Federal Reserve Bank is well built and soundly constructed and, I am happy to say, after its constant use all of these years, with heavy installations of gratings, shelving, massive safes with heavy combination doors, there is not a crack in the entire building.

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... "I have always had to compete with men, yes. In submitting designs, plans, bids, I have never asked any consideration at any time because I happened to be a woman; I put all my cards on the table in fair and honest competition, and ask only consideration on the same basis.

For the most part I have been treated fairly. I remember one instance when designs were asked for the State and County Building in Atlanta, I went to the county officials, in the confidence of youth - it was in 1904 - but I knew what splendid training I had received, and stated brashly I would like to have this job.

"They said, 'We are sorry, Miss Dozier , but we cannot give it to you because you are not a voter.'

"Well, that was a new argument and was my first experience with officials' playing of politics with the tax-payers' money.

... "Then in 1925 the Women's Club of Jacksonville, of which I had been a member for a number of years, transferred their old clubhouse at 18 East Duval Street to the City of Jacksonville and purchased a location on the St. Johns riverfront at 861 Riverside.

"I submitted my designs, asking for consideration on account of my membership in the club. The job was given to a man, whose wife was a member also, and who I learned had bought a considerable quantity of the bonds then being offered to finance the new building.

"Again it was my great pleasure to go before the board of this organization, and give them my personal opinion of such 'political bargaining.' It is needless to say, I withdrew my membership, as it has never been my policy to belong to any organization engaged in unfair dealings. Were their faces red? I'll say they were!

"On the whole, I have had only courtesy and consideration in my competition with men in my work. During my thirteen and one-half years in Atlanta, I dealt with the same contractors and subcontractors most of the time, and had the greatest cooperation possible.

"There was one instance of a crazy plumber in Atlanta that maybe caused me a gray hair or two. He was working on a residence building, and when I went on the job as a matter of routine inspection early one morning, I noticed he had roughed in the plumbing all wrong. I called his attention to it, as a matter of course, and without any warning at all, he picked up a 2 by 4 and came at me, saying: 'God A'mighty never intended a man to be bossed by a woman!' I thought my time had come as he advanced toward me with the heavy board in his right hand, which he was wielding as a most formidable shillalah. Just in the nick of time, the contractor appeared on the scene and grabbed him, having a rather hard time to subdue him and get the club away from him. He had been crazy all the time ....

... "I believe from my own experience and with a woman's general reputation of condensing space and utilizing corners fro wall spaces and furniture settings instead of blocking them up with windows, foors, and closets, it gives me the very best ideas for commodious and comfortable homes....

... {excerpt ends}

Questions:

  • What kind of work did Henrietta Dozier do? How would you describe her working conditions? How do you think this kind of work has changed since the 1930s?
  • Why was Henrietta proud of the Federal Reserve Bank Building? Do you think architects today would have the same reasons for pride in their work? Why or why not?
  • What problems arose for Henrietta because she was a woman in an unusual profession? What was particularly unfair about her exclusion from a job because she was not a voter? (Remember, it was 1904.) Do you think a woman architect today would experience any of the problems Henrietta faced? Why or why not?

Go to the complete interview from which this excerpt was taken.

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