Florence Taylor OBE CBE

Florence Taylor was the first Australian woman architect.

Honour Roll

Florence was born near Bristol in England in 1879. In 1888, the family emigrated to Sydney, Australia where she was enrolled at Presbyterian Ladies College. Tragedy struck when she was nineteen as her father died suddenly leaving the family with no income. Florence had to work to support the family. Florence soon found employment as a clerk at an architectural and engineering firm in Parramatta. This gave her the impetus to study to become an architectural draftsperson.

She enrolled in evening classes at Sydney Technical College, the only woman among 200 males studying building construction, quantity surveying and drafting. However Florence had taken on too much and failed all her first year examinations in architecture. Undeterred, she aimed to top the class the following year, and she did.

When she began an apprenticeship, she was given all the tedious technical specification work rather than creative design which went to her male colleagues. She sought work elsewhere and was employed as chief draftsperson in the prestigious office of John Burcham Clamp where her talent was encouraged. In 1907, after eight years of study, Florence completed her architectural course. She was already qualified as a structural and civil engineer. Clamp nominated her for associate membership of the New South Wales Institute of Architects and gave her an excellent reference. When the committee rejected her application, Clamp demanded to know on what grounds, for he claimed, "She can design an entire home while an ordinary draftsman is still sharpening his pencil". It took another thirteen years before the Institute of Architects admitted her as the first qualified female architect in Australia in 1920.

Florence married George Taylor in 1907. George was passionate about aviation and learned to fly gliders. In 1909, Florence made the first glider flight ever attempted by a woman. Together they formed the Building Publishing Company and published numerous technical and professional journals on urban planning and design, improved material construction methods, modernism in architecture and town planning. In 1913, they founded the Town Planning Association of New South Wales.

In 1928, George died suddenly. Florence was grief-ridden, and threw herself into her work in order to combat the loss. She cut back the number of journals published but continued to produce many town planning schemes. Although she worked in a male-dominated profession, Florence was extremely feminine in her manners and dress. She travelled extensively to learn new and progressive designs and was honoured with an OBE (1939) and later a CBE (1961).

She died in Sydney on 13 February 1969. Her achievements are commemorated in the annual Florence Taylor Award for outstanding services to engineering.