Woman Alsop, Ruth
Written by Ann Standish, The University of Melbourne
Ruth Alsop was born in the Melbourne suburb of Kew in 1879, to John and Anne Alsop. She was the second youngest of eight children, several of whom went on to have creative careers or pursuits. Her brother Rodney, her junior by two years, trained as an architect with the firm Hyndman and Bates. Once he had been admitted to the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects (RVIA) he set up a partnership and practised as Klingender & Alsop. Ruth began work at her brother's firm in 1907, gaining her articles in 1912. She was the first Victorian woman to qualify as an architect. She was employed by Klingender & Alsop as an architect in both their Melbourne and Sydney offices, until 1916. At this time, family pressures saw her leave the firm to look after her parents, who were both in poor health.
Ruth Alsop remained registered as an architect with the RVIA until 1927, but there is little evidence of any her designs being built during this time. Rodney Alsop gained considerable prominence as a designer of Arts and Craft style dwellings, and was sought after by Melbourne establishment homebuilders throughout the 1920s, until his death from bronchitis in 1932. For Ruth, however, there was little acclaim. The only building she fully designed that has been documented is a modest weatherboard house in Dorset Road, Croydon, a suburb in Melbourne's leafy east, that she designed and had built to live in herself with two of her older sisters who also remained unmarried but pursued careers. These were Edith, an accomplished print maker and wood-graver who had studied at the National Gallery School, Victoria, and Florence, a journalist. The architect, the artist and the writer lived there together from the late 1930s until the 1950s.
Ruth Alsop lived until 1976, with her groundbreaking role in architecture largely overlooked. In 2005 a Canberra street was named after her (Ruth Alsop Lane, Greenway, ACT 2900) to commemorate her achievements. It seems clear from her history that her brother's support and mentorship was central to her qualifying as an architect, but also that, as a woman, family and domestic duties were seen to come first. The contrast between their two career paths is significant.
- Willis, Julie and Hanna, Bronwyn, Women Architects in Australia: 1900 - 1950, 1 edn, Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Red Hill, Australian Capital Territory, 2001. Details
- ACT Government, Public Place Names (Greenway) Determination 2005 (No 1), Determination: Disallowable instrument DI2005 -107 - Word Document, 22 June 2005, http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/di/2005-107/current/rtf/2005-107.rtf. Details
- Tibbits, George, 'Alsop, Rodney Howard (1881-1932)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University (ANU), c.2006, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/alsop-rodney-howard-5007/text8325. Details
- Wheeldon, David, 'Women with plans: Australian history forum focus on architects and planners', in Architecture and Design, 23 November 2011, http://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/news/industry-news/women-with-plans-australian-history-forum-focus-on. Details