Items filtered by date: March 2021

As part of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we took a look at some of history’s most influential women and their contributions to the world around us. From renewable energy to community-focused city and town planning, women across the globe have made great contributions to the natural and built environment making the world what it is today.

 

Kate Sessions

Katherine Olivia "Kate" Sessions (November 1857 – March 1940), otherwise known as “The Mother of Balboa Park,” was an internationally recognised American botanist, horticulturist landscape architect. 

 

She is credited with creating Balboa Park, California when she negotiated with the City of San Diego to lease 30 acres of land in what is now called Balboa Park, as her growing fields. In exchange she committed to planting 100 trees a year in the park plus a further 300 trees in other areas of San Diego, many of which can still be seen today.

 

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs (May 1916 - April 2006) was a Canadian-American author, theorist, journalist and activist who greatly influenced the worlds of urban studies, sociology and economics.

 

Jacobs was instrumental in organising grassroots movements to protect neighbourhoods from what many coined as ‘urban renewal,’ including Greenwich Village in New York City. Her work was so powerful she stopped the Lower Manhattan Expressway. After many years in New York City, Jacobs moved to Toronto in 1968 where she stopped the proposed Spadina Expressway with the argument, “Are cities being built for people or cars?”. She was also known as ‘the mother of Vancouverism,’ for her work in urban planning in Vancouver.

 

Up until her death in 2006, Jacobs has been championed as a key figure in advocating for a community-based approach to city building.

 

Octavia Hill

Born in Cambridge, England, Octavia Hill (December 1838 - August 1912) was a leading figure in improving housing for the poor and advocating for open, public spaces.

 

Concerned by the living conditions found in London slums, she convinced John Ruskin to fund her concept for a new type of housing whereby a landlord provides a clean and safe property, and in return the tenant is responsible for maintenance. Proving to be a successful housing initiative, by 1874, Hill owned 15 properties with over 3,000 tenants and also designed a garden and a row of six cottages in Southwark, just a few minutes walk from our very own offices.

 

Hill also campaigned for parks and open outdoor spaces to be made accessible to the general public and fought against a number of proposed developments on forest land ultimately saving Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields from being built on. One of the three founders of the National Trust, her work continues today to preserve places of natural beauty and historical interest.

 

Sarah Guppy

Sarah Guppy (November 1770 - August 1852), was the first woman to patent a bridge in 1811, which involved making safe piling for bridges. 

 

Through a friend, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Guppy became involved in Great Western Railway working with the directors on various construction and travel projects and came up with the idea of planting willow trees and poplars to stabilise embankments.

 

Not limited to bridges and trains, Guppy was instrumental in lobbying for creating a network of local markets and traffic systems taking traffic out of the city and away from people’s homes avoiding unnecessary travel and a cleaner environment.

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