Augustine Schreuder-Gratama: The Architect Who Never Was
Augustine (‘Guus’) Schreuder-Gratama (1897-1978) was one of a handful of female architecture students at Delft University of Technology in her day. She studied there from 1918 until – presumably – 1923, when she married and ended her education. Her life path seems typical of many other talented and motivated women whose work has remained virtually invisible because they never graduated and had no opportunity to start their own practice or even pursue a paid profession.
6 March 2023
What we know about Guus Schreuder-Gratama came to light through the investigations of Lidewij Tummers and Maria Novas Ferradás, an architect and researcher at TU Delft, who visited her granddaughter Elske Schreuder. This is how the archive material that the Nieuwe Instituut has since acquired first came to light, including the photos below.
After her studies, Guus Schreuder-Gratama remained active in architecture: she published in magazines, gave lectures, worked as a volunteer at an architectural firm, and was active in the VAC (women’s advisory committee) and the NVVH (Dutch housewives’ association) in the field of housing construction. She championed women’s voices in home design and in the decision-making process. In 1949, she submitted a design proposal for a duplex house to a project initiated by the BNA (Dutch architects’ association). It was the only proposal by a woman to be published, alongside proposals by 20 men, including Gerrit Rietveld and Ernest Groosman. In addition, she pursued her own design activities, which she often financed herself. In 1933 she designed a ‘self-built camping trailer’ for touring during the holidays. When the family eventually settled in Austria, she designed their holiday home. Schreuder-Gratama probably also designed her own house in Ulvenhout, near Breda, in 1954.
Guus Schreuder-Gratama left several photo albums, containing not only personal pictures but also images of her economically designed buildings. Her lectures and articles have also been preserved, calling for further research.
Women in Architecture
Since 2021, the Nieuwe Instituut has been researching the women in the collection. A great stimulus and support in this regard is the doctoral research of Dr Erica M. Smeets-Klokgieter, who investigated the emergence of the first female architects in the Netherlands. Her research focused on the 21 women who were professionally trained in architecture between 1917 and 1946.
Only 13 of these enjoyed any success in an architectural career. Nieuwe Instituut is trying to discover whether any archive material from these architects has survived. Only one of the women managed to run her own practice independently and with a substantial order book. Five women worked with their husbands in their own architectural firm and seven women who remained unmarried went on to pursue careers in government. The eight remaining women in the research group, all structural engineers, pretty much failed to practice their profession because they married, or because they were simply unable to find work in their field.