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1876 Landmark Building Victorian architecture in America with arched windows and sculpted stone moldings and block facade
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In the Details: Women's History at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Monika Smith

The buildings housing the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts are often noted for their more masculine attributes: the 1876 Landmark Building designed by renowned Philadelphia architects Frank Furness and George Hewitt and the adjacent 1916 Hamilton Building which was once an automobile assembly facility. But while the former building is one of the finest examples of late Victorian architecture in the United States, its principles were not.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Photo by Kevin G. Reeves.

PAFA was the earliest institution to admit female students for study, even ahead of European schools during the mid- to late-1800s.

The school’s efforts toward gender equity didn’t stop there. As chronicled by our friends at Accidentally Wes Anderson, PAFA also broke barriers in anatomical drawing for women, and hiring their first full-time female professor, Cecilia Beaux, who was one of the most sought after portraitists of her time.

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