Ethel Furman

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Ethel B. Furman
Ethel Furman.jpg
Born Ethel Madison Bailey
(1893-07-06)July 6, 1893
Richmond, Virginia, United States
Died February 24, 1976(1976-02-24) (aged 82)
Nationality American
Occupation Architect
Spouse(s) William H. Carter (1912-1918)
Joseph D. Furman (1918-)

Ethel Bailey Furman (July 6, 1893–February 24, 1976)[1] was an American architect, who was the earliest known African-American female architect in Virginia.[2][3]


Born Ethel Madison Bailey[1] in Richmond, Virginia, she was the daughter of Margaret M. Jones Bailey and Madison J. Bailey.[2] Her father was the second licensed Black building contractor in Richmond.[2][3] She moved to New York City, where she studied architecture privately.

She married William H. Carter on October 12, 1912, in New Jersey, and they had two children.[2] Having divorced Carter by 1918, she married Joseph D. Furman.[2]

She returned to Richmond in 1921 and began designing houses for locals. Furman worked with her father, and also raised three children. During this time she worked other jobs to supplement income to raise her family. As an African-American woman she experienced discrimination in the architecture community, as local bureaucrats refused to accept her as the architect of record on her own projects.[4] Consequently, she would often have to submit her job proposals through male contractors with whom she worked.[4] In the late 1920s she was the only woman to attend the Hampton Institute's annual builder's conference.[5] Up into the 1940s she trained in drafting through Chicago Technical College. Furman designed over 200 churches and residences in Virginia and two churches in Liberia.

In 1985 a park in Richmond was named after her.[1][6] In 2010 Furman was honored as one of the Library of Virginia's "Virginia Women in History" for her civic work and accomplishments in the field of architecture.[7]

Notable works[edit]

  • Fourth Baptist Church Educational Wing, Church Hill, Richmond, Virginia.[1]