Esther Hill (1895 – 1985)

Esther Marjorie Hill
University of Toronto Archives

Esther Marjorie Hill was a respected architect and the first woman to earn an architectural degree in Canada. Born in Guelph, Ontario, her mother was one of the first 10 women to study at the University of Toronto. In 1916, after completing a bachelor of arts degree, Hill was one of the first two women admitted to an architectural degree program in Canada. She began her studies at the University of Alberta but transferred to the University of Toronto and graduated with a bachelor's in Architecture in 1920. Hill experienced discrimination at every step, from the Chairman of Architecture refusing to attend her convocation, to limited job opportunities and numerous initial rejections of her applications for registration as an architect. Hill persisted, completing graduate studies in urban planning at the University of Toronto and Columbia University and working in numerous prominent architectural practices in Canada and the U.S. She is remembered for the humanity and gracious simplicity of her design – for creating comfortable, practical homes that made full use of natural light and ventilation.

“One must have artistic talent, practical experience, professional knowledge, good business and executive ability, resourcefulness and a determination to persevere. With these assets there is no reason why a woman should not be as successful as a man.”

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