Female Firsts: Norma Merrick Sklarek
This episode of stuff mom never told you brought to you by Pantene lately. I've been using the pantene rosewater collation and it's fantastic not only does it smell incredible double but my hair feels softer than ever like an actual rose pedal yeah and best of all the Pantene rose water collection is sulfate free and contains zero parabens mineral mineral oils or dies additionally one of the reasons I love painting is because of their commitment to become of cruelty free company that using science to make great shampoo and do it without hurting animals which is awesome awesome so try the new painting Rose Water Collection Avis Zanny Anthony Mantha the theft never told you prediction of iheartradio's has to do you know what today is what is today. I don't know wait. What but it's time for another female. I really tackle traumatic thing. Of course it is a big day. That is the biggest day ever. True is true however I thought there was something else added. Maybe there's going to be yeah. Well you know what next time Kate Champagne we'll do it right. Expectations are huge. Yes we're going to build up every time but that means that we are joined again by our friend and CO worker. Eve's Hello Hi do any good but I have a request. If there is cake next time can it be cheesecake because a lot not a huge fan of other kinds of Kate so if we can do if I can be that person and request that comes no that's perfect. I'm the same way and so my birthday is this month y'all just up and since I was fourteen years old because I did not like cake. My birthday cakes always been cheesecake so every the year you couldn't go home. My mom would make me a fancy homemade cheesecake or my birthday so I like that. Yes yes we will do cheesecake the cheesecake game to any I am but I actually have a very funny story about cheesecake because I once when I was in middle school. I bought an entire. Ah Geek from Kroger and it was a different chocolate flavor every slice that little special me and my friend ate the entire thing while we were watching the stargate movie with Kurt Russell James Spader and we got very sick and so I haven't associated just have to get past it like every time I i. It's good but you know there's that like nervousness and that's not good but you are the winner. You get to make the request okay cool. We'll be cheesecake I made and what do you like the topping. Do you like playing cheesecake cheesecake. Owain or a strawberry. I don't really get much more interesting so the reason I fell in love with cheesecakes because I watch my mom make it and I helped her make it is like these mini chocolate chips with the chocolate. Crust my all time favorite. Don't like anything over that I can do some strawberries in all of that but I don't WanNa be all fancy with. I keep cliff ribbon Bar Motif. All it is an orphan thing. Oh no well. You're welcome. Thank you decide. I used to view where my parents in college. It'd be like me at the cheesecake factory and I'd be like okay fancy fancy facebook. I know overwhelms me much there. We're on the same page but today we are not talking about just cheesecake Hi Fi. We'll return to that topic. Did you bring us as female I of the day eating well today's female. I is Norma Merrick S- Clark Nick and she has a lot of I two her name like a lot of them. But one of the biggest ones is that she was well. She was one of the first black female licensed architects in the US wasn't the first one a lot of places list her as the first but she probably wasn't the first in the US but she was the first black woman to be licensed licensed architect in New York and California and she was the first black woman to be a member of the American Institute of Architects and she was the the first black woman to be appointed a fellow of the American Institute of Architects so this one is I guess a little bit different than previous I just because she died in two thousand twelve so that wasn't that long ago. I think the people we covered in the past kind of like stuck to but I think it's important to show that like this was a first. I that happened not too long ago and this is still a field that is very the number of black women people in general let alone black women in the field field of licensed architects in the United States is very small in disproportionate. and it's something that's growing but it's still it's still small number of black women in the field and yeah so we're. GonNa talk about normal today. which is she was? You know a pioneer in the field and her story is pretty interesting. Yeah I it is pretty telling that it's such a recent I and normally when we do these. I've I get a bunch of bullet points then. I'm like okay. Here's the things that they've done and this one is three pages lot off. Yeah Yeah so oh. I guess let's get started. Let's get into it already so ready. So normal was born on April Fifteenth Nineteen Twenty eight and Harlem and her father's name was Walter Merrick. He was a doctor and her mother was. Amy Merrick and she was a seamstress and they were both immigrants there from Trinidad and she was their only child and so she was raised during the Great Depression her family moved from Crown Heights in Brooklyn when she was a child eld or excuse me her family moves to Crown Heights in Brooklyn when she was a child and her father got a medical degree from Howard University so when she was a child she was already exhibiting all these signs that like would lead toward architecture. I don't know about y'all but like architecture's very interesting too. I can never I could never do it. They like but I think it's amazing in just something that's grown like become so innovative so quickly but just like it has so many different elements of things like there's two are. There's the math yeah they're the visuals in my you know to so many the physics of it like so many different things that go into it and so as a child she exhibited all these signs of being good and all these different areas so she had this art things he sketched she painted and she drew anti carpentry work irks. She worked on furniture yeah so she was really a cool. Gal since he was young and she went to public. Girls School called Hunter College High School while she was a high school student to and some of those same fields. She said that her grades were pretty good and pretty much everything I love it. I I know but she was really good at art sciences and math which is still pretty much everything good in general but it was her father who suggested to her that maybe you should do architecture and obviously then as there aren't there aren't many black people who were in the profession but but that didn't keep her from pursuing it so she wanted to go to Howard her father did but her father didn't want her to her parents wanted her to stay closer to home and so to prepare for Columbia University's architecture program she took liberal arts courses at Barnard College and Barnard College was associated with Columbia University versity but it was for women like for Women as Columbia didn't accept women students so she went through that those courses and then she got into the Columbia University School School of architecture so she remarked on how her first year there was super hard but that didn't keep her from coming back after the summer she came back in the fall like many of her classmates were war veterans Somehow Bachelors and Masters degrees so basically they have people around them and they already had all experienced unstable to help them through the process of getting through these amazingly can't even imagine how difficult courses they were so those people what kind of work on assignments together but she had a situation where she was commuting to school and sometimes had to finish her work on her commutes or at home alone so that kind of having we know like having how how having that support system is important when you're going through school right. Oh yeah she got her bachelor of architecture degree in nineteen fifty and she was one of the two women in her class and the only black win after that she applied to nineteen architectural firms she said in interviews like I won't forget that number nineteen eighteen but was turned down to every one of them yeah and she got hers on. She got the twentieth This is a quote that she says she said I don't know if the rejections were because I was a black person because I was a young woman or because of the economic recession at the time but she said those places were hiring. Women are black people so I think we can kind of go like right. We know what the issue was here yeah so does she herd twentieth one that was when she went to work in the city of New York's Department of Public Works as what she says. It's a junior address person and she didn't like the job because she couldn't really be creative in it so she wasn't there long she took the New York State architect's licensing exam and she passed stay on the first time which everybody doesn't do even though it was a really tough days long test and she became a licensed architect in nineteen fifty four and that was when I first comes along she became New York State's first black woman licensed architect so she he was hired by a private architectural firm at that point after she quit her job with the city even though her supervisor gave her a bad rep our friends and her relationship with that supervisor with her boss wasn't there wasn't anything wrong with it so he but he said that she was lazy she she got to work late ally that she didn't know anything about design architecture and that she socialized a lot so he had a lot of really negative things to say about her even though she never had any issues and she thought it had to do with the fact that her boss wasn't a licensed architect and with older and she was a younger black in licensed architect so a job she was a threat yeah I'm sure like old dude is like main. I've done nothing we feel this way similarly but we don't lash out the bad recommendation. I'm just saying felt threatened so even though she got out of her old job because she felt like she was wasting her potential she was still doing small small tasks like designing bathroom layout so she's still kind of felt away about that. he spent a year at that small firm and in nineteen fifty five she joined the office of skidmore more owings and Merrill ended up working there until nineteen sixty so that was a pretty big firm and at that major firm she was working on large scale projects projects and teaching evening architecture courses at New York City community college and so around this time she was a single mother of two children she had already been married and been divorced and her mother took care of her children while she worked so she did have a support system is not like nobody was there while she was doing all this stuff and in nineteen fifty fifty nine she became the first black woman to be a member of the American Institute of Architects Loon. Wow in one thousand nine hundred sixty that's when she moves to California and there she took a job at Gruen and associates in Los Angeles and just a side note about grew in Victor Gruen was is the person who was credited with kind of being a pioneer in the American shopping mall. He did a lot working. I think I talked about him recently because we were talking about food courts on others. Roy pointed me. You're not Florida. Yes shopping malls. Are I feel I don't know how sad I am about them leaving but do have I do remember the glory days going into the Disney stores. Oh Yeah and into the double layers and then you see store John Tucker trying to go right cookie inbetween always feeling like you were this close to like falling over the edge because they always had those on the top up level to like glass and I would always be scared like oh my gosh perfume every funny that things years no one else would yeah you can look down all you could smell perfume everywhere as a little kid mall town and with a giant mall yeah I went out well. You've been to China. I'm not sure if you you you have not but they had a million shopping. I don't yeah they have so many mall. It is ridiculous and they're huge. There's there's a basement and then there's a basement under the basement like you're still organiz now organized. You're probably like name what the categories of things are on each floor when you got to that floor yeah. I was like wow this makes sense. This is very organized like anyway the go-to malls in China. You'll be there for the next ninety years so when she was at grew in she recognized how much scrutiny she was getting from her boss there. She didn't have a car and she got rise with one of her her colleagues who was a white man to get to work and later she said in an interview it took only one week before the boss came and spoke to me about being late yet he had not noticed that the young man had been late for two years. My solution was to buy a car since I the highly visible employees. Employees had to be punctual and I think it's funny how she said highly visible employees. I feel like there's definitely skating around all the black woman yeah wheel and they wanted me to see my mistakes. We we get the subtext there. She got her architecture license in California in nineteen sixty two two and so she was the first African American woman to have one in California and she remained the only one for twenty years. Wow until the eighty s yeah wow jeez hey noise. We're all about it today. Sorry the peaking of weird noises we should pause for an advocate be right back in this episode of stuff. Mom Never told you is brought to you by Pantene so y'all I've been using the new pantene rose water collected and it's amazing anything not only does it smell incredible but my hair feels softer than it ever has before like an actual rose pedal the painting rose water collection is sulfate free and contains zero parabens and mineral oils or dies additionally one of the reasons. I love paintings because of their commitment to becoming a cruelty free company they no longer test on animals unless required by law and they're committed to make make animal testing obsolete in fact. PNG helped pioneer I- testing without the use of animals by using cell culture tests and reconstructed human tissue. They're using science to make great shampoo and do it without hurting the animals which is awesome so try the new painting Rose Water Collection today and we're back. Thank you sponsor so yeah she she becomes the first another I another firs lacks woman architect in California and stayed that way for very unfortunate long wait until the eighties wow yeah she was at that firm for a while to after six years at firm she became the director of architecture there and she hired people at oversaw staff and coordinated the technical aspects of some really big projects and so some of her projects were California Mart Fox Plaza Pacific Design Center San Bernardino City Hall and the US Embassy Bassy in Tokyo and her son said that she thought designing the building was the actual easy part of the job while the production of it all all the other nuts and bolts that went into it was the real work of the job easy to downplay when you're you've worked hard to get to somewhere and it's such a major position. It's easy to downplay and say Yeah Right. I just knew it I was you know that's the easy part but yeah I get how things like that have so many different moving parts so everybody's job is important but yes so she got she got to that point and for a lot of her career she actually served as a project manager rather than a design architect architect which was actually the case with many women architects who worked who worked in corporate farms so she didn't design most of the big projects that she supervised revised and Marshall Pernille who was a former president of the American Institute of Architects told. La Times that she could design large projects but that it was unheard of to have an African American female who was registered as an architect. You didn't try that person out in front of your clients in say hey this is the person running your project so Marshall personnel who is a former president of the AA told the La Times that she could design large projects Jake's but quote it was unheard of to have an African American female who was registered as an architect. You didn't that person out in front of your clients in say this. This is the person designing your project. She was not allowed to express herself as a designer but she was capable of doing anything. That's sweat sweat. Marshall Pernell said either way she was really good project manager anti state with gruen until nineteen eighty and she got she was married several times destroy life during the time she was at grew and she married Ralph Sclerotic an associate at Gruen who died in one thousand nine hundred eighty four so dot years after they married in nineteen eighty here's another I she became the first black woman appointed to the College of fellows of the AA and she was the first woman in and the Los Angeles chapter to be given that honor that same year she became vice president at the Los Angeles firm Welton an Beckett associates so she was the project director on Terminal One at Los Angeles International Airport which was a fifty million dollar project that she finished before for the Star of the Nineteen eighty-four Olympics. Oh Wow this is another part of her life which I think you two will really appreciate She Co.. Oh founded the women owned firm SEGEL's cleric and diamond with Margo Siegel and Catherine diamond and that was the largest completely women owned architectural firm in the US at the time yeah like that she was the first African American woman to co who own an architectural practice. Wow Yeah so many first thousand nine hundred eighty five yeah the firm made a a bunch of proposals that may propose on projects it got all of those commissions so they worked on the Tarzana promenade which was in ninety thousand square foot medical in retail center and remodeling of the Lawn Dell Civic Center and they worked on additions to schools and other institutional buildings so nineteen eighty-five this was after her previous husband died she married Doctor Cornelius Welsh so another marriage and she left Siegel Larrikin diamond in nineteen eighty nine even though the really cool thing to do because even though they had these fifty million dollar projects they couldn't get the large-scale projects that she really really wanted and she missed that kind of challenge in the money that came with those projects which is totally understandable there yeah she became the principal of project management. Ah Jeopardy Partnership which was a firm that was known for his design of public spaces and while she was there she helped design and construct the mall of America. L. Is back into the mall of America I have not I've seen the Mary Kate and Ashley Short Videos where they visited events okay now. I'm just annoyed but not anything gable. I've seen it multiple times okay old role we don't because a lot of the days are in my lifetime accomplished and I'm just like wow it took that long for her to be awarded and honored as she should have been crazy. It is what we have a little bit more for you but first one more quick break for more sponsor in this episode is brought to you by the Rolling Stone Charts Rolling Stone as the definitive outlet for all things music bringing you the latest news interviews and reviews rolling stone is your go-to source to learn everything about groundbreaking artists and now rolling stone is going even further to show you what it means to be on the rise introducing the rolling Stone Charts and Interactive Seta Music Charts that offer an in-depth in the moment view of the biggest songs albums and artists in Usak the rolling stone charts are the definitive guide for trending trending breaking in popular music in the age of streaming. Is it rolling stone dot com slash charts or search. Rs Charts in Amer back. Thank you sponsor so mall of America Future Destination for Mary. Kate and Ashley sure big project is the point. I think that's why she worked for. Excuse of course a big set for their little mini stories. The Adventures of Mary went around and get lost and derive again. I don't remember other roller coaster. Eh You watch it every day. Lake Mary Kate and Ashley Video. I just got a I got a hold on the old days. You use your judgment of what I gotta do. It's like it's not like we're that fresh. I'm not that fresh up on it. Because I imagine it wouldn't be a thing that you go back to every no never not oh well. Maybe you do no judgment notice. She retired from that practice in nineteen ninety two but you know she had a long illustrious career and she also did a ton of other other things besides that career she also taught at the University of California Los Angeles and served as a director of the University of southern California architect skilled and she was a member of the Commission of the California State Board of Architectural Examiners wow yeah and the whole mouthful in the nineteen nineties she lectured at Howard University Columbia University and other schools and she held seminars for people who are taking the architecture licensing exams so she kind of worked as this mentor to other people. She said that she didn't have any mentors and role models growing up but was happy to be one to others which I feel like. It's important to remember like lift as you say that would be anybody. WHO's a first. How do you find when you're the the one that's paving the way remember when you once you have. Let's teach others to do so. I'm a big I guess you have. You definitely have to have a lot of resilience to to be a person breaking like that. Oh I feel that is dominated even now by pretty much. Mel People's People's uh-huh articulate as always one of those words. I love the word people's because it just automatically makes you smarter money's at mytalk. Yeah when I say people say no. Oh care giving. I'm getting these enduring aw all right now thinking more concerned about it. Don't worry about the I mean. That's got to be really hard to come into a field that is still predominantly imminently mel based in male-dominated and trying to lead away. Try New seminars. That's phenomenal as a black woman just paving her way through seatbelt that quote architecture should be working on improving the environment of people in their homes in their places of work and places of recreation. It should be functional and pleasant not just in the image of the ego of the architect said I think that's good insight into how she felt about the work that she did once he retired tired or I like this part. She lived with her family in southern California and she had garden parties in the spring time which sound really fancy. I don't know if I've ever been to to a garden party before but I would love to. I've been to one Wisconsin by June company and it was beautiful Jin. They're also much off. After like two is the thing that you drink at garden parties though no you drink like is it mint juleps type of thing and that's more isn't that whiskey NBC yes in style so more on those lines maybe a little bit of lemonade tease yeah but that would be what I would think of as Garden Party but but if it was my garden party a lot of I think we can make our own rules when it comes to the Garden Party so I think there's a lot of like that croquet. Okay game yes again which refers to heather's do people. WE'RE LETTING SAMANTHA DOWN ON FINDS The friends here if you if you keep naming things will shuttle theory you guys also have the spongebob reference what True Yeah. I will watch heather's. Yes we have a party. Let's have a garden party. Actually that was named party for that at one of the restaurants in Atlanta dressed up. I don't know what it was for but it was really. They're really cute and stuff like that. Yeah we can. We can make it work because what is it. The heather is like this is the sporty heather. Is it like spice girls but with heather who's the leader okay so I can just scary. Heather Heather would be one. Oh Ryder's character to whoever heather she's off Bianca. Oh I can't do that I can. I can see that out because they've come for you. GotTa get mean but Heather on Ryder's character is the dark haired. One INCAPACI- Shannen Doherty isn't as well as well as Christian slater. Oh what a cast best. She was still really active in all the architecture things going into the later years of her life. In two thousand and three she was appointed into the California architects board where she served on the Professional Qualifications Committee and the Regulatory Enforcement Committee. I was really hoping that she was just the the as the whole community wide. I'm here for what a bunch of other boards and committees to we don't even go into in two thousand eight the AI gave her the Whitney m young junior award which is an award that recognizes an architect or an organization that embodies the profession's responsibility to address social issues and she died four years later in two thousand twelve of heart failure at her home in California when she was eighty five years old yeah but she was clearly recognized as for the work that she did while she was alive but she has gotten a posthumous ord as well just this year in July twenty nineteen she became the first black woman comment to be given the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles Gold Medal and that gold medal is given in recognition of a significant body of work with lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture and that's the highest honor that the organization awards so she's as many people are in in have been awarded things posthumously as well so it's good to know that a person you know he's talking about giving people they're flowers while they're still alive and for them to be awarded while they're alive but also important to remember people after they've gone and the work they've done especially pioneering hearing it feels like this kind of opening like she acted as a mentor to opening it up to other people who may think that they don't have a place yeah and that and feels like this and I think about this all all the time when it comes to being I or being a black woman to pioneer spaces that a lot of people may think of as Weiss basis but they are our our meal spaces white spaces spaces for men and not having a kind of path or not seeing a path or away for it for you because you can't see yourself in that organization but there are you know they're. They're you know they're there and I think having you you know being able to look back at a legacy like hers and being able to continuously honor. Her legacy is important. When it comes to remembering that we can continue forward word on the path that she created there can be more black women architects in the field they can you can be licensed? You know you can fail and you can apply somewhere nineteen times and the twentieth Glenn will be the one that you get so. I think that's why I think it's important to look back at a legacy Lakers right. That's very well. Put US yeah I agree. I think we talk about on this. Show a lot the power of seeing yourself somewhere and how much that can impact to you especially when you're young child. You don't if you don't see anybody. That looks like you then you kind of think well. That must not be for me yeah right so I'm glad that we have people like this. We have our female I that are s being examples and being mentors. Oh yeah an in on female I I wanted to shout out a couple of other people because I know I mentioned in the beginning that he was not the first licensed a black female architect in the US so the first first black architect period to become a member of a it was Paul Revere Williams in Nineteen twenty-three and before Norma there were Beverly Lorraine Green and Georgia Louise Harris Brown and they were also thought to be licensed architects in nineteen forty to nineteen forty nine respectively in both both of them were registered in Illinois and so both of their stories are interesting as well and I felt like we talk about this a lot in I in how there is a path for a person to get to a first there were so many other hands involved especially when it comes to inventions and stuff like that that a person's I wasn't isolated and also continuing to put into perspective respective in context why I is important in terms of like well other people had access in. There weren't barriers for them necessarily but you know it's there. There were leading up to her becoming having her first there were other people who came before her in beverly and Georgia where to those people and so their stories are really interesting as well. Oh and Brown recognize the beer she face because he was a black woman trying to work in architecture so she learned Portuguese and move to Brazil in nineteen fifty-three three because you kind of realized there was a burgeoning growing architecture seeing there and she later got her architectural license there as well in Brazil and she moved there knowing about all those advancements that were being made and she was also kind of seeking racial democracy because there's this kind of propaganda machine going right now saying look at us we we have this really open you know racial situation going on in Brazil but without needing to go into the details of the racial yeah like a maneuvers of everything and still is happening in Brazil right now like it wasn't obviously as rosy that propaganda made it seem so you know that how's that thing but she also was successful when she got to Brazil and started working there architecture but yeah those are stories as well if anybody wants to go on that path and continue continue looking at all these architecture I in pioneering women in it. Yeah Yeah. You've got a bonus female. I listen here is like a mini female. I within the female for Homework Homework Yeah We. I've always wanted to assign homework your opportunity. It's time listeners. Go out and find more female. I for US and send them our way. ooh Yeah because I think that's about what we have to say about Norma. thank you so much always use yeah. It's enjoy being here so pleasure. Oh okay me too. When you come in we do and we would love for listeners to be able to find you because you do other things than this. You have a lot of other stuff going on yeah. I never know where I could tell them to find me but I will say that I also host popular which is a show about people in history who stood up to the status quo into things often persecuted for it. You can find unpopular and all all the social media things like the facebook twitter and instagram. You can listen to the show on all of the also things. Were you listen to podcasts. Wherever you're listening to this right now you can also hear me on this day in history class which is also on all the social media things and also on the podcast also on that thing that you used to listen if you pick up the phone and I don't don't do a good mid mid central mid western whatever that old accent is chance Atlantic yeah that thing get learn of home. I don't WanNa hear any critiques because the only thing they say over and over London London in general that we're not here took criticized validates you at all you just call London. I want to call London. I've been waiting my whole life London debut that everyone move yeah. I'm pretty sure that's how it works. You can also email us at steph media mom stuff at Iheartmedia dot com you can find find us on twitter at Mazda podcast or on Instagram at stop. I'm never told you thanks as always to our super producer Andrew Howard Andrew and thanks to you for listening supplement ever told you is a projection of iheartradio's house works for more podcast from iheartradio visit the iheartradio APP apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorites in this episode is brought to you by the Rolling Stone Charts Rolling Stone is definitive outlet all things music bringing you. The latest news news interviews and reviews rolling stone is go to source to learn everything about groundbreaking artists and rolling stone is going even further to show you what it means to be on the rise introducing the rolling stone charts an and interactive set of music charts that offer an in depth in the moment view of the biggest songs albums and artists in music the rolling stone charts are the definitive guide for trending breaking in popular music in the age of streaming his at rolling stone dot com slash charts or search are s charts.