Skip to main content

Woman's Building records, 1970-1992

Woman's Building (Los Angeles, Calif.)

The Women's Building records were digitized in 2019 and total 56,567 images. Materials which have not been digitized include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages digitized. The printed materials series has not been digitized.

Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Getty Foundation. Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and Joyce F. Menschel, Vital Projects Fund, Inc.

Collection Information

Size: 33.5 Linear feet

Summary: The records of the Woman's Building measure 33.5 linear feet and date from 1970 to 1992. The organization played a key role as an alternative space for women artists energized by the feminist movement in the 1970s. The records document the ways in which feminist theory shaped the Building's founding core mission and goals. During its eighteen year history, the Building served as an education center and a public gallery space for women artists in Los Angeles and southern California; the records reflect both functions of the Building's activities.
The Administrative Files series documents the daily operations of the Building, with particular emphasis on management policies, budget planning, history, cooperative relationships with outside art organizations and galleries, special building-wide programs, and relocation planning. Included in this series are the complete minutes from most Building committees from 1974 through closing, including the Board of Directors and the Advisory Council. The General Publicity and Outreach series is particularly complete, containing publicity notices from most events, exhibits, and programs held at the Woman's Building, including brochures, announcements, programs, invitations, press releases, newspaper clippings, and magazine articles.
The Woman's Building's educational programs centered on courses offered by the Feminist Studio Workshop and the Extension Program. While the Workshop provided a two-year program for women interested in fully developing their artistic talent, the Extension Program offered a broad range of classes, specifically oriented to working women interested in art and art vocations. The records fully document both programs, focusing on the course development and descriptions, teacher contracts, class evaluations, budget planning, and scholarship programs. Although the Archives does not have the entire slide library, there are files concerning the establishment and administration of the library, as well as a few folders of slides.
The Gallery Programs series houses the records of the visual, performing, literary and video arts events held at the Woman's Building. Administrative files detail the daily operation of the gallery spaces. The files in the remaining subseries are primarily arranged by event and contain proposals, announcements, publicity, and artist biographies.
The Women's Graphic Center became a profit-making arm of the Woman's Building in 1981 but the typesetting and design equipment had been used by staff and students since 1975. The records in this series focus on the work produced at the Center, including general projects and artist designs and art prints. Many of the design and printing examples were produced for Woman's Building events and programs.
The Artist's Works of Art series includes artist books, resumes, correspondence, postcards, and samples of art in the form of sketches, drawings, and prints. There is also material related to Woman's Building projects. Especially noteworthy is the "What is Feminist Art?" project where artists gave their responses in various formats and mediums from text to pieces of artwork.
The Printed Materials series contains feminist and art publications not produced by or for the Woman's Building.

Biographical/Historical Note

In 1973, artist Judy Chicago, graphic designer Sheila Levant de Bretteville, and art historian Arlene Raven founded the Feminist Studio Workshop (FSW), one of the first independent schools for women artists. The founders established the workshop as a non-profit alternative education center committed to developing art based on women's experiences. The FSW focused not only on the development of art skills, but also on the development of women's experiences and the incorporation of those experiences into their artwork. Central to this vision was the idea that art should not be separated from other activities related to the developing women's movement. In November of 1973 the founders rented workshop space in a vacated building in downtown Los Angeles and called it The Woman's Building, taking the name from the structure created for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The FSW shared space with other organizations and enterprises including several performance groups, Womanspace Gallery, Sisterhood Bookstore, the National Organization of Women, and the Women's Liberation Union.


The Woman's Building records were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1991 by Sandra Golvin, President of the Board of Directors. An small addition of a set of "Cross Pollination" posters was donated in 2019 by by ONE Archives at University of Southern California Libraries via Loni Shibuyama, Archives Librarian.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Getty Foundation. Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and Joyce F. Menschel, Vital Projects Fund, Inc.