Taylor, Florence M. (1879–1969)

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Taylor, Florence M. (1879–1969)

British-born Australian architect, engineer, and publisher. Born Florence Mary Parsons in 1879 in Bristol, England; died on February 13, 1969; daughter of John Parsons (a government employee) and Eliza (Brooks) Parsons; educated at Sydney Technical College and University of Sydney Engineering School; married George Augustine Taylor, in 1907 (died 1928).

Together with husband, started the Building Publishing Company; published trade magazines, including The Australasian Engineer, Building (later Building, Lighting, and Engineering), The Commonwealth Home, and Construction.

Florence M. Taylor, the eldest of five girls, was born in England in 1879 but moved to Australia with her family in 1888. When she was 19, her father, a government employee, died, and she began working in an architect-engineer's office as a clerk. Deciding on a career of drafting, Taylor took night classes at the Sydney Technical College, later transferring to the University of Sydney. She initially failed her examinations at the college, and it took her eight years to finish school.

Taylor later became the chief draftsperson for John Burcham Clamp, the Diocesan architect, and was nominated by him in 1907 for associate membership in the New South Wales Institute of Architects. She was the first woman ever nominated for membership into this organization, but she was not admitted. That honor finally came in 1920, when she was admitted as Australia's first qualified female architect. Said Clamp, "She could design a place while an ordinary draftsman would be sharpening his pencil."

George Taylor, whom she married in 1907, was also an architect, and the couple shared many interests, including flying, which Florence mastered in 1909. Besides establishing a publishing company that produced 11 trade journals, they also helped to found the Town Planning Association of Australia in 1913. Their publishing company afforded them an opportunity not only to influence construction methods and materials but to focus on the need for urban planning. They were able to command the attention of the government and the public and in so doing were influential in promoting the interests of engineers, architects, and builders. For example, they organized support for Walter Burley Griffin's designs for Canberra through a petition of professionals.

When George died in 1928, Florence reduced the number of their company's publications to three: Building (renamed Building, Lighting, and Engineering), Construction, and The Australasian Engineer. However, she continued to conceive and execute ideas for the town, including a subway in Sydney, an airport in Newport, and an expressway to link the downtown area of Sydney with the suburbs. Under her guidance, the journals became a vital part of the engineering and architecture community.

Throughout her life, Taylor was actively involved in several organizations, including the Arts Club, the International Society of Australia, the Royal Empire Society, the Royal Aero Club of New South Wales, the Royal Society of Arts, and the Society of Women Writers. Although her unreserved questioning and criticism at times antagonized her contemporaries, she also gained their respect.

Taylor was honored by the naming of several design awards after her, including the Australian Institute of Metals' Florence M. Taylor medal and the plaque for distinguished service from the Master Builders' Association. In 1939, she was named Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), and in 1961 was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). That same year, ill health forced her to retire and live with her sister Annis Parsons . She died eight years later, on February 13, 1969.


Radi, Heather, ed. 200 Australian Women. Women's Redress Press, 1988.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan

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Taylor, Florence M. (1879–1969)

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