This is the first post in a series on mostly female trailblazers of the Gilded Age. These were the people that inspired many of the lead characters in my debut novel ‘The Eighth Wonder.’ I hope you find their stories as inspiring as I did.

To launch the series there is no better way to start than with Julia Morgan on her 139th birthday. That is, she was born in San Francisco January 20, 1872.

 She was a tiny woman with a towering ambition and an enviable self belief spurred on by her three older brothers and egalitarian parents who treated her as an equal. She studied science/engineering at Berkeley (the only woman in her class) and graduated in 1894 and was then first female student to be admitted into prestigious Ecole Des Beaux Arts architectural school in Paris in 1898. And boy did she have towork hard to get in. (Pardon the pun). She failed to get acceptance on her first two tries, given she had to complete the exam in French and metrics but on her third attempt in October 1898 sheplaced thirteenth out of some four hundred applicants. She completed her studies

in 1903 and opened up her first office in San Francisco in the spring of 1904. Over the course of her career she designed and constructed over 700 buildings including the colossal Hearst Castle (below). Around a commissions were for women’s clubs and movements,  including the Berkeley City Club which is now a fancy hotel and the Y.W.C.A in Hawaii.

Julia was one of many trailblazing women who inspired the characters in my novel “The Eighth Wonder.”  More of these fascinating trailblazers will be revealed as we move closer to launch date in July 2021.

To learn more about her works of art the book ‘Julia Morgan Architect of Beauty’ by Mark Anthony Wilson is a good place to start.