Lillian Glaser New York Harbor tapestry
New York Harbor (1928) by Lillian Glaser. Gift of St. Louis Weavers’ Guild. Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum.

Medium: wool and linen

Dimensions: 60 1/4 x 27 5/8 in. (153.0 x 70.2 cm)

Many women were involved in the Midcentury Modern era’s designs and production, although you may not know their names. In honor of Women’s History month, here are a sampling of 6 women who designed mid mod textiles.

Lillian Glaser: Based in St. Louis, Lillian attended and later taught at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University. She inspired the formation of the St. Louis Weaver’s Guild. Genny Cortinovis, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Saint Louis Art Museum, explains that Lillian was “known for her pictorial wall hangings in the Scandinavian tradition.” She died an untimely death in a studio accident.

Frannie Dressel: Frannie was recognized for “her colorful, playful, mostly linoleum block and screen-printed textiles (and some paper products),” Genny Cortinovis says. She designed for manufacturers such as Arundell Clarke. In 1950, Frannie won AIA honorable mention for her design entitled Papaya Tree.

Helen Frances Gregor: Born in Czechlozovakia, Helen emigrated to escape World War II. She came first to England, where she studied art at various institutions, including the Royal College of Art’s School of Design in London. She would go on to study at Rochester, New York and eventually put down roots in Toronto, where she founded and taught in the textile department of Ontario College of Art and Design in 1952. She is known for her tapestries, and won the Ontario Crafts Council’s Mather Award in 1982 among other honors.

Frannie Dressel fabric
Illinois by Frannie Dressel. Woodcut on fabric. Photo courtesy of Link Auction Galleries, St. Louis, MO.

Tirzah Dunn: Genny Cortinovis describes Tirzah as a “successful wallpaper designer” with a “wide stylistic range from classical modern (mannerist columns and chinoiserie) to whimsical/traditional (radishes and salt) from the 1930-1950s.” You can get a sense of Tirzah’s stylistic breadth here.

Helen Gregor midcentury weaver at loom
Helen Gregor at her custom-made loom from Cranbrook. She is pictured in her Toronto studio. Photo by Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images.

Ruth Adler Schnee: A German émigré, she and her husband, Edward Schnee, owned and operated a textile studio in Detroit. She has designed for MCM’s big names and continues to design textiles inspired by color, natural textures and shapes. Her mother was involved in the Bauhaus movement, and Ruth attended Cranbrook. Steeped in the modernist tradition, Ruth describes her philosophy in an interview with KnollInspiration. Textiles and architecture “should all be one,” Ruth says. When it comes to color, Ruth says, “I have no theory about it, I just know when it’s right. And it has to sing, that’s the most important part for me. It has to sing.”

Fission Chips Ruth Adler Schnee Knoll Inc
Fission Chips in Cocoa, design by Ruth Adler Schnee. Photo courtesy of Knoll, Inc.

Edna Vogel: Another distinguished graduate of Cranbrook, Edna won the first place prize for the woven category in the 1944 Textile Exhibition. She designed upholstery fabric and rugs for the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Kahn. Genny Cortinovis describes her rugs as “graphic but also lush and painterly.” Tragically, “her career was cut short when she died in a studio fire in 1953.”


Atomic Ranch is Celebrating Women’s History Month!

March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, join us as we showcase some of the midcentury’s most beloved women designers as well as some modern makers inspired by their legacy. Click here to read more about the ladies behind your favorite designs, pieces and places.