Eleven recently discovered letters in the Royal Library in Stockholm, written by Mamah Bouton Borthwick and Frank Lloyd Wright to Ellen Key, the Swedish social theorist and feminist reformer, between 1911 and 1914, shed new light on Key's influence, not only on the couple's image of themselves as radical reformers, but also on the design and concept of Taliesin, the house that Wright built as a residence, workshop, and retreat for them in 1913. These letters reveal that Borthwick, a client and neighbor of Wright's in Oak Park, discovered Key's writings soon after she and Wright abandoned their families and fled to Europe in 1909; from that point until August 1914, when Borthwick was murdered by a deranged servant at Taliesin, both she and Wright became avid disciples of Key's philosophy, and looked to her for guidance and support. It has long been known that Key's many publications on subjects such as marriage, divorce, birth control, children's education, and individual freedom, were read with interest by Wright and Borthwick, and that Borthwick was named Key's "only authorized translator" in English. The letters, analyzed in the context of close readings of Key's most significant and widely read texts, offer new insights into the meaning of Key's writings for the couple, revealing an explicit connection between Key's ideas and Taliesin, which Borthwick describes as having been "founded on Ellen Key's ideal of love." The texts provide further evidence of the feminist influence on Wright's emerging ideas about individual responsibility, artistic freedom, the family, and household life.
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Research Article| June 01 2002
Frank Lloyd Wright and Feminism: Mamah Borthwick's Letters to Ellen Key
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2002) 61 (2): 140–151.
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Mamah Borthwick, Alice T. Friedman; Frank Lloyd Wright and Feminism: Mamah Borthwick's Letters to Ellen Key. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 June 2002; 61 (2): 140–151. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/991836
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