[originally posted March 2022]
Since 1987, March has been designated National Women’s History Month in the United States, and to commemorate it, we’d like to celebrate our historic women. Stickley has had its share of talented women in positions of leadership and creative influence, no small feat when operating in a male-dominated industry for well over a century. Here are just a few of the boldface female names that are part of the Stickley story; they stand in for hundreds of unnamed women who’ve helped build the brand from its offices, showrooms, and factory floors.
Dr. Irene Sargent (1852 – 1932)Gustav Stickley published The Craftsman magazine beginning in 1901 to promote his ideas and design philosophy, and it’s natural to assume that he composed its content. But in fact, the editor of The Craftsman and the author of most of its essays—including the entirety of the first three issues!—was Irene Sargent, an Auburn native and scholar from Syracuse University. It’s not clear how their paths first crossed, but in 1900 Gus called upon Sargent, a professor of languages, fine arts and literature with a broad intellect, to write for his first furniture catalog, “Chips from the Workshops of Gustave Stickley.” It was her scholarship and voice that passionately spread the principles of the American Arts and Crafts movement and inspired both Stickley’s creative minds and its customers.
When Gus moved his headquarters and publication to New York City in 1905, her association with The Craftsman ended, though her Stickley story did not. In 1926, Irene—now Dr. Sargent—would author a pamphlet for L. & J.G. Stickley titled “Household Furniture: its origins from the Bed and the Chest.”
Louise Shrimpton (1870 – 1954)Born in Syracuse, Louise Shrimpton studied painting, drawing, and design at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (now at Tufts University) in Boston; while there, she was also likely exposed to the Arts and Crafts movement. She was hired by Gustav Stickley in 1902 to join his workshop, where she designed furniture, interiors, and textiles. There she worked alongside designers LaMont Warner and Harvey Ellis; in fact, when Ellis-inspired design elements appeared on Stickley furniture following his death, it was likely Shrimpton who had absorbed his style and kept it alive. She also contributed uncredited designs to “Home Training in Cabinet Work,” The Craftsman’s series of projects for amateur woodworkers begun in 1905. Shrimpton left the Craftsman Workshops in 1906 to pursue journalism, but like Irene Sargent, she also did some later work for L. & J.G. Stickley, drawing model rooms for the company in 1907.
Mrs. Louise Stickley (1895 – 1981)
Louise Bowman became the second wife of Leopold Stickley in September 1935, and she was with him in Fayetteville through the peak years of his career, as he grew the L. & J. G. Stickley furniture business with his widely popular Cherry Valley Collection. Though never strictly a businesswoman, she found herself thrust into that position when Leopold died in 1957 and left her as the owner of the company. She did her best to keep it going in the years that followed, a task that got more difficult as her experienced craftsmen started to retire and a few dealers moved on from the brand. But for all her inexperience, Louise understood the quality that the Stickley name stood for, and she had the wisdom to find a kindred spirit in Alfred Audi when she asked him to buy the company in 1974.
Mrs. Aminy Audi
Aminy Audi was a freelance writer and reporter for The Voice of America when she and Alfred bought Stickley. Like Louise, she wasn’t technically a businesswoman, but she had learned what she needed to know from both her father’s and her husband’s work, and from the start she was a true partner and influential force. She and Alfred worked side by side to pull the struggling company back from the brink and revive its fortunes, all while maintaining a reverence for its history and refusing to compromise on the quality and craftsmanship that defined it. By the time they had re-issued the Mission Collection to great acclaim in 1989, the Audis were hugely respected in the industry. The untimely passing of her husband in 2007 left Aminy at the helm of L. & J.G. Stickley, and she’s managed the challenges of the following years with grace and intelligence. In 2015 she was inducted into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame, joining her husband who was inducted in 2008.
In this National Women’s History Month, we must touch on the work Aminy Audi has done on behalf of women as a role model and advocate. She served as a non-governmental delegate to the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, then participated in the Women’s Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. in 1996.
She is also a founding member of the Women’s Fund of Central New York, which provides grants and initiatives to support the advancement of women in the community, and of the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red, whose mission is to advance cardiovascular health for women.
Mrs. Aminy Audi, CEO and Chair of the Board
Amanda Clifford, Director, The Stickley Museum
Cathers, David. Gustav Stickley. New York: Phaidon Press, 2003.
Henry Ford Museum, “Finding Aid for Stickley Family Collection, 1879–1978” http://www.dalnet.lib.mi.us/henryford/docs/StickleyFamilyCollection_Accession1624.pdf
Reed, Cleota. Irene Sargent: A Legend in her own Time. Pasadena, CA: The Clinker Press, 2013.