Rebecca ("Becky") Wood Watkin
Architect and longtime activist for environmental, public housing, and other progressive causes, died quietly in her sleep on December 19, 2010, at the age of 97 in La Jolla. Becky was born on April 4, 1913 in Portland, Oregon. She earned her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and B. Arch. from the Architecture School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1937, one of the first women to receive that degree. Degree in hand, she moved to Sausalito, where she got work as a draftswoman in 1940, and later opened her own practice. Combining her professional life and her talents as a civic leader, she helped found and lead the Marin Ecumenical Association for Housing, to promote low-income housing. As a member of the Marin County Planning Commission in the 1970s, she was a leading advocate for environmentally sensitive development. Her dogged determination to recognize and address the needs of all citizens had a significant impact on raising public awareness and community planning. Always active in public affairs, Becky Watkin was a stalwart of Democratic Party politics from a time when Marin Democrats were an endangered minority. In 1952 and 1956, she was co-chair of Adlai Stevenson's local campaign. In 1960, she was John Kennedy's precinct chairwoman in Marin. In 1968, Becky was co-chair of Marin's Eugene McCarthy for President Committee, and in 1972 she headed George McGovern's local presidential campaign. Finally, in 1976, she backed a winner, running Jimmy Carter's primary campaign and serving as a delegate to the National Convention. Becky also served as a mentor and confidante for a number of public servants. In 1997, Assembly Member Kerry Mazzoni recognized her contributions by naming her California Legislature Woman of the Year for her district. In one of her favorite stories, Becky told of the time when a young Barbara Boxer came into a Marin campaign office asking if she could help. With her characteristic directness, Becky asked: "Can you type?" Thus did Senator Boxer's career in California Democratic politics begin. Rebecca Wood married Joseph Esherick in 1938; they had three children before divorcing in 1951. She married Harold Watkin in 1958; he died in 1981. Becky Watkin lived in the house she designed in Kent Woodlands from 1950 to 2003, when she moved to the White Sands retirement home in La Jolla, California. She loved the outdoors, hiking in Oregon, and skiing as a member of the Over the Hill Gang until age 83. Always a lover of music, she sang with the Marin Chorus until she was in her eighties.
For information about her work as an architect, please visit the entry of her collection at the International Archive of Women in Architecture at Virginia Tech http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=vt/viblbv00540.xml