Learn How the Hotel Figueroa Was Made for Women, by Women

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Originally opened in 1926 as an exclusive women’s hostelry, the iconic Hotel Figueroa in downtown Los Angeles underwent an extensive redesign in 2018 that pays tribute to its rich history. The hotel was the largest commercial building funded by women for women when it opened in 1926, and was established by the YWCA as a safe haven for solo female travelers. In 1926, the majority of women would have been prohibited from checking into most hotels without a male chaperone. Not the Figueroa. 

Now the hotel is renewing its focus on women through art. The hotel features L.A.’s most compelling female artists and culture-makers, ranging from emerging to internationally established talents. Spanning the mediums of photography, painting, mixed media, sculpture, sound, and performance, these contemporary works encompass a wide array of singular pieces.

Founded, financed, and operated entirely by women for women, the hotel opened on Aug. 14, 1926,” said Connie Wang, the hotel’s managing director. “At that time, not only could a single woman traveling alone face physical danger and social ridicule, she could also be denied lodging unless accompanied by a male chaperone. From the outset, Hotel Figueroa provided a safe haven for solo women travelers, devoting nine of its fourteen floors entirely to female guests. The first-ever female managing director of a hotel in the U.S. was the pioneering aviatrix Maude Bouldin, and for years the space served as a meeting place for practically every woman's club in Los Angeles. The hotel has always fully embraced its social conscience, holding press conferences and political rallies against sexism, racism, and other social issues to this very day.”

Wang said hotel officials wanted to introduce guests to the talent of female artists working in Los Angeles in a truly accessible way. “Our long-standing Featured Artist program transforms part of our lobby, dubbed the ‘artist alley,’ into a walking gallery that can be viewed 24/7,” Wang said. “Guests and local Angelenos can purchase art or just grab a coffee at Café Fig and meander through the exhibit.” Last year, the hotel debuted its first-ever Featured Artist Suite, which allows guests to stay overnight and immerse themselves in a world created by a Featured Artist.

“To mark the beginning of Women’s History Month, we will be working with Ruthanna Hopper in 2022,” Wang said. “Ruthanna’s year-long exhibition The Emergence will powerfully connect the audience with her artistic journey and most influential inspirations — her mother Daria Halprin and grandmother Anna Halprin, both well-known artists in their time.” 

Wang said that in tandem with Hotel Figueroa’s female-centric ethos, arriving guests will immediately discover that women-made art is integrated across all spaces on the property — from the annual rotating walkable Featured Artist Series Exhibit to the hotel’s guest rooms. The meticulously hand-painted elevator banks were completed by local women artists such as Gabby B. Vasquez, and the building’s striking exterior features a 14-story-high custom Fig motif designed by U.K.-based muralist Bella Gomez. 

“From its inception over 95 years ago to its modern-day design, Hotel Figueroa has consistently dedicated itself to becoming a creative space designed by women, for women — making its spirit undeniably feminist,” Wang said.

Tags: Gender Equality, Travel, Women in Business, Women's History, Women's History Month

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Kristi Eaton

Kristi Eaton is a freelance journalist and communications consultant. See Full Bio

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