Willemina Ogterop

Willemina Ogterop is one of America’s great woman designer of stained glass windows. Our mission is to identify and document all of Willemina’s works as a collection and testament to her talent. We are gathering, cataloging, and looking for stories about the windows Willemina designed.

Willemina was the principle designer for the Cummings Studio in San Francisco from 1923-1958. She designed about 500 windows for about 80 churches mainly in California. It is known that some windows have been sold or destroyed.


Old First: Protestant Reformed Tradition

One of the first things you notice upon entering Old First’s sanctuary are the Cummings Studio windows created by Willemina. They were installed in 1949 to commemorate Old First’s Centennial. Willemina completed the windows from designs by the church’s secretary Alice English and Pastor Dr. John Hayes. The twelve sets of clerestory windows represent the Protestant Reformed tradition in various nations. The center window in each set names a country and the year identified as a key event in the history of the Reformed faith. The windows begin with 1190 Italy, followed by 1360 Bohemia, 1523 Geneva, 1558 Hungary, 1559 France,1560 Scotland, 1563 Germany, 1568 Holland, 1572 England, 1606 Ireland, 1706 U.S.A., 1948 Ecumenical.

St James has three Willemina windows

James Episcopal Church in San Francisco has 17 windows in the main sanctuary. It is evident the windows in this church are from several design studios. Cummings Studios has only two signed windows in the sanctuary. These windows are in a light and realistic style and use opalescent glass in a variety of colors and textures combined with the leading to form the figures and shapes very much in the Tiffany style. The painting technique is realistic with life-like colors. It is believed that Willemina designed the windows to match the Tiffany window in the rear of the sanctuary.

In the side chapel, there is a small window very much in Willemina’s Gothic style.

St. James traces its roots back to 1890 to a private home on Point Lobos Ave. (now Geary Blvd.). Since then, the church has had several locations in the Richmond district before finally resting at the current address on California Street. Ground-breaking for this new church took place on June 30, 1923. The cornerstone was placed in position on October 14th by the Rt. Rev. Edward Lambe Parsons. Originally a cottage, the Church was modified twice to include an educational facility and an office.

St James Episcopal Church, Parish office is open Mon-Fri, 10am to 6pm, located at 4620 California Street, San Francisco, California, 94118, (415) 751-1189, stjames@stjamessf.org, www.stjames.org

A Life Of Inspiration: Childhood, Travels, Reflections

The majority of Willemina’s public work is in churches; this however doesn’t reflect Willemina’s true spirit. Raised in Holland in a Christian society of the late 1800s, she was familiar with the liturgy and literature of the church, but was not herself a practicing Christian.

Willemina Muller was twelve when she created a beautiful pencil drawing of a young Dutch girl. Her paintings and drawings show an inquisitive child, attracted to the foreign and exotic. In her native Holland, there are drawings from her childhood sketchbook that show amazing skill. Her parents recognized she had talent as an artist. She later attended the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to study art.

Willemina’s inquisitive mind took in many varying philosophies and religious beliefs, especially Hinduism and Buddhism from the East. Her travels to India and Indonesian introduced her to the philosophies of the east. She felt that the best solution to help to realize peace in the world would be to combine all religions into one. She was a lifelong follower of the tenents of non-violence espoused by Mahatma Gandhi and carved a small woodcut which became a large-scale ‘Satyagraha’ motif that now resides in the entrance gallery at the National Gandhi Museum in Rajghat, New Delhi. She was also an active member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

When Willemina had to make difficult choices in her life, she often referred to Ramdas, a Hindu Monk who said “Rejoice! Count all your blessings… it might have been so much worse.”