Willa Cloys was an only child, born November 1, 1889, in the Midwest. Her father Edward H. Cloys was a building contractor and the family moved to California around the late nineteen-teens. Willa was one of the first women to graduate with a degree in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley, which at that time was part of the Department of Agriculture under the direction of Professor John Gregg. After graduating with her degree in 1916, she is listed in the Berkeley City Directory, in 1917, as a Landscape Architect.
By 1925, Willa married Robert M. Carmack, and based on the 1930 census they had two children, John and Sarah. Throughout her career, which spanned more than thirty years, she secured several large estate commissions in and around Hillsborough, schools in San Leandro, the San Jose Women's Club, city parks in Petaluma, and a subdivision called Felton Gables in Menlo Park. Cloys was a founding member of the California Horticultural Society. She was an early proponent of the use of native plants in California gardens and an active part of a network of women working to influence how we garden in California today.
The Willa Cloys Carmack Collection spans the years 1916-1962 and includes personal, professional, and project records. This collection is organized into two series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers. Personal Papers contain correspondence, photographs, travel diaries, and handwritten notes about plant types. The bulk of the material in this series is travel paraphernalia from her trips to Italy (1926), Mexico (1955), across the Midwest (circa 1948), and Japan (1959). The Professional Papers include correspondence relating to professional topics, writings, presentations, professional organizations and committees, reference material collected, and project records.
Sources: Biography of Willa Cloys Carmack by April Halberstadt, May 2007