Filoli Launches Speaker Series to Celebrate Women in Museum, Architecture, and Horticulture Fields

Lori Forgarty

During Women’s History Month, Historic Estate Honors Women Trailblazers in Series of Online Conversations with Local Organizational Leaders

WOODSIDE, Calif., February 22, 2021Filoli Historic House and Garden, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the last country estates reminiscent of the Gilded Age, today announced a new Women’s Speaker Series to celebrate Women’s History Month and honor all the pioneering women who have blazed the trail for women in museum, architecture, horticulture, and related career fields. On the first four Tuesdays of March, Filoli will host online conversations with local organizational leaders who will share inspirations, experiences, and insights from these traditionally male-dominated fields. The series will kick off via Zoom on March 2 when Filoli CEO Kara Newport will talk live with Lori Fogarty, Director and CEO at the Oakland Museum of California. Newport will also host Naomi Miroglio, Principal at Architectural Resources Group, on March 9 and Stephanie Linder, Executive Director at San Francisco Botanical Garden, on March 16. The series will wrap up on March 23 with a lively panel discussion among six women from Filoli’s own horticulture team: Leslie Freitas, Lisa Griffin, Gillian Johnson, Olivia McCandless, Haley O’Connor, and Louise Webster.

“Our speaker series was inspired by florist Bella Worn, the successful entrepreneur who worked with both Filoli families throughout the early 20th century to give us the plantings and garden areas we still enjoy today,” said Kara Newport, Chief Executive Officer at Filoli. “She was a trailblazer for women in a male-dominated world, and this March we will honor her, and others like her, by shining a spotlight on modern women who have risen to leadership roles in related fields or organizations. We want to hear about their journeys; we want to learn about challenges along the way and how they were overcome. We want to know who and what keeps these women motivated every day. Most of all, we hope to inspire future generations of women leaders with stories of possibility, empowerment, and success.”

Lori Fogarty, Director and CEO, Oakland Museum of California
March 2, 2021 at 2:00pm PST

Lori Fogarty is the director and CEO of the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), a multidisciplinary museum that brings together collections of art, history, and natural sciences to tell the extraordinary stories of California and its people. Lori led the Museum’s $63 million “Museum of California” campaign and building renovation project, which has included the reinstallation of 90,000 square feet of gallery space as well as the first major enhancement to the Museum’s landmark building. She is currently leading the “All In: Campaign for OMCA,” an $85 million comprehensive campaign to support programs and operations, endowment and investment fund growth, and capital improvements to the Museum’s seven-acre campus. Lori has spearheaded OMCA’s efforts to place the visitor at the center of the Museum experience and to focus the institution’s efforts around community engagement and social impact. Prior to her current position, Lori was executive director of the Bay Area Discovery Museum and was senior deputy director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Naomi Miroglio, Principal, Architectural Resources Group
March 9, 2021 at 2:00pm PST

Naomi is a remarkable advocate for the great value and untapped potential of historic resources to enrich contemporary life. Her work is inspired by the history of existing buildings and sites, and by uncovering the unique stories each one holds. She has designed sensitive solutions for structures ranging from the modest vernacular by unknown craftspeople to landmarks by master architects like Frank Lloyd Wright. Her award-winning designs build on the distinctiveness of the original architecture, creating relevant modern places that celebrate the cultures and circumstances that shaped them. Naomi’s professional background is augmented by training in architectural conservation at the International Centre for Conservation in Rome, Italy.

Stephanie Linder, Executive Director, San Francisco Botanical Garden
March 16, 2021 at 2:00pm PDT

Stephanie Linder became the executive director of the San Francisco Botanical Garden in 2018, bringing 20 years of experience in leadership roles at conservation, park, and women’s organizations including Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Sierra Club, The Trust for Public Land, and Planned Parenthood. She is an alumna and former board chair of Emerge California, a candidate training program for women seeking elected office, with a majority of graduates being women of color. Stephanie holds a master of arts in American history from Binghamton University in New York and has taught U.S. women’s history at the college level.

Women of Filoli’s Horticulture Team
March 23, 2021 at 2:00pm PDT

Leslie Freitas, Formal Garden Horticulturist, Filoli
Leslie completed a six-month apprenticeship at Filoli in 2018 prior to joining the horticulture staff in 2019. Previously, she completed a year-long internship at Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia and worked at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (now Newfields) in Indianapolis. Leslie also worked at the Temple Square gardens in Salt Lake City while earning her degree in residential landscape design and construction from Utah State University. She has always been drawn to the incredible diversity of plant uses, from fibers and food to sound barriers and beautification. Part of her work at Filoli includes assisting in plant collections. When asked what excites her the most about horticulture today, Leslie said, “I get excited about learning plant stories, where they originally grow, what they’ve been used for, who discovered them or why they got their names. Each new one feels like a new friend.”

Lisa Griffin, Production Horticulturist, Filoli
Lisa is celebrating 20 years at Filoli this year. She joined the horticulture team in 2001, after working at a wholesale greenhouse company in Michigan. While earning her degree in horticulture from Oregon State University, Lisa completed two internships at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, one at the National Zoological Park and the other in the Greenhouse Nursery Branch of the Horticulture Services Division. She was also a member of the university horticulture club, which introduced her to tropical plants and greenhouse production and shifted her studies away from gardening to focus on production in greenhouses and nursery environments. When asked what excites her the most about horticulture today, Lisa said, “I appreciate the variety of work available in horticulture and the positive effects it can have on people and the environment.”

Gillian Johnson, Formal Garden Lead Horticulturist, Filoli
Gillian first came to Filoli as a garden intern in 2015. After spending another year earning her degree in plant science from California Polytechnic State University, where she also worked at the campus arboretum, Gillian officially joined Filoli’s horticulture staff in 2016. Drawn to horticulture through her love of the natural world, her desire to work outside made the decision to work in the field an easy one. When asked what excites her the most about horticulture today, Gillian said, “I get to work at a beautiful place and see things grow and change over the seasons.”

Olivia McCandless, Production Horticulturist, Filoli
Olivia joined the Filoli horticulture staff in 2019 after completing internships at Filoli and Ganna Walska Lotusland in 2018. Growing up in the Bay Area, Olivia was attracted to horticulture through countless hours spent visiting public gardens in San Francisco and the East Bay. She was inspired to pursue the field after spending two weeks of every summer on her aunt’s farm in upstate New York, where she learned how to grow vegetables and raise animals. Before joining Filoli, Olivia graduated from Cornell University with a degree in agricultural sciences, minoring in horticulture and environmental sciences. During her time at Cornell, she was an intern at Jewell Gardens in Skagway, Alaska. When asked what excites her the most about horticulture today, Olivia said, “The opportunity to create spaces of healing and empowerment for all women.”

Haley O’Connor, Formal Garden Manager, Filoli
Haley began as Filoli’s new Formal Garden Manager in November 2020. Prior to joining Filoli, she worked in private estate management and most recently on the horticulture team at the Presidio in San Francisco. Haley attributes her interest in horticulture to equal influences of nature and humanity from her biologist father and poet mother. When asked what excites her the most about working in horticulture, she said, “Seeing the field reflecting more ecologically progressive designs and practices.”

Louise Webster, Formal Garden Lead Horticulturist, Filoli
Louise joined Filoli in 2019 after graduating from the School of Professional Horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden and completing an internship at the National Tropical Botanical Garden on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It was her previous life in Hawaii, being surrounded by the beauty and mystery of the plants there, that led her on a journey to begin a career in horticulture. As a lead horticulturist in Filoli’s formal garden, the art of aesthetic pruning very much fits into her horticulture passion: the marriage of artistic beauty with functional utility. When asked about her career in horticulture, Louise said, “It feels like an endless mystery unraveling; the more I find out, the more I want to investigate and learn.”

The Women’s Speaker Series is produced as part of Filoli’s newest exhibition, Stories of Resilience, a collection of onsite displays and virtual programming that highlights the continued creativity and contributions of artists, entrepreneurs, and garden professionals from diverse and underrepresented groups at Filoli and beyond. Each one-hour talk will be conducted virtually via Zoom. Registration is complimentary, but space is limited.

To register for one or more talks in the Women’s Speaker Series, visit

COVID-19 Precautions
Filoli is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm with limited admission every day. All tickets, including member reservations, must be purchased online in advance. Please visit for ticket information and visiting guidelines. Visitors follow a one-way path through the expansive Garden, historic House (if open), and Estate Trail and are expected to adhere to all local guidelines for social distancing. Face coverings must be worn in accordance with local requirements at all times. 

About Filoli 
Located south of San Francisco in Woodside, California, Filoli boasts 654 acres of beauty nestled along the slopes of California’s coastal range. Originally built as a private residence in 1917, Filoli was opened to the public in 1977 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The property is considered one of the finest remaining country estates of the 20th century, featuring a 54,000+ square-foot Georgian revival-style mansion, 16 acres of exquisite English Renaissance gardens, a 6.8-acre Gentleman’s Orchard, and a nature preserve with eight miles of hiking trails. Filoli is dedicated to connecting our rich history with a vibrant future through beauty, nature and shared stories, so that one day all people will honor nature, value unique experiences, and appreciate beauty in everyday life. For more information about Filoli, visit

Filoli Historic House & Garden
86 Cañada Road
Woodside, CA 94062
(650) 364-8300