Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1869 to General James Biddle and the former Ellen McGowen, Ellen McGowen Shipman went on to become one of the leading landscape architects of the first half of the 20th Century.
Shipman left Radcliff after one year and married Louis Shipman an aspiring playwright. The two lived for a time in Plainfield, New Hampshire near the Cornish Artist Colony that had grown up around the sculptor Augstus Saint-Gaudens.
It was here that Shipman was influenced by a group of artist gardeners and also where she would meet the landscape architect Charles Adams Platt. After her marriage dissolved in 1910, Shipman went on to collaborate with Platt for a number of years, eventually creating her
own practice and moving to Beekman Place in New York City in 1920. While the 1920s were the busiest for Shipman, with commissions decreasing dramatically in the depression years of the 1930s, Shipman would design gardens from her townhouse overlooking the East River for the next 30 years.
The majority of her designs were done in the English style but she is most noted for her use of "painting" the landscape with plants and flowers as well as her use of border plantings to create a sense of
private space. It is unfortunate that since many of her commissions were for grand estates and her plantings particularly labor intensive to maintain, many had disappeared within her own lifetime and very few of have survived to the present day.
Examples of her existing gardens include the Edison and Ford Winter Estate in Fort, Myers, Florida and Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio. Ellen McGown Shipman died in March, 1950.