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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Sophia Haydn

b. 1868, Santiago, Chile; d. 1953, Winthrop, Massachusetts

Sophia Hayden was the first woman accepted to the architecture program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated with honors in 1890. A few years later, she won the competition to design the Woman’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which was built in the style of the Italian Renaissance and awarded a gold medal from the Board of Lady Managers. However, Hayden’s fee was many times less than that of male architects who designed other Exposition buildings and she had to fight to have her design built as she envisioned it. Worse, it was scorned by male critics and it was falsely rumored that she had suffered from exhaustion following the project’s completion (suggesting that women did not have the stamina to be architects). Hayden’s building was demolished in 1893, after the close of the Exposition; she did not design another building. Around 1900, she married William Blackstone Bennett and settled in Winthrop, Massachusetts, where she was active in local women’s societies.