JPHS Presenting Play About JP Woman Who Was First to Graduate MIT with Architecture Degree

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In 1891, a 23-year-old woman from Jamaica Plain won an architecture contest to design the Woman’s Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago -- and while that should have been the beginning of a great career for Sophia Hayden -- her life's story ended being quite harrowing.

Sophia Hayden

While doing research, a Jamaica Plain Historical Society member learned that Hayden was from Jamaica Plain, and was the first woman to get an architecture degree at MIT.

"We thought her story deserved to be better known and we always do an event for Women's History Month," said JPHS President Gretchen Grozier.

On March 12, there will be a reading of the play Sophia Hayden Deserves Better by Stephanie Alison Walker. It is a fictionalized version of her story for dramatic purposes.

Sophia Hayden was born in Santiago, Chile and at the age of 6 was sent to live with relatives in Jamaica Plain to go to school.

"What should have been the start to a flourishing career in architecture became career-ending. Throughout the two-year process of building The Woman’s Building, the architect quietly endured bullying, micromanaging and undermining until she finally spoke up. In a time when women were defined as physically and intellectually weaker than men, her concerns were not only not heard, but she was sent to a sanitarium. Diagnosed with melancholia due to overexertion. Silenced. After the fair, her building was destroyed and she never built another building again. Her name was Sophia Hayden and she deserves better," said JPHS' website.

"Women's History Month is important because it is a conscious reminder to acknowledge the accomplishments of women. Too often history tells his-story, not her-story," said Jennifer Gregg, Board President, Boston Women's Heritage Trail. "Women's History Month reminds us that women, both past and present, have helped build our society. It is a time we can celebrate important work that has been done, while also recognizing opportunities and freedoms that don't yet exist for women."

The play reading is on Sunday, March 12 from 2 to 4:30 pm. Please register via Zoom to attend the event.