Archive for the ‘Hayden’ Category

Sophia at MIT in 1888 - photo courtesy of MIT Museum

Remembering Sophia Hayden Bennett, Part 2
Back to Sophia’s story

After an unusual childhood (Part 1), a determined Sophia Hayden was among  the first women admitted to the Architecture Program at MIT in 1886.  She was one of two women in the program.  An 1888 photograph of all (about 25) MIT female students – each holding an implement appropriate to her studies – shows her looking taciturn and perhaps bored with the picture taking. She was reportedly a quiet, serious and intelligent student.  She completed the four year program with honors and graduated in 1890.

Doing some research

I made my first visit to an academic archive.  The MIT Museum holds some pictures, articles, and the thesis drawing submitted by Sophia.  I made an appointment and a kind archivist welcomed me there.  The folder of papers that I examined held the suggestion of a letter and biographical sketch from Sophia’s stepdaughter Jennie May, whose married name and 1950’s address were noted, however those documents were not among the holdings.   A visit to the School of Architecture and Planning’s Archives brought nothing else of significance although I did have the thrill of meeting an archivist who easily recognized Sophia’s name.

Sophia Hayden looking at the camera, setting unknown, courtesy of the MIT Museum

In an effort to present all facts, and not ignore those that I can’t fathom, I should add that one 1991 letter in the Museum archive mentioned that Mrs. Elihu Root III (Mary “Molly” Bidwell Root, 1917 – 2004) was the niece of Sophia.  Sophia did have three brothers and a sister, however, based on what I can quickly glean of Molly’s parents I see no way that she can be a niece or great-niece.  A mystery.

The MIT Museum holds Sophia’s thesis project, a large watercolor rendering of a Fine Arts Museum plan in the Beaux-Arts style.  The picture, below, does no justice to the project.  The original is one of the loveliest things I’ve ever seen.  The proportions, the exquisite detail and the subtle colorings show that Sophia was a natural artist.

Thesis project, elevation of a Museum of Fine Arts, photo courtesy of the MIT Museum

After graduation, Sophia accepted a position teaching mechanical drawing.  The reasons for not moving into an architectural firm at an apprentice level are not clear, although doubtless she felt she was unable to obtain that position.  Her female classmate did, however, obtain such a position.

In 1891 Sophia saw an advertisement for an architectural competition.  She entered and won.

Next time (Part 3), the story of Sophia’s amazing architectural achievement and the reason why there are no existing buildings designed by her.

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My gg-grandmother Catherine Spaulding had 4 children.  Because I have had very little luck tracing her and her husband(s) further back, I have focused a lot on those four children.  They were Aunt Jennie, my g-grandfather Miles Baldwin Sr, Aunt Hattie, and an artist, William Blackstone Bennett.

Of the four, my mother probably knew the least about William, so everything I’ve learned is from research.  He was the oldest, born to Catherine and a mysterious first husband, William or Thomas Bennett, in western New York around 1853.  He was not with his mother and the subsequent husband in the 1860 census so I can only guess he stayed with his father after a divorce.

William was a painter (sometimes “portrait painter”; later “decorator”) and traveled extensively as a young man, to various parts of the world.  That doesn’t fit well with what I know of Catherine’s life so I can only assume, again, that his father was the catalyst for this style of adventurous living. The first time I find him living with Catherine’s family is in an 1889 city directory in Newton, Mass.

He married for the first time, in 1890, a young woman from Digby, Nova Scotia named Harriet Ella Crosby.  He and “Ella” became the parents of Jennie May Bennett in 1891.  A second daughter born in 1895 lived for about nine months.  In 1896, Ella died from consumption.

After this tragedy it’s unclear how William got through the next few years but I did see, on a GenealogyBank.com local news article, that Jennie May spent some time with her mother’s sister in Orange, Massachusetts.

William marries Sophia Gregoria Hayden

In 1900, William married again, to Sophia Gregoria Hayden.  They were both residents of Winthrop, Mass. (a seaside section of Boston) but were married in Providence with Aunt Jennie’s husband, the judge, presiding.  By that time, Catherine and her third husband were also living in Providence and were in attendance.  I found the newlyweds, and Jennie May, in the 1900 census in Winthrop, living at 218 Shirley Street, and I was startled to see that the bride had been born in Chile.

Sophia’s story

photo from the November, 1892 Harper’s Magazine

Sophia Gregoria Hayden was born in 1868 in Santiago, Chile to a Peruvian mother (Elezena Fernandez Hayden) and a father (George Henry Hayden) who was a dentist from an old Massachusetts family. (Coincidentally, my mother is also descended from the Haydens, so there’s a distant connection).  She was baptised on 25 Jan 1869 in Santa Ana, Santiago, Chile.  When she was old enough to go to school, she was sent to live with her grandparents, George and Sophia Hayden, in Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts.  When eventually her father and siblings moved to the U.S. and took up residence in Richmond, Virginia, she stayed with her grandparents.

I suspect that Sophia was remarkable from birth, and that is why she was sent to Boston for her education.  She was smart and immensely talented.  She graduated from Jamaica Plain High School in 1886.

Sophia was determined to pursue her dream of becoming an architect.  Next time, the story of how she did that (article 2 in this series).  This is a series of four articles, so there is also part three about Sophia’s experience at the fair, and part four about her subsequent life.

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