Part 1 of a month-long celebration of Women’s History Month
Mary Louisa Page (1849-1921) and Margaret Hicks (1858–1883) were the first and second women to graduate from collegiate architecture programs in the United States: Page from the University of Illinois (Urbana) and Hicks from Cornell.
After her graduation in 1878 at the age of twenty-nine, Page either unsuccessfully sought a place in an architecture firm–a common plight among the first women to enter the profession in the second half of the nineteenth century due to the overwhelmingly male character of all American businesses (where even the secretaries were men in this pre-Mad Men era)–or simply drifted from practice. Although some evidence for her work exists, like a house in Olympia dating to 1889 and drafting work completed as a partner in the civil engineering and surveying firm Whitham & Page, in her later years Page worked as a secretary for an insurance company and also as a school teacher, while devoting herself to the temperance movement.
Younger by a decade, Hicks was more deeply involved in the profession, albeit for a much shorter time. In her student days she published a cottage project in the American Architect and Building News (see its republication in the Builder and Wood-Worker above) and was apparently the first female architect to do so. In her work and writings she became known for a sensitivity and focus on housing for lower-income populations, revealing a social and political bent unusual in the nascent profession. This promising start to a potentially trailblazing career was cut short by her premature death at the age of 25.