Woman's Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1892 was designed by Sophia Hayden Bennett when she was just 21. The Woman's Building was the nation's most prominent design competition for women at that time. Bennett based her design on her thesis project, "Renaissance Museum of Fine Arts," a grand two-story structure with center and end pavilions, multiple arches, columned terraces and other classical features, reflecting her Beaux-Art training. After she won the coveted first prizeIt was controversial structure as many women objected to having their work in a separate structure.
Bennett's entry won first prize out of a field of thirteen entries submitted by trained female architects. She received $1,000 for the design, when male architects earned $10,000 for similar buildings. During construction, Hayden's design principles were compromised by incessant changes demanded by the construction committee, spearheaded by socialite Bertha Palmer, who eventually fired Bennett from the project. Bennett appeared at the Inaugural Celebration and had published accounts of support by her fellow architects. Her frustration eventually was pointed to as typifying women's unfitness for supervising construction, although many architects sympathized with her position and defended her. In the end the rifts were made up, perhaps, and her building received an award for "Delicacy or style, artistic taste, and geniality and elegance of the interior." Within a year or two, virtually all the Fair buildings were destroyed.