Women's Building

5750 S Cornell Dr Chicago

Written By HistoryCop

HistoryCop was founded by Ray Johnson, a life-long Chicago area resident and history buff who is a former criminal investigator.

The Women's Building

The Women's Building was the crown jewel of the Board of Lady Managers of the World's Fair. Both the Board of Lady Managers and a Women's Building were new to World's Fairs. The Board of Lady Managers consisted of women from every U.S. State and Territory and was headed up by Bertha Honore Palmer who was the wife of Chicago business pioneer and hosteler, Potter Palmer. The Building was designed by Sophia Hayden who was the first female architectural graduate of M.I.T. and the winner of the design competition. Originally, Bertha Palmer, who was as much of a manager, world ambassador and shrewd business person as her husband, thought that it would be difficult to fill an entire building of exhibits that were created solely by women. Boy, was she ever wrong! Once women around the world were notified that their artistic, scientific, or literary creations would be able to be displayed and in competition with other women from around the world, exhibits from around the world started pouring in. Eventually, they ran out of space and had to stop accepting exhibits! Sadly, the women's building would be the first and last building designed by Sophia Hayden due to the fact that she found it extremely difficult to find work as a female architect even after her success at the Columbian Expo.

The Board of Lady Manager's Quarter

The quarter that was issued for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition was one of two coins minted in honor of the World's Fair. One coin was a Columbian Half Dollar which featured Columbus on the front and an Expo logo on the reverse and the other was the quarter to honor the Board of Lady Managers. Bertha Palmer hated the design of the quarter and more specifically hated the representation of Queen Isabella of Spain on the front of the coin. She thought the depiction of Queen Isabella resembled a man with long hair. I would tend to agree with her but fair organizers said that there was no time to redesign the quarter and that is what they went with. Both the quarter and the half dollar were U.S. legal tender and were sold for $1.00 to help raise money for the fair. The problem was that people had a choice between purchasing a 50 cent piece for one dollar or purchasing a 25 cent piece for one dollar and the 50 cent pieces won out. The other problem is that the U.S. Government wanted the World's Fair to be closed on Sundays and the World's Columbian Exposition Company refused to close on Sundays because they thought it would be one of the most popular days of the week for people to attend. The U.S. Government sued the World's Columbian Exposition Company and eventually lost the suit. The government, however, requested all of the unsold coins back in retaliation for the loss of the suit. It later turned out that Sunday was the least attended day at the fair and July was the last month that the fair was open on Sundays.

The Brownie

The pastry chef at the Palmer House Hotel was tasked by Bertha Palmer to create a chocolate cake that you could eat with your hands. She was having a picnic at the fair and wanted to create something tasty but expedient. The chef came up with something that roughly five years later was given the nickname, "Brownie".

Stained Glass Windows

I love discovering relics from the Expo and educating people on where to find them. The Smith Stained Glass Museum that once occupied space at Navy Pier had three stained glass windows from the Expo on display. This photo is of one of the stained glass windows from the Women's Building that survived. It was a gift to the building from the women of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the museum is no longer operating and the windows are in storage but I have seen them start to appear in the underground Pedway system and hopefully, we will see get the chance to see the windows again.

Nearby Exhibits

The Children's Building

Directly to the south of the Women's Building was the Children's Building. The idea of a children's building was also a first for World's Fairs. The planners of the fair realized that people might not be as keen to attend the fair if they also had to drag a large number of children around with them. The Children's Building was their solution and a very successful one at that. Fair attendees could, at no cost, leave their children in the care of the staff of the building. There was gymnastic type equipment, a nursery for babies and also classes for new moms or soon-to-be moms. If you ask me, the picture of the interior looks more like a circus than a daycare but I'm sure it was a blast for the kids.

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The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition

Women's Building

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