Trailblazing Women of Architecture in Maryland

The Historical Society hoped to feature a number of programs to honor Maryland’s Year of the Woman, but Covid-19 made this very difficult and most of our programs had to be canceled. Not all is lost, however. On Wednesday, August 26, 2020, the date set nationally as Women’s Equality Day, the Society will post a special tribute to some Harford County women who helped gain the vote for women. This is a very special story and we hope you will check the website to learn more about these amazing women.

We also recently learned that at least one of the jointly planned efforts to showcase Maryland women is on-going, although not at the Society. It is being held at the Liriodendron on Gordon St. in Bel Air and the Society encourages those who are able to visit the ongoing exhibit at the Liriodendron which is open to the public free of charge on Wednesdays and Sundays until August 26, 2020.

The program was developed to help celebrate the Year of the Woman in Maryland and features 12 pioneering women who contributed to Maryland’s built environment. One of these architects is Poldi Hirsch, a Harford County resident and trendsetter. Ms. Hirsch lived and worked in Havre de Grace at a time when women were not readily accepted or recognized in the architectural profession. Poldi Hirsch, AIA emigrated from Germany with her husband and daughter in 1953. The family settled in Havre de Grace after touring Maryland in search of a place to establish Dr. Hirsch’s medical practice. Mrs. Hirsch had received her degree in architecture in Switzerland and focused on modernism. Although women had earned degrees in architecture since the 1920s, they were routinely blocked from positions in established firms and those that did proceed were usually on their own. Added to this hurdle, Harford County was very conservative and viewed modernism slightly askance. Still Hirsch persevered and opened her own architectural firm in Havre de Grace, becoming Harford’s first female architect and leaving behind a legacy of more than 25 modernist buildings in the county.

Visit Liriodendron for more information.