Women History :: Spotlight on Ida Annah Ryan

Ida Ryan was born in Waltham Massachusetts in November of 1873. Her primary education was completed in her home town and by the time she completed high school, had a great interest in architectural design. She continued her education at MIT where she studied under Constant-Desire Despradelle, who was one of MIT’s noted architectural professors. She was given multiple awards throughout her college career for being an outstanding student and her various projects. Ryan became the first woman to complete the Master of Science degree from MIT and was also the first woman to receive a master of architecture degree.

Ryan continued her career by opening her own practice in Waltham, the first of its kind. Her focus was the design of modest housing. Ryan brought in fellow classmates to form the first, all-female architectural firm in the US. The firm worked on a number of homes in the Waltham area including the home of industrialist, B. C. Ames.

The architects contribution to this country went beyond the scope of architecture. She was very active in the women’s suffrage movement and became a member of the Waltham Equal Suffrage League. Her services continued during World War 1 where she worked on the Army and Navy Canteen on the Boston Common and further when she became an employee of the War Department.

Veterans Memorial, St. Cloud, Florida
While Ryan had been working in Waltham she had become associated with practices in Central Florida, and eventually moved to the area and made a career for herself there. It was when she moved that her career took off. She began working with known architects such as, Frederick Trimble and Isabel Robert, who had been associated with Frank Lloyd Wright. Eventually Ryan teamed up with Roberts  to form one of twelve architectural firms Orlando named Ryan and Roberts. Some of their work includes the Veterans Memorial Library in St. Cloud Florida, a number of residence homes, and the Unity Chapel in Orlando among many others.

Ryan remained unmarried during her lifetime and lived and worked in Orlando till her death in February of 1950. Ryan was a notable architect not just for her work but her pioneering efforts to pave the way for women architects to follow.