Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Lester, Margaret (2012). Specialization and Significance: An Assessment of the Career and Works of Minerva Parker Nichols. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


Although her formal practice lasted just ten years and was concentrated in the Philadelphia area, architect Minerva Parker Nichols (1861—1949) serves as a focal point for a study of women and the built environment in late nineteenth-century America. As the first woman in the country to practice architecture independently, Nichols carved out a prominent place in the male‐dominated field of architecture—all while specializing (as she deemed it) in projects associated with female clients and uses. These themes in Nichols’ career make her an apt case study through which to examine questions of significance, contesting our presumptions about how her work can be appropriately framed, understood, and commemorated. Animated (rather than deterred) by the ambiguities and questions of her career, this thesis is an assessment of the works of Minerva Parker Nichols and the challenges that her career presents for preservation and interpretation.


women, architecture, history, significance, professionalization



Date Posted: 25 February 2014