Women’s History: Margaret S. Hayward

Hayward Playground

Margaret S. Hayward is the only woman commissioner (including park, recreation, or playground) to have a park or other recreational facility named for her in San Francisco. And Hayward Playground is one of the few Recreation and Park properties named after a woman. The others include: Alice Chalmers (school principal), Ina D. Coolbrith (poet laureate), Margaret O. duPont (tennis), Dorothy Erskine (activist), Alice B. Marble (tennis), and Betty Ann Ong (flight attendant aboard hijacked jet on 9/11), and Helen Wills (tennis).

Margaret was the daughter of John and Jean Henderson. She married Lewis A. Hayward (who was born in New Hampshire in 1847) on July 19, 1882 in San Francisco. Lewis A. Hayward was treasurer of the Guadeloupe Diary Company and was president of the Federation of Improvement Clubs in1891.

California Club
The California Club was an early San Francisco athletic club, which was established in the 1860s. Men’s athletics were the focus, but wives of the membership started to use their status as club members to further social causes.

In 1898, women of the club made a move to be represented on the previously all-male Board of Education. Part of the impetus was the revised city charter of 1898, which passively allowed women to participate on the board.

With that victory behind them, the all-women Civic Department of the California Club was responsible for the creation of Charter Amendment Number 18, which was passed by voters in November 1907 with an 88% percentile, creating a playground commission. The new body would be responsible to purchase land, equipment, and maintain playground properties. This would be separate from the Park Commission that oversaw Golden Gate, Buena Vista, and Mountain Lake Parks. Hayward was elected to the board of directors of the California Club in April 1908. As a board member of the California Club, Hayward was part of the forefront of elevating the status of women.

The Playground Movement
The first playground in the U.S. was the Sharon Quarters for Children in Golden Gate Park, which opened in 1887; this was an anomaly until the turn ofthe 20th century as playgrounds were uncommon in public spaces up to that time. With urbanization, humanitarians saw these spaces as a social solution to cramped quarters, poor air quality, and social isolation.

In 1906 the Playground Association of America was formed to promote the benefits of playgrounds to communities. With the idea of a child’s development in mind, contemporary playgrounds would have separate sections for play, athletic fields separated by sex, and have play supervisors who would teach children to organize their play.

Playground Commission
On December 16, 1907, Mayor Edward R. Taylor announced the names of the newly created Playground Commission board who would serve a term of four years. Mrs. L.A. Hayward was one of them. As charter members, the commission met for the first time on January 8, 1908, in the mayor’s office.

She used the name Mrs. L.A. Hayward both socially and in the commission meeting notes, but as of February 1912, changed it to Mrs. Margaret S. (Stewart) Hayward. (Her husband died in 1900.) But it also may have signaled her work in social causes as a woman, not a wife.

Death and an Honor Bestowed
Upon her death on June 20, 1918 of pneumonia, long serving Mayor James Rolph, who had reupped her appointment to the Playground Commission many times, ordered the flag atop City Hall lowered to half-mast in her honor. She had served on the board for a period of 10 years, until just weeks before her fatal illness. The name of the south half of Jefferson Square was officially changed to “The Margaret S. Hayward Playground” on July 29, 1918 by the Playground Commission.

(Christopher Pollock, Historian-in-Residence)