Howe’s love of architecture led her to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts across the river in Boston. There, her program in drawing and design proved to be unsuitable; Howe yearned to delve deeper into architecture following a class at the Museum School with MIT professor and Arts and Crafts architect C. Howard Walker. Professors tried to dissuade her from the field; Howe noted in a presentation to CHS in 1952 that “I was told that… as a woman I could not be an architect. Mr. Walker said I should have to learn to swear and that most of the time I should think my occupation tedious.” (Proceedings Vol. 34 p. 74) “The Tech,” as MIT was known, had admitted women as special students since 1870 as one of the few non-public institutions in America to receive federal land-grant money from the Morrill Act of 1862. Howe moved to the Tech and finished a two-year diploma program in architecture in 1892.
During her time at both the Museum School and MIT, Howe made many professional connections, all while dealing with the death of her father and the sale of her childhood home. But through this turbulence she got to know Boston architect Robert Peabody, who purchased the Howe home on Oxford Street. Howe’s only fellow woman classmate, Sophia Hayden, also became a colleague, confidant, and competitor, as the two submitted designs for the Women’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Hayden won the competition, with Howe receiving an Honorable Mention that allowed her to take a “grand tour” of Europe.