Hayden received her B.A. in architecture from Mount Holyoke College in 1966. She also studied at Cambridge University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design where she obtained a professional degree. She is the widow of the late sociologist and novelist, Peter H. Marris and is the mother of Laura Hayden Marris.
Since 1973, Hayden has traveled to MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Yale to hold lectures about architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and American studies.
She founded a Los Angeles based non-profit arts and humanities group called The Power of Place which was active from1984-1991. The goal of the organization was to, "celebrate the historic landscape of the center of the city and its ethnic diversity. Under her direction, collaborative projects on an African American midwife's homestead, a Latina garment workers' union headquarters, and Japanese-American flower fields engaged citizens, historians, artists, and designers in examining and commemorating the working lives of ordinary citizens."  This is documented in the text, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History.