Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Harriet Boyd Hawes


Harriet Boyd Hawes was the first archeologist to discover and excavate a Minoan settlement. She was born October 11, 1871 in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. and graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1882 (1892?). After working as a teacher for four years, she started graduate work at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece. During her stay in Greece she also served as a volunteer nurse in Thessaly during the Greco-Turkish War. She asked her professors to be allowed to participate in the school's archeological fieldwork, but instead she was being encouraged to become an academic librarian. Frustrated by lack of support, she took the remainder of her fellowship and went on her own in search of archeological remains on the island of Crete. This was a very brave move, since Crete was just emerging from the war and was far from being safe.

In 1900, she returned to the United States and started teaching Greek and Greek archeology at Smith College. Between 1901 and 1904, while on leave of absence from Smith, she returned to Crete where she discovered and excavated a Minoan town at Gournia, dating to the Early Bronze Age, over 3,000 years ago. She was the first woman to direct a major field project, her crew consisted of over 100 workers. In 1902, she described her discovery during a national lecture tour and was the first woman to speak before the Archeological Institute of America. The report of her findings was published in 1908 by the American Exploration Society. She excavated many more Bronze and Iron Age settlements in the Aegean and became a recognized authority on the area. In 1910, Smith college bestowed on her an honorary degree.

In 1917, Hawes went to Corfu with supplies for soldiers wounded in World War I. After her return home, she continued her support for the war effort by giving fund-raising lectures on behalf of the Smith College Relief Unit. Between 1920 and her retirement in 1936, she lectured at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts on pre-Christian art.

Harriet Boyd Hawes died March 31, 1945 in Washington, D.C. In 1992, her daughter, Mary Allsebrook, published Born to Rebel: the Life of Harriet Boyd Hawes. The book was edited by Annie Allsebrook, Harriet Boyd Hawes' granddaughter.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1998.

1. The Book of Women's Firsts: Breakthrough Achievements of Almost 1,000 American Women by Phyllis J. Read and Bernard L. Witlieb, Random House, 1992
2. Women's World: A Timeline of Women in History by Irene M. Franck and David M. Brownstone, HarperCollins Publishers, 1995
3. Women of Science: Righting the Record, edited by G. Kass-Simon and Patricia Farnes, Indiana University Press, 1993

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