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Hawes, Harriet Ann Boyd

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Hawes, Harriet Ann Boyd

    Other Names:

    • Harriet Ann Boyd
    • Harriet Boyd

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 11 October 1871

    Date Died: 31 March 1945

    Place Born: Boston, Suffolk, MA, USA

    Place Died: Washington, DC, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Classical

    Career(s): art historians

    Institution(s): Smith College


    Archaeologist of classical antiquity; first woman to lead an archaeological excavation in the Aegean. Born Harriett Boyd, her father was Alexander Boyd, a leather merchant, and her mother Harriet Wheeler (Boyd) in 1871, the final of five children and the only girl. Her mother died when she was 10 months old and was raised solely by her father. Boyd received her early education from Prospect Hill School in Massachusetts where she graduated in 1888. From 1892 to 1896 she taught Classics in various schools in both North Carolina and Delaware. She was awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Classics from Smith College in 1892 as Phi Beta Kappa. In 1896 she did her graduate work with the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Starting in 1898 she received a fellowship from the ASCSA school. During the Greco-Turkish war when the Turkish army defeated the Greek army, displacing many Greek citizens, Hawes took nursing training to assist them. She was later decorated by Greece for her work in the war. She volunteered as a nurses’ aid the following year for soldiers wounded the Spanish American War. In 1899 she received the $1000 Agnes Hoppin Memorial Fellowship, created by the ASCSA to address limitations placed on women in the archaeological field. However, the School did not accept women on their digs and she was recommended to work as a librarian. Boyd used the Hoppin fund to finance a dig herself. Arthur Evans, working at Knossos, advised her to dig at Kavousi in eastern Crete. Only digging for four months, she uncovered houses and tombs from the Geometric period. She was the first woman to ever lead an archaeological excavation in the Aegean. She returned to Smith in 1900 to lecture, incorporating her findings into a master’s thesis at Smith College in 1901. In 1902, she was the first woman to address the Archaeological Societies, which subsequently granted her a fellowship. In 1904 she began her excavation of Gournia in Crete, assisted by Blanche Emily Wheeler (1870-1936), the final recipient of the Hoppin Fellowship. There she discovered a Minoan city, and in later excavations, Minoan tombs on the hill of Sphoungaras nearby.

    She visited Athens in 1905 to attend the International Congress of Archaeology where she met the archaeologist and anthropologist Charles Henry Hawes (1867-1943) of Cambridge University. In 1906 Charles and Harriet were married, though purportedly she had rejected his proposal seven previous times (Boston Globe), giving up her Smith lecturing position the same year. She and her husband lived in Madison, Wisconsin where he lectured at the University there, 1907-1909. Her first book, written with her husband, Crete, the Forerunner of Greece , appeared in 1909. It covered the life of the Minoan people in Crete including details as complex as the clothing style of the female population. Charles received an appointment at Dartmouth in 1910 where the couple moved. She received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Smith College the same year. Hawes returned to nursing work during World War I. From 1917 to 1918 she was the organizer and the first director of Smith College’s relief unit in France. From 1918 to 1920 she was a nurse’s aide with the YMCA at the American Hospital in Longchamps, France. Starting in 1920 (through 1936) she was a lecturer at Wellesley College in art history. A 1922 essay on Boston’s ‘Ludovisi Throne.’ Hawes’ inventory of the tombs continues to inspire archaeological study, Hawes was in Czechoslovakia in 1938 during the German take-over of Sudetenland, and was briefly detained by the German authorities. She died in a nursing home on March 31, 1945 in Washington DC at the age of 74. Her memoirs were published posthumously in two articles in 1965.

    Hawes produced books which, by and large, addressed a broad audience, such as her Crete, the Forerunner of Greece. However, in articles such as A Gift of Themistocles: The ‘Ludovisi Throne’ and the Boston Relief she contextualized the Ludovisi Throne dissenting from previous historians, arguing that the pieces were part of a couch-altar which once stood in the sanctuary that Themistocles restored for the Lycomids. Hawes also kept meticulous notes with drawings and photographs. She published these documents in memoirs that give the full historical context to the archaeological exhibitions she worked on including photographs of the Greek people involved in the work.

    Selected Bibliography

    • Crete, the Forerunner of Greece Harper’s Library of Living Thought. London: Harper 1909;
    • “A Gift of Themistocles: The ‘Ludovisi Throne’ and the Boston Relief” American Journal of Archaeology 26, no. 3 (1922): 278–306;
    • “Memoirs of a Pioneer Excavator in Crete” Archaeology 18, no. 2 (1965): 94–101;
    • Part II Memoirs of a Pioneer Excavator in Crete” Archaeology 18, no. 4 (1965): 268–276.



    Contributors: Caitlin Childers


    Caitlin Childers. "Hawes, Harriet Ann Boyd." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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