Harriet Boyd-Hawes

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Harriet Hawes (Boyd)

Birthdate: (74)
Death: 1945 (74)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Alexander Boyd and Harriett F. Boyd
Wife of Charles Henry Hawes

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Immediate Family

About Harriet Boyd-Hawes


Harriet Boyd Hawes (October 11, 1871 – March 31, 1945) was a pioneering American archaeologist, nurse and relief worker. She is best known as the first director of an archaeological excavation to discover and excavate a Minoan settlement and palace site on the Aegean island of Crete.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, Harriet Boyd Hawes attended the Prospect Hill School in Greenfield and then graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1892 with a degree in Classics. After working as a teacher for four years, she followed her passion for Greece and its ancient culture, starting graduate work at the American School of Classical Studies in the Greek capital Athens. 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 archaeological 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 courageous decision, as Crete was only just emerging from the war and was far from safe. Hawes soon became well known for her expertise in the field of archaeology. For four months in the spring of 1900, she led an excavation at Kavousi during which she discovered settlements and cemeteries of Late Minoan IIIC, Early Iron Age, and Early Archaic date (1200-600 BC) at the sites of Vronda and Kastro. During that same campaign she dug a test trench at the site of Azoria, the most important Greek-period site in the region, evidently an early city (c. 700-500 BC) now under renewed excavation by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Azoria Project). Later the same year, Hawes returned to the United States.

Hawes accepted a position at Smith College teaching Greek Archaeology in late 1900 and subsequently received her M.A. from Smith in 1901. She taught at Smith until 1905, interspersing her time there with frequent trips abroad for archaeological excursions. During one trip to Crete, she met Charles Henry Hawes, an English anthropologist and archaeologist who later became the associate-director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. They were married on March 3, 1906, and nine months later their son, Alexander Boyd Hawes was born. A daughter, Mary Nesbit Hawes followed in August 1910. By this time Charles was teaching at Dartmouth College and the family was living in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Between 1901 and 1904, while on leave of absence from Smith, Harriet Boyd Hawes returned to Crete where she discovered and excavated the Minoan town at Gournia. Hawes was the first woman to direct a major field project in Greece, her crew consisting of over 100 workers. She was assisted by Edith Hall. In 1902, she described her discovery during a national lecture tour and was the first woman to speak before the Archaeological 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 1915, Hawes went to Corfu with supplies for soldiers in the Serbian Army wounded in World War I. In 1916, she helped the wounded in France and a year later she founded and was the first director of the Smith College Relief Unit in France. She held this title for three years during which time she worked as a nurse's aide at the YMCA. 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. Despite her commitment to her family, Hawes always remained active in both humanities and her field of archaeology.

In 1920, the Hawes' moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and Harriet joined the faculty at Wellesley College lecturing on Ancient Art. When Charles retired in 1936, the couple moved to Washington D.C. where Harriet remained after her husband died. She died on March 31, 1945, aged 73.

Harriet is interred in Cedar Hill Cemetery Suitland, Maryland

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.


Gournia, Vasiliki and other prehistoric sites on the isthmus of Hierapetra, Crete; excavations of the Wells-Houston-Cramp expeditions, 1901, 1903, 1904. By Harriet Boyd Hawes, Blanche E. Williams, Richard B. Seager, Edith H. Hall. (Philadelphia, The American exploration society, Free museum of science and art 1908).
Charles Henry Hawes and Harriet Boyd-Hawes, with a preface by Arthur J. Evans. Crete, the forerunner of Greece (London, 1909).
Boyd, H.A. 1901. “Excavations at Kavousi, Crete, in 1900,” American Journal of Archaeology 5, 125-157.
Boyd, H.A. 1904. “Gournia. Report of the American Exploration Society's Excavations at Gournia, Crete, 1902-1905,” in Transactions of the Department of Archaeology: Free Museum of Science and Art University of Pennsylvania I, Philadelphia, 7–44.


Harriet Hawes was the first female archaeologist to head an excavation. A classicist and scientist by training, she worked on the Greek island of Crete, discovering the ancient town of Gournia, one of Crete's "ninety cities" of Homer's Odyssey. Despite her international acclaim, Hawes devoted much of her free time to social activism, becoming involved with political issues of the day.

Harriet Ann Boyd Hawes was born in Boston on October 11, 1871, to Alexander and Harriet Fay (Wheeler) Boyd. The fifth child and the only girl, Hawes grew up in a family of men when her mother died suddenly during Hawes's infancy. She was close to her father, a leather-merchant, and to her brothers, especially Alexander, Jr., who shared her fascination with ancient history.

Hawes graduated from Prospect Hill School in 1888 before going on to Smith College. She graduated with a B.A. in 1892 and an M.A. in 1901. Between her years of schooling, Hawes taught classics—ancient and modern languages—in North Carolina and Delaware. From 1900 until 1906 she also taught modern Greek, epigraphy, and Greek archaeology at Smith.

In 1896, Hawes attended the American School of Classical Studies (ASCS) in Athens, Greece. As a woman, she was not permitted to take part in excavations sponsored by the ASCS. Hawes had been awarded the Agnes Hoppin fellowship in 1900, and she used the money to finance her own excavation. She wanted to follow up on recent archaeological work in Crete, and the fellowship allowed her to go.

Once in Crete, Hawes was advised by Arthur J. Evans, a British archaeologist excavating Knossos, to try the Kavousi region. In 1901, after securing funding from the American Exploration Society of Philadelphia, Hawes focused on the part of the region known as Gournia, in which she discovered an Early Bronze Age Minoan town site. The first woman to direct an excavation, she was also the first archaeologist to make such a discovery. Gournia was noted for its residents, artisans, and the part it played in the larger tapestry of Cretan society. The excavation, continued in 1903 and 1904, offered a significant amount of archaeological information to current studies. In fact, Hawes' discovery is still the only town from the Minoan age to be found in a well-preserved condition. In 1902, the Archaeological Institute of America sponsored her national lecture tour to describe her findings, which were later published in 1908.

Hawes met her husband, Charles Henry Hawes, a British anthropologist, in Crete, and they married on March 3, 1906. In December of that year, their son, Alexander, was born, followed by their daughter, Mary, in August of 1910. Hawes and her husband co-wrote a book on Crete during this time. After teaching appointments in Wisconsin and New Hampshire, Charles Hawes took a position as assistant director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1919. The following year, Hawes returned to teaching, this time at Wellesley College, where she lectured on pre-Christian art. She remained there until her retirement in 1936.

A lifelong activist, Hawes devoted much of her life to political and social causes. She was a volunteer war nurse in Thessaly (1897), Florida (1898), and Corfu (1916). In 1917 she organized the Smith College Relief Unit to aid French civilians. Later, in 1933, she gave aid to union shoe workers who were on strike, and was subsequently sued for $100,000 by the company.

Hawes and her husband retired to a farm in Alexandria, Virginia. After Charles' death in 1943, Hawes moved to a Washington, D.C. rest home, where she died of peritonitis on March 31, 1945. Smith College loved its archaeologist, awarding Hawes the honorary L.H.D. degree in 1910, creating a scholarship in her name in 1922, and holding a memorial symposium in Crete in 1967.

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Harriet Boyd-Hawes's Timeline

Age 74