Today marks the beginning of Women’s History Month 2016.
To celebrate, we’ll be filling our blog with women in history – or more specifically women in archeology – who we think deserve a little more exposure for their contributions.
Women’s History Month has been officially celebrated in the United States since 1987 but the story of how we arrived here began in 1909 with the first observation of a Women’s Day on March 8th in the United States. In 1911. The United Nations declared March 8th International Women’s Day and it has been celebrated across the globe ever since.
In 2016, Archaeological Tours will celebrate Women’s History Month by devoting our blog to women in archaeology. Join us as we discover the women who’ve played a part in deciphering history.
Across the month, we’ll introduce a range of women who have contributed greatly to archeological study, beginning with Harriet Boyd Hawes, expert on Cretan archeology, and the first person to excavate an entire early Bronze Age Minoan town site. She was a pioneer of women in archeology, and excavated extensively across her career.
Harriet was born in Boston on October 11, 1871. In 1896, after graduating from Smith College and teaching languages for four years, Hawes traveled to Athens to study at graduate level at the American School of Classical Studies. She was particularly interested in recent discoveries in Crete but was discouraged from pursuing fieldwork because of her gender, and instead urged to become an academic librarian. She wasn’t dissuaded, and continued to pursue a practical approach to archeology away from the American School.
In 1900, Hawes accepted a teaching position at Smith College, which she held for five years. During this time, she frequently returned to Crete, traversing the landscape on the back of a mule in search of prehistoric settlements and excavating. In 1901, Hawes discovered the Minoan site of Gournia.
The discovery of Gournia led to international renown for two reasons: it became the first Minoan site to be excavated, and Hawes became the first female director of a major excavation in Greece. As director of the excavations, Hawes led a team of over 100 archeologists. The excavations were a major breakthrough in understanding Minoan society. She published her findings in a detailed report, which is still referenced today and considered noteworthy due to her classification of artifacts according to potential function.
Hawes passed away on March 31, 1945. She is remembered as an important archeologist due to her contribution to the understanding of Minoan cultures. Despite being discouraged from fieldwork at an early stage in her career, she became the successful excavator we know her to be – taking great strides for archeology, and for women in archeology.