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May Morris

May Morris
May Morris, 1909
Born (1862-03-25)25 March 1862
Died 17 October 1938(1938-10-17) (aged 76)
Nationality English
Occupation Embroidery designer
Known for Arts and Crafts movement
British Socialism

Mary "May" Morris (25 March 1862 – 17 October 1938) was an English artisan, embroidery designer, jeweller, socialist, and editor. She was the younger daughter of the Pre-Raphaelite artist and designer William Morris and his wife and artists' model Jane Morris.


  • Biography 1
  • Embroidery 2
  • Jewellery 3
  • Publications 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


May Morris, 1872, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

May Morris was born on 25 March 1862 at Red House, Bexleyheath, and named Mary as she was born on the Feast of the Annunciation.[1] May learned to embroider from her mother and her aunt Bessie Burden, who had been taught by William Morris. In 1881, she enrolled at the National Art Training School, the precursor of the Royal College of Art, to study embroidery[1][2] In 1885, aged 23, she became the director of the embroidery department at her father's enterprise Morris & Co..

In 1886, May fell in love with

External links

  • Daly, Gay, Pre-Raphaelites in Love, Ticknor & Fields, 1989, ISBN 0-89919-450-8.
  • Lochnan, Katharine, Douglas E. Schoenherr, and Carole Silver, editors: The Earthly Paradise: Arts and Crafts by William Morris and His Circle from Canadian Collections Key Porter Books, 1996, ISBN 1-55013-450-7.
  • Marsh, Jan, Jane and May Morris: A Biographical Story 1839–1938, London, Pandora Press, 1986 ISBN 0-86358-026-2
  • Marsh, Jan, Jane and May Morris: A Biographical Story 1839–1938 (updated edition, privately published by author), London, 2000
  • Naylor, Gillian: William Morris by Himself: Designs and Writings, London, Little Brown & Co. 2000 reprint of 1988 edition.
  • Todd, Pamela, Pre-Raphaelites at Home, New York, Watson-Guptill Publications, 2001, ISBN 0-8230-4285-5
  • Thomas, Zoe 'At Home with the Women's Guild of Arts: gender and professional identity in London studios, c. 1990-1925', article, Women's History Review 2015


  1. ^ a b c d "The William Morris Internet Archive : Chronology". Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  2. ^ a b Naylor, p. 317
  3. ^ Thomas, Zoe (June 2015). "'At Home with the Women's Guild of Arts: gender and professional identity in London studios, c. 1880-1925'". Women's History Review. 
  4. ^ obituary)"Times"Miss May Morris (New York . The New York Times. 1938-10-18. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  5. ^ "The work is carried out with floss silk in bright colours and gold thread, both background and pattern being embroidered. The five crosses, that are placed at regular intervals between the vine leaves, are couched in gold passing upon a silvery silk ground." Christie, Grace (Mrs. Archibald H.): Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving, London, John Hogg, 1912; e-text at Project Gutenberg; notes to Plate XIII.
  6. ^


  • Decorative Needlework, 1893
  • The Collected Works of William Morris, 1910–1915


[6] Morris also designed and made jewellery. She began to design jewellery around the turn of the 20th century, and was probably inspired by the Birmingham jewellers


May Morris was active in the Royal School of Art Needlework (now Royal School of Needlework), founded as a charity in 1872 under the patronage of Princess Helena to maintain and develop the art of needlework through structured apprenticeships.

May Morris was an influential embroideress and designer, although her contributions are often overshadowed by those of her father, a towering figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. William Morris is credited with the resurrection of free-form embroidery in the style which would be termed art needlework. Art needlework emphasized freehand stitching and delicate shading in silk thread thought to encourage self-expression in the needleworker in sharp contrast with the brightly coloured Berlin wool work needlepoint and its "paint by numbers" aesthetic which had gripped much of home embroidery in the mid-19th century.

Embroidered Altar frontal, executed by May Morris from a design by Philip Webb.[5]


May Morris died at Kelmscott Manor 17 October 1938.[4]

She edited her father's Collected Works in 24 volumes for Longmans, Green and Company, published from 1910 to 1915, and commissioned two houses after his death to be built in the style that he loved in the village of Kelmscott in the Cotswolds.

In 1907 she founded the Women’s Guild of Arts with Mary Elizabeth Turner, as the Art Workers Guild did not admit women.[3]


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