Papers of May Morris

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection compromises background material for a book on May Morris written by Elizabeth Masterman, titled ‘ May Morris: some notes for book collectors’, published in 1984 by Book Collector, London. The archive consists of notes, filed alphabetically, covering personalities and subjects referred to in the book, correspondence, a copy of an illustrated catalogue of embroidery designs, a copy of William Morris material in the collection of H Buxton Forman, in possession of the Hammersmith Public Library, a hand list of documents and manuscripts of William Morris and papers and a manuscript text of a lecture about May Morris given by E Masterman at Royal College of Arlon in 1883. Includes details of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Administrative / Biographical History

May Morris (1862-1938) was born on the 25 Mar 1862, christened ‘Mary’, and was the younger of William and Jane Morris’s two daughters. Both she and her sister Jenny were accomplished embroiderers - taught by their mother and by their aunt, Bessie Burden - and in 1885 May took over the direction of Morris & Co.’s embroidery department. She also actively assisted her father in promoting the cause of Socialism in the 1880s and 90s. At the turn of the century she taught embroidery at the Central School of Arts & Crafts in London and at Birmingham’s Municipal School of Art, becoming a leading figure in the (mainly male-dominated) Arts & Crafts Movement. Morris was an accomplished Embroiderer, jeweller, and fabric designer; she was also the first President of Women's Guild of Art (founded 1907). Her Introductions to The Collected Works of William Morris, 24 volumes edited by her and published between 1910 and 1915, contain many illuminating details of Morris’s career and his family life.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

The collection was deposited by Elizabeth Masterman as a gift on 30 Sep 1981

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue c.1980.

Related Material

Additional material related to May Morris held elsewhere includes: The William Morris Gallery holds some of her correspondence and papers 1896-1933; The British Library, Manuscript Collections holds, some of her correspondence and papers (Add MSS 45298-337, 45346-8; Add Charter 71267), her correspondence with Sir Sydney Cockerell 1899-1934 (Add MS 52740), her letters to George Bernard Shaw 1885-1913 (Add MS 50541); Society of Antiquaries of London corresp with NL MacMinn 1925-1937 (MS 945/1), see also (MS 984); Liverpool University: Special Collections and Archives holds her letters to John and Katharine Bruce Glasier 1888-1920; International Institute of Social History holds her correspondence with Andreas Scheu 1885-1896; Royal Entomological Society holds her letters to CJ Wainwright 1899-1908 (Box 70/3); The Huntington Library holds correspondence - 15 letters - (MSS 1979 ).

Location of Originals

William Morris material is in the H Buxton Forman Collection, held by Hammersmith & Fulham Public Library