The Bohemian Past of Madame Gennadius

On Saturday December 27, 1902, a well-publicized wedding took place in London.  John Gennadius, former ambassador of Greece to England and a great book-collector, age 58, and Florence Laing, the youngest daughter of Samuel Laing and the widow of painter Edward Sherard Kennedy, age 47, were married in a double ceremony, first at the Greek Orthodox church of St. Sophia and later that day at the Anglican church of St. Peter’s at Cranley Gardens.  There are no photos capturing the ceremony or the reception that followed, but Gennadius, the creator of more than seventy scrapbooks, did keep numerous newspaper clippings announcing this celebrated marriage. More than a few of them mention that the bride had an annual income of roughly 8,000 pounds, leading some to hint that it may have been a marriage of convenience. Time proved that their union was a harmonious one; it lasted 30 years until his death in 1932. She outlived him by another twenty years. The Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) was the offspring of their union. The deed of gift was signed in 1922 and the building was completed in 1926.

John and Florence Gennadius, ca. 1925. Source: ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

John and Florence Gennadius, 1920. Source: ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

The best source for John Gennadius’s life is a small, but thorough, booklet, Joannes Gennadios, the Man: A Biographical Sketch (1990), by Donald M. Nicol, director of the Gennadius Library (1989-1992). In it, there is very little information about the circumstances of how Gennadius met Florence Laing Kennedy. Nicol suspects that they were introduced by “Prince Alexis Dolgoruki, an acquaintance of Gennadios, [who] had married an English lady, Miss Fleetwood Wilson, who was an old friend of Florence.” In an endnote, Nicol mentions that Florence was an artist in her own right, having exhibited her “genre paintings” in the Royal Academy and other London galleries between 1880 and 1893.


Portrait of Florence Laing Gennadius, 1925. By Philippe de Lazslo. ASCSA, Gennadius Library

Portrait of Florence Laing Gennadius, 1925. By Philippe de Laszlo. ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

There are several photos of the couple in the personal papers of John Gennadius.  Both are elegantly dressed; she is in stylish and exquisite clothes and hats. Her large, mature portrait by Philippe de Laszlo (1869-1937) hanging in the main reading room of the Gennadius Library, next to Gennadius’s own portrait also by Laszlo, conveys serenity and dignity. Both portraits were executed in 1925 and they must have been commissioned with one purpose: to be hung on the walls of the newly erected library.

What I always found fascinating, as well as a bit out of place, however, is a smaller portrait of Florence that hangs to the left of her large, matronly one. It is an oil painting (0.77x 0.64 m) depicting a seated young woman in three-quarter view. Dressed in a heavy, ruby velvet gown adorned with floral lace, Florence rests her left arm on the back of a seat supporting her head in a reflective mode. Her right hand rests on her lap holding a large Renaissance feather fan (ostrich?) together with a small bouquet of pansies. A wreath made of red ribbon and pansies adorns her head. The choice of flowers, a symbol of floral femininity, was not accidental. The pansies (derived from the French word “pensée”), together with the ostrich feather, allude to the steadfastness and pensive nature of young Florence Laing.  The portrait is not signed or dated (or if it is, it is not visible) but carries an old label on its back: “No.2 Portrait of Florence – daughter of Samuel Laing Esq. M. P. Painted by Mrs. Anne Lea Meritt.”


Portrait of Florence Laing Kennedy. Anna Lea Merritt, ca. 1882. ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

Portrait of Florence Laing Kennedy, ca. 1882. By Anna Lea Merritt. ASCSA, Gennadius Library.


One of the first projects I undertook in 1994, as the newly appointed ASCSA Archivist, was to catalogue the three-dimensional art that was hanging on the walls of the School’s various buildings.  At the time (pre-internet), there was very little I could do, in terms of research, with Florence Laing’s portrait, other than recording the painter’s name. I was fortunate, however, to spend two weeks in London in 1996 as a guest of Nicolas Barker, then director of the British Library, who had set up appointments for me with a number of leading libraries and archival repositories in town, as part of my training. In my free afternoons I would go to museums and galleries. During one of those excursions, I came across a beautiful pre-Raphaelite painting hanging on the walls of the Tate Gallery depicting a young cupid trying to open the door of a mausoleum.  A closer look at the title, Love Locked Out, revealed that the artist’s name was “Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930).”  Years went by without me giving much thought to the portrait until recently, while revising the catalog, I decided to look her up on the web.

Love Locked Out, 1890. By Anna Lea Merritt.

Love Locked Out, 1890. By Anna Lea Merritt.

An American painter born in Philadelphia, Anna Lea spent most of her life in England, “living by her brush” as she proudly claimed.  After her marriage to painter Henry Merritt in 1877, Anna Lea briefly gave up her career; however, his untimely death three months later forced her to resume painting.  In the next two decades, Merritt would produce some of her best works, including Love Locked Out (1889), which became the first work of a female painter to be purchased by the Tate Gallery in 1890.  Earning her living and reputation as a portrait painter, Merritt also excelled in allegorical themes. One of her most important, but also lesser known, achievements are the murals she executed for a small Romanesque church in Surrey. To earn such a commission –men dominated the field of mural painting- was an unprecedented achievement for a woman at the time.

Anna Lea Merritt in her studio, 1886. Photo by Frederick Hollyer.

Anna Lea Merritt in her studio, 1886. Photo by Frederick Hollyer.

Later in life Merritt would also take up writing essays. Her best known essay is titled “A Letter to Artists: Especially Women Artists” published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine (v. 65, 1900). In a text that could have been written today (unfortunately), she nails down the chief obstacle to a woman’s success: “that she can never have a wife.”

“Just reflect what a wife does for an artist: Darns the stockings; keeps his house; writes his letters; visits for his benefit; wards off intruders; Is personally suggestive of beautiful pictures; always an encouraging and partial critic,’’

wrote Merritt in her “Letter.” Further down she added that women suffered from the syndrome of the “busy bee” denying themselves frivolity or rest, missing recreation.

Bringing Merritt’s comments to today’s world, you quickly realize that they resonate with some of Gloria Steinem’s sharpest observations: “There is no such thing as Superwoman. You can’t have everything if you do everything” or “I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.”

But what about Florence Laing’s portrait? Hers was not just another “debutante” portrait commissioned by the family following the upper class customs of the time. Digging deeper into the life of the two women, I found that they had a lot more in common than one might have first thought.


A search on the web for Florence Laing Kennedy (1855-1952) produces very little. She comes up either as the daughter of Samuel Laing, esteemed member of parliament and friend of Gladstone or as the wife of painter Edward Sherard Kennedy (1837-1900).  There is, however, one exception. In the British History Online, in the section about “Artists and Chelsea,” I found an interesting mention of a studio-house built for the Kennedys:

“R. Norman Shaw designed a studio-house, 1882-84, for an irregular site at the corner of Walton Street and Lennox Gardens Mews for Edward and Florence Sherard Kennedy, ‘Sunday painters’ with private incomes. Called Walton House, it had separate studios for the couple, and also the Victorian arrangement which allowed models to reach separate changing rooms unseen.”

North and west elevation of Walton House. By R. Norman Shaw, 1882-1884.

North and west elevation of Walton House. By R. Norman Shaw, 1882-1884.

Walton House, a five storey yellow brick with red dressings, where the Kennedys lived for sixteen years, still stands. Its exterior has been modified over the years but a recent proposal by the architectural firm Guard, Tillman, and Pollock aims to restore the conservatory of the first floor. I was lucky to find copies of the original drawings of Walton House attached to their proposal (the originals are stored in the archives of the Royal Academy).

The Walton House, 2016. Google Earth image.

The Walton House in Chelsea, 2016. Google Earth image.

One assumes that construction of the house must have been commissioned around the time of Florence Laing’s marriage to Edward Kennedy (1837-1900). She would have been about 27 years old in 1882 while he was about 45. We know nothing about the circumstances of their meeting but for her to marry a painter, chances are that he was her teacher and mentor. Her portrait by Anna Lea Merritt at the Gennadius Library shows a woman of about that age. Florence must have met and befriended Merritt in Chelsea, where the latter also owned a house on Tite St. (nos. 50 and 52). In the late 19th/early 20th century Chelsea was an artistic and bohemian colony with more than 1,300 domestic artists’ studios. Among Chelsea’s more illustrious residents were William Turner, James McNeil Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Singer Sargent.


It is unfortunate that so little can be pieced together about Florence Gennadius’s previous life in Chelsea. We can imagine that the Kennedy house on Walton Street was full of paintings, his, hers, and their friends. Today, we only know of four pastels by Florence, thanks to a Bonhams catalogue (lot 36, February 2006), but I suspect that there are more “hidden” in storerooms of museums and galleries waiting to be rescued from anonymity.

View of Kensington Gardens, ca. 1880-1893. By Florence Laing Kennedy. One of four pastels with the same theme.

View of Kensington Gardens, ca. 1880-1893. By Florence Laing Kennedy. One of four pastels with the same theme. Source: Bonhams (Lot 36, 2006).

When Florence married John Gennadius in 1902, they moved to an apartment building at 14, De Vere Gardens. Photos of its laborious interior, preserved in one of Gennadius’s scrapbooks, show a heavy and eclectic decorative style, something between baroque and Greek revival, which was chosen to showcase John Gennadius’s collections. There are no paintings by Florence Laing Kennedy on the walls. One suspects that they may have adorned her private rooms or that she may have hung them in another house. (Mrs. Gennadius’s will shows that she was the owner of several properties until the end of her life.) Even the brightest and most accomplished women of her generation, once married (or re-married), had to live in the shadow or, at best, in the orbit of their husbands’ worlds.  She did not “darn his stockings” but she kept his house and worked for his benefit.

Interior of John and Florence Gennadius's house at 14, De Vere Gardens. Source: ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

Interior of John and Florence Gennadius’s house at 14, De Vere Gardens. Source: ASCSA, Gennadius Library.

With so little having survived of Florence Laing Kennedy Gennadius’s once riveting life at Chelsea, we are grateful for her decision to send to the Gennadius Library, together with the shipments of her husband’s books, her portrait by Anna Lea Merritt. It is our only glimpse of her once alluring past as a member of one of the most vivacious and bohemian colonies in London.


My colleague and reference archivist at the ASCSA Archives, Dr. Eleftheria Daleziou, dug up information about Florence Gennadius’s active participation in a number of philanthropic and relief activities of the London Greek community during the Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the Great War. She will be communicating the results of her research in a few days at a conference in London: “ ‘Distressed and Dismayed’: The Response of the London Greek Community to Greece’s War Trials and Refugee Crisis, 1912-1923,” in Greeks and Cypriots in the United Kingdom, 1815-1925: Culture, Commerce, and Politics, London October 14-15, 2016.

Communism In and Out of Fashion: The American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Cold War

Posted by Jack L. Davis

Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here contributes an essay about attitudes of the ASCSA and its members toward Communists and Communism in the 20th century.

“Feeling they were witnessing the demise of capitalism, many writers moved left, some because their working class origins helped them identify with the dispossessed, others because they saw socialism or Communism as the only serious force for radical change, still others because it was the fashionable thing to do; they went where the action was.”
Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark (2009), pp. 16-17.

DancingDark_smallIn 1974, when I first arrived at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), we youngsters were told that we should not express our political views in public. The ASCSA’s institutional mission might be hurt, were it perceived not to be neutral. In September 1974 that was certainly a reasonable position for the ASCSA to assume. Yet I was curious. In 1974, I was myself radicalized, and had definitely headed left. I could not condone U.S. policy in respect to the Junta, or the suppression of the Left in Greece. Could I say nothing? Had the ASCSA always maintained a position of strict neutrality? Or were its postures more convenient than sincere?

A decade ago I explored ASCSA’s decision to excavate at Colophon, politics aligned with the Megali Idea (Μεγάλη Ιδέα) and Greece’s annexation of Asia Minor. More recently, in a special issue of Hesperia titled Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience: American Archaeology in Greece, we (Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, our colleagues, and I) studied unofficial relationships between the ASCSA, the U.S. State Department, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and quasi-governmental institutions, such as the American Red Cross.

Here, as another case study in ASCSA policy, I examine attitudes of the ASCSA and its members toward Communists and Communism. Early in the 20th century Marxism and Russia attracted the attention of some members of the ASCSA, reflecting the more general phenomenon described by Morris Dickstein in Dancing in the Dark (2009). But mounting tensions between the U.S. and Russia in the Cold War restricted the expression of divergent opinions by School members.

Poster by Hugo Gellert, 1935

Poster by Hugo Gellert, 1935

On July 1, 1954, faculty and alumni of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton released a joint statement to the New York Times. Harold Cherniss, head of the School of Historical Research, cabled Homer A. Thompson (professor at IAS and director of the Athenian Agora Excavations) in Athens to ensure that the joint statement was unanimous. Physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the so-called “Father of the Atomic Bomb” and director of the IAS, after days of grueling testimony, had been found blameless by the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee. The McCarthy witch-hunts were in overdrive. Now was the time for faculty of the IAS (among them archaeologists Hetty Goldman, Benjamin Merritt, and Homer Thompson) to affirm their devotion:

 We, who have known him [Oppenheimer] as a colleague, as Director of our own institution, and as a neighbor in a small and intimate community, had from the first complete confidence in his loyalty to the United States, his discretion in guarding its secrets, and his deep concern for its safety, strength, and welfare.

Robert Oppenheimer

Robert Oppenheimer’s most recent biography.

Oppenheimer was an extraordinary polymath, a brilliant theoretical physicist and founding director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. At Los Alamos, he had evolved into a gifted leader (recommended reading is American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer). Born in Manhattan into a wealthy, secular Jewish family, educated at Felix Adler’s Ethical Culture School, precocious and obnoxious, by his own account, he excelled in nearly ev ery academic subject. Oppenheimer loved rocks, poetry, and languages. At the age of nine he challenged an older girl cousin: “Ask me a question in Latin and I will answer you in Greek.” Oppenheimer was accused of betraying his country because of previous associations with the Communist Party and its members, including a former lover. He only admitted to being a “fellow traveller,” sympathetic to the beliefs of the party.

At least a couple students of the ASCSA also flirted with Communism in the first half of the 20th century. Ida Carlton Thallon (Mrs. Bert Hodge Hill), was certainly intrigued by socialism, captivated by the passion of her more famous friend, Jane Harrison. Mary Beard dismisses any notion that Harrison’s ideas represented an “incipient communism,” but she certainly was enthralled by potential of the Soviet Union. To the Russian literary critic Dimitry Mirsky, Harrison “described herself as a philosophical Radical, with a dash of the Bolshevik.” She herself wrote: “The Bears [Russian] revolution has made me so happy—it is the best and biggest thing the War has brought and does justify our faith in them and it is splendid that there has been so little bloodshed.” (After her death, Mirsky died in a gulag!)

Thallon met Harrison in Athens in 1901 and described her as “charming.” They corresponded, and in August 1916 saw each other at the so-called Russian meeting in Cambridge. A bit earlier, on June 29, 1916, Harrison had written to Thallon: “… We are still immersed in war and personally I am immersed in Russian. I really think you must take up that fascinating tongue. It is the most repaying language — barring Greek — I have ever worked at” (ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Papers Box 3, folder 5).

Heinrich (Henry) Immerwahr (director of the ASCSA, 1977-82), a committed Marxist prior to the Stalinist purges, escaped Nazi death camps with help from the U.S. Embassy and the ASCSA. So far as I know, his former leftist politics made him no less welcome in Athens or in the U.S.

Not all students of the ASCSA were so enamored with Russia and Marxism. Suzanne Allinson (member 1910-11), daughter of Francis G. Allinson, professor of Classics at Brown University, married Henry Crosby Emery, an economist and professor at Bowdoin and Yale. In 1917, they toured Russia as he studied the health of its industries and financial institutions, but fled the outbreak of the Revolution (and were briefly taken prisoner by the Germans), departing with very negative impressions of Communism. In 1919 Emery published an essay in The Yale Review that was harshly critical of the Bolsheviks (“Bolshevism: An Analysis of a World Movement after Experiences in Russia during the Revolution”).


With the end of WW II, in Greece Communism became more real than theoretical, as struggles for power between the government and former resistance forces erupted. The U.S. supported the government of George Papandreou and the ASCSA supported the U.S. in its efforts to rebuild and stabilize Greece. Both Alison Frantz and Carl Blegen held appointments at the American Embassy and Loring Hall was rented to the State Department. (An earlier post to this blog by Despina Lalaki, titled “On Communism and Hellenism: An Archaeologist’s Perspective,” examined the role that Carl Blegen played in promoting U.S. policy in the years following WW II, with particular reference to his unpublished book manuscript, “The United States and Greece.”)

German forces withdrew from Greece in October 1944, and the Greek government in exile returned to Athens from Egypt. But Communist EAM (The National Liberation Front)-ELAS (The Greek People’s Liberation Army) controlled most of the country. On December 3, 1944, a pro-EAM demonstration in Athens ended in violence and a house-to-house struggle with British and monarchist forces followed (the so-called Dekemvriana). The Varkiza Agreement of February 12, 1945 suspended the conflict, ELAS was disarmed, and a coalition government was formed.

Homer A. Thompson, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations (1947-1967)

Homer A. Thompson

In the midst of the “Dekemvriana,” on December 6, 1944, Homer Thompson (not yet director of the Athenian Agora excavations) stumbled across an unmarked frontier and entered ELAS-controlled Athens; he was on his way to the Austrian School of Archaeology to visit archaeologist Kostantinos Kourouniotis. The fact that he wore his Canadian officer’s uniform no doubt contributed to his four-day detention by ELAS.

Thompson’s classified report to his superiors emphasizes that he does not intend to present “an apology for EAM-ELAS but rather a record of their state of mind at the time in question.” He does to set forth their grievances in an objective manner, concluding that: “… the British policy was right in principle” in supporting the Papandreou government but “… frequently suffered from lack of tact in its application or through misunderstanding of the Greek temperament.”

The “Dekemvriana” had been all but inevitable: “… All through the ages, the Greeks when under strain have given way to what they themselves call ‘stasis,’ that is, factional rivalry which is aggravated by intransigence in their political relations and inevitably ends in civil strife.” He was reminded that Byron had written from Messolonghi (University of Toronto Quarterly 15.2 [1945-46] 170-181): “The Greeks appear in more danger from their own divisions than from the attacks of the enemy.”

Excerpt from H.A. Thompson's "Athens During the Civil War: 1944," University of Toronto Quarterly, 15:2, 1946, p. 173. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers.

Excerpt from H.A. Thompson’s “Athens During the Civil War: 1944,” University of Toronto Quarterly, 15:2, 1946, p. 173. ASCSA Archives, Homer A. Thompson Papers.



Democratic elections in March 1946 were supervised by international monitors (AMFOGE, The Allied Mission to Observe the Greek Elections) — and members of the ASCSA played an important role. A plebiscite would decide if Greece was to be a monarchy or republic, after parliamentary elections.

April 1946: US Cultural Relations Attache Carl W. Blegan (R) and J. W. Foster standing in headquarters of the Allied Mission For Observing Greek Elections (AMFOGE). (Photo by Nat Farbman/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

April 1946: US Cultural Relations Attache Carl W. Blegan (R) and J. W. Foster standing in headquarters of the Allied Mission For Observing Greek Elections (AMFOGE). (Photo by Nat Farbman/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

AMFOGE was a project of America, Britain, and France. Five senior American monitors, holding ambassadorial status, reported to Henry Grady, chief of the American President Line shipping company. One of them, Herman Wells, president of Indiana University (IU), supervised Thessaloniki. In his biography, Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections, Wells wrote:

“I think our mission could not have been successful without the knowledge that the archaeologists imparted to us about Greece, both ancient and modern. In truth, American archaeologists became our most important informational resource in observing the Greek elections. The happy outcome of this delicate and significant task represented America’s first diplomatic victory on behalf of the West in the series of Cold War events…”

Peter Topping (from 1952, director of the Gennadius Library of the ASCSA) was Wells’ personal assistant. Shirley Weber, director of the Gennadius Library, Carl Blegen, and Alison Frantz were the critical “archaeologists” he mentions.

Not all members of the ASCSA considered AMFOGE a success. David Moore Robinson of Johns Hopkins University (and also the excavator of Olynthus) and Robert Scranton of the University of Chicago, both visiting professors in 1946-47, criticized U.S. policy in American newspapers.

In a contribution to the Baltimore Sun in November 1947, titled “Dr. Robinson Finds Greece Graft Ridden,” Robinson reported that Greeks believed that America was acting in its own self-interest. He claimed that United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation (UNRAA) grants (largely funded by the U.S.) accomplished little, and he reported extravagant waste (even lavish parties at the Grand Bretagne Hotel). As for ELAS bands, Robinson wrote: “All these bands are not necessarily Communist. There have been bands in the hills of Macedonia since medieval times so this is nothing new. They are simply the descendants of those people.”

Scranton had already described similar conditions in Greece in a letter to the New York Times (July 10, 1947), titled“Cessation of Oppression”:

[In Greece] “… difficulties are aggravated and exploited by foreign powers for their own national and international ends… The present Greek government is almost hysterically afraid of communism — a word which has come to mean, in Greece, any but an extreme rightist stand … most people live in fear for life and liberty. Many of them join the guerrillas, where Communists are doubtless to be found, simply as the only effective means they see of opposing the Government … The chief and exceedingly difficult objective of the American loan to Greece must be to serve the people, and no part of it should be used in the suppression of their just rights and Liberty.”

Scranton 1947

Excerpt from Robert Scranton’s  letter to the New York Times in 1947.

Such frank public statements put the ASCSA in a particularly uncomfortable position when Moscow radio began to quote Scranton. Thallon had been “left-curious.” Immerwahr was also an idealist. But in the Cold War expressions of sympathy with the Left, in opposition to official U.S. policy of the U.S., had practical consequences, which leadership of the ASCSA found threatening.


Former ASCSA director Charles Morgan wanted to know “… what steps have, or can be, taken to put the perennial bad boy [Robinson] in restraints.” Louis Lord, chairman of the Managing Committee of the School was furious and sent an open letter to staff (ASCSA AdmRec, box 310/8, folder 2, November 14, 1947). In it he invoked Section II, paragraph 1, of the Regulations of the Managing Committee:

“No communication, even of an informal nature, should be made by any member of the School to the public press unless it has been approved and its publication authorized by the Director … The American Government is supporting, at a great deal of expense, the present government in Greece. However faulty that government may be, and however inefficient may be our efforts to help, it seems to me that our duty as members of the School is to help our government’s efforts if we can… .”


The ASCSA professors of the IAS defended free speech in a time of oppression. Scranton and Robinson favored tolerance of ideas and opposed U.S. policy. Two members of the ASCSA (Emily Grace and Kevin Andrews), however, were much more vocal in their opposition to American policy, and both took action, albeit in very different ways.

Emily Grace Kazakevich (ASCSA member 1936-37), sister of Agora amphora-scholar Virginia Grace, was born into a well-to-do New York City family of cotton importers. After Bryn Mawr College, Emily received a Ph.D. from Yale, her thesis titled The Sparta of Agis and Cleomenes: A Study of the Ancient Literary Sources. Her husband, Vladimir Kazakevich, though a White Russian, dreamt of receiving Soviet citizenship. Both Emily and Vladimir were committed Marxists (in the 1940s they had translated Communist works into English). They both believed that the U.S. was capable of starting a third world war.

Emily Grace, Doreen Canaday, Margaret (Miggy) Hill, and Lucy Shoe

(From left to right), Emily Grace, Doreen Canaday, Margaret (Miggy) Hill, and Lucy Shoe, Malia, Crete 1938. ASCSA Archives, Doreen Canaday Spitzer Papers.

While employed at the U.S. Army’s Russian Institute at Cornell University, Vladimir began to feed high-quality intelligence to Russian operatives. When exposed in 1949 by fellow spy Elizabeth Bentley, he and Emily fled to Moscow.

John Watson, Canadian chargé d’affaires in Moscow and later ambassador, described the pair in chatty letters to the Canadian State Department (Moscow Despatches). (1948-1951): “Their apartment [in Moscow] was ‘very comfortable, and Emily, who is a complete blue-stocking and loathes housework, would have been happy, I think, to have lived there indefinitely ….” Trunks were covered with her mother’s Oriental rugs. In 1954-1956, however, he found her lonely. She worked mostly at home for the Institute of Ancient History and her spoken Russian was not excellent.

Emily was an important and collaborative scholar. Deborah Kamen (Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 48, pp. 343–380), describes her life in a preface to an English translation of her article: “Were the χωρίς οἰκοῦντες slaves?” She corresponded with Moses Finley, Mike Jameson, and Ronald Stroud.

Last winter, Stroud, professor emeritus at Berkley, wrote me: “I never met Emily Grace Kazakevich, for she was still living in Moscow during the time of our acquaintance. I think that it was Moses Finley who first brought her work on Athenian homicide law and slavery to my attention … I corresponded with her for several years about Athenian law and exchanged offprints. … Parenthetically, I never mentioned Emily to her sister Virginia and, although she knew that we were often working on the same topics, VG [Virginia Grace] never mentioned her to me.”

Daniel Tompkins, professor emeritus at Temple University, sent me scans of Finley’s correspondence with Kazakevich, noting that it is disappointingly lacking in political context. Dan writes: “MIF [Finley] and EGK (Kazakevich] had an intermittent but interesting correspondence. It has interesting flashes, but sadly perhaps, as with many of these exchanges of letters, there is hardly anything about the Party, politics, Stalin, etc. I’m sure Emily had to be careful, and the old communists of Finley’s era seem to have been drilled to stay quiet.”

Emily voted with her feet, and left the U.S.


Another student of the ASCSA also vociferously opposed U.S. policy, particularly in Greece, and made Athens his home. Kevin Andrews, fellow of the ASCSA in the later 1940s and author of Castles of the Morea, acquired (in the words of Glenn Bugh, who prefaced the book’s new edition), “… a passionate hatred for American interventionism.” Under the Colonels “… he clearly felt the American School, staying true to its educational mission and its longstanding policy of non-involvement in Greek politics, was not vocal enough about the suspected CIA complicity with the Colonels. Andrews was consistent in his leftist political views: even before the Junta he had been critical of what he perceived as social coziness that existed between the School and the Monarchy.” (Andrews did present a copy of his book to Queen Frederika, who invited him to a party the next day.)

He was in his own words “a pain in the neck” for the ASCSA, but his political views were not an embarrassment for the ASCSA prior to publication of The Flight of Ikaros (1959). Director Jack Caskey gave him free room and board in Loring Hall and, in 1951, wrote: “Kevin is doing what I consider a very fine piece of work, which will be a credit to the School and will call attention to the Gennadeion.”

In November 1973 Andrews joined the Polytechnic strike and was beaten badly. After the fall of the Junta he renounced his U.S. citizenship in favor of Greek.

The Flight of Ikaros by Kevin Andrews.

The Flight of Ikaros by Kevin Andrews

Neither fish nor foul, the ASCSA is a private, non-governmental, non-profit institution, yet it is also the legal representative of all American archaeology in Greece. Good relations with the Greek state (the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Culture) have been key to the ASCSA’s success. And close ties to the American Embassy have benefited the School in tangible and intangible ways. An American institution operating in a foreign environment that has at times been hostile to its existence may reasonably be concerned lest individual opinions be construed as reflections of institutional policy. But in the 21st century is there still no room at the ASCSA for political discussions? Given its independent, educational mission, might the ASCSA be, in fact, an ideal location for such debate?

Gertrude Smith: A Classic American Philhellene

Posted by Dylan Rogers

Dylan Rogers holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, and he has been Assistant Director at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens since 2015. The essay he contributes to “From the Archivist’s Notebook” was inspired by his summer experience at the School.

“Summers at the ASCSA are a vibrant time for the School, full of students and scholars, with the buzz of activity and chats at Ouzo Hour. Taking on the role of the Assistant Director of the School last year, I was intrigued to learn that each Summer Session Director is given the title, “Gertrude Smith Professor.” At first, I was only vaguely familiar with Smith’s scholarship on Greek law. So, why would the School associate SS Directors with her? This led me on a quest to find out more about Smith—and to find out what her story exactly was. She must have had a passion for Greece, but why? And in what ways did she spread this love to others?”

Gertrude E. Smith in her office at the University of Chicago, ca. 1950.

Gertrude E. Smith in her office at the University of Chicago, ca. 1950. Photo: University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center.

Gertrude Elizabeth Smith (1894-1985) spent most of her adult life in Illinois. Born and raised in Peoria, Smith would later go on to receive her education at the University of Chicago, writing a PhD dissertation on Greek law– after which Smith would begin teaching at the university, eventually becoming the Edwin Olson Professor of Greek in 1933. From 1934 until her retirement in 1961, Smith was the Chairman of the Department of Classics at Chicago, making her a prominent female figure in the field of Classics in America in the 20th century. Smith also served as a founder of Eta Sigma Phi, the national Classics honor society, was the first woman to serve as the president of both the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS, 1933-1934) and the American Philological Association (1958), and was a long serving member of the editorial board of the journal, Classical Philology (1925-1965). After her retirement from Chicago, Smith would go on to teach briefly at the University of Illinois, Loyola University in Chicago, and Vanderbilt University (Gagarin 1996-1997). Read the rest of this entry »

“Dollars and Dreams”: American Archaeologists on the Hunt for Greek American Money in Chicago

A still from The Aunt from Chicago (Η θεία από το Σικάγο) with the eccentric aunt (played by Georgia Vasileiadou) in the middle.

A still from The Aunt from Chicago (Η θεία από το Σικάγο) with the eccentric Greek American aunt (played by Georgia Vasileiadou) in the middle.

The Aunt from Chicago is one of the most beloved films in the history of Greek cinema. Produced in 1957, it became an instant hit and remained in demand for many decades. The movie had all the ingredients of a successful production: a great set and superior performances by the best actors of its time. As much as the film is a satire on the conservatism of the Greek family, it is also a subtle mockery of the “aunt’s” Americanization.

Proud of their successful relatives in America, but also feeling uncomfortable with their rapid assimilation by American culture, Greek intellectuals such as novelists Elias Venezis and Yorgos Theotokas tried to rationalize the loss of national identity by the Greek migrants.  If, before WW II, stories of hardship and suffering prevailed over stories of success, after the war America’s new supremacy left little room for a narrative of failure. Instead, a new transnational narrative wanted Greek migrants — with their age-old values and in light of the bravery they had demonstrated during the war — to have contributed to the building of a new America. Novelist Yorgos Theotokas in his Essay on America (Δοκίμιο για την Αμερική), in the wake of a visit to the United States in 1953, would go so far as to claim that “From now on, the American people will be—to a small, but considerable extent—descendants of Greeks also” (Laliotou 2004, p. 86). (For a thorough study of the Greek migration in America, see Ioanna Laliotou, Transatlantic Subjects: Acts of Migration and Cultures of Transnationalism between Greece and America, Chicago 2004.)

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Skyromania? American Archaeologists in 1930s Skyros

Skyros, house interior, 1931. ASCSA, Dorothy Burr Thompson

Skyros, house interior, 1931. ASCSA Archives, Dorothy Burr Thompson Photographic Collection

“The island of Skyros is fairly remote and inaccessible, on account of the winds. One consequence of its geographical location is that there is very little information about the island in the ancient authors, and the picture also given by the travelers is also fragmentary,” archaeologist Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki could write in her archaeological guide to Skyros, as recently as 1998. Before her, American archaeologist Hazel Hansen, in writing about prehistoric Skyros in 1951, similarly described the island as “one of the most solitary islands in the Aegean for nearly all the other islands are nearer to one another or to the mainland.” Its isolation and the capricious sea between it and the mainland and Euboea are the reasons why Skyros is far less frequently visited…”.

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Dorothy Burr Thompson’s Love for the Spirit of the Primitive

Dorothy Burr photographing wedding dance at Parapoungia 1924.

Dorothy Burr photographing wedding dance at Parapoungia 1924. ASCSA Archives, Dorothy Burr Thompson Photographic Collection.

“By myself in a Boeotian village, with the cry of the wind and drunken men in my ears! I love this place; it is so full of interest and a sense of real thing – seeing weddings whereat one reddens a finger… plodding one’s weary way homeward over purple fields to the din of bells like an organ cadence, knowing villagers… Oh, it is so full of life…” scribbled Dorothy Burr in her personal diary on November 9, 1924.

She was twenty-four years old and had come to Greece the year before, to study at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter). Before that, she had lived in Philadelphia and studied at Bryn Mawr College. After attending the year-long program of the ASCSA, she and Hazel Hansen, another student of the School, were invited by archaeologist Hetty Goldman to dig at the Neolithic site of Eutresis, not far from Thebes, in Boeotia. Read the rest of this entry »

Clash of the Titans: The Controversy Behind Loring Hall

Loring Hall on 61 Speusippou (Souidias today), 1929. Source: ASCSA Archives

Loring Hall at 61 Speusippou (Souidias today), 1929. Source: ASCSA Archives

Reading Louis Lord’s History of the early years of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter ASCSA or School), one gets a sanitized and condensed account of the building’s history (Lord 1947, 203-204). From his description, which largely concentrates on the final  phase of the project, one could hardly imagine that 16 years of complicated negotiations preceded its official opening in February of 1930; in fact, a women’s hostel had been the dream of several important women, including the exceptional but controversial M. Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College (1894-1922), before various forces finally named it after a man, Judge William Caleb Loring, and made it co-ed. Read the rest of this entry »