Forgotten Friend of Skyros: Hazel D. Hansen (Part II)Posted: May 14, 2020
As a young woman, Hazel Dorothy Hansen broke several glass ceilings. From a humble background –her father was a foundryman—she was admitted to Stanford University in 1916, at a time when the institution had severely limited the admission of women. In 1904, Mrs. Stanford became afraid of the increasing number of women enrolling at Stanford (by 1899 reaching almost 40% of the student population) and implemented a quota that restricted their numbers at the undergraduate level: for every woman at Stanford, there had to be three men. (See Sam Scott, “Why Jane Stanford Limited Women’s Enrollment to 500,” Stanford Magazine, Aug. 22, 2018.). Fortunately for a girl of modest means, Stanford remained tuition-free until 1920.
She broke the glass ceiling again when she chose a prehistoric topic for her dissertation (“Early Civilization in Thessaly”) that also required extensive surveying for sites on the Greek periphery. In the 1920’s female graduate students at the American School had limited options when it came to field research. Apart from Alice Leslie Walker, who had been entrusted with the publication of its Neolithic pottery, Corinth remained a male domain, with Bert Hodge Hill and Carl W. Blegen controlling access to, and publication of, archaeological material. Hazel would have needed either to finance her own excavation, as Hetty Goldman and Walker had done in the 1910s, or to write an art history thesis based on material in museums. It was not until David R. Robinson began excavations at Olynthus and Edward Capps spearheaded the Athenian Agora Excavations that women were allowed to participate in the publication of (secondary) excavation material.
Identifying the Elusive “Mr. Welch”
In last month’s essay (“Forgotten Friend of Skyros: Hazel Hansen, Part I”), I explored Hazel’s early years in Greece (1922-1925) and the people she interacted with, especially the ones who contributed to her intellectual growth and academic development. I also examined aspects of her personal life, and I mentioned serendipity in archival research. The letters of her fellow student Natalie Murray Gifford implied that Hazel had some sort of romantic involvement with an older British man, a “Mr. Welch” connected with the British Embassy. Several days after publishing my story, I discovered in the photographic albums of Winifred Lamb, a British archaeologist and contemporary of Hansen (1894-1963), a photo depicting two young women, on either side of a distinguished, older man. Amalia Kakissis, the Archivist of the British School at Athens where Lamb’s papers are kept, identified the woman on the left as Winifred Lamb and the man as Francis Bertram Welch (1876-1949). Looking closer, I recognized Hazel Hansen as the woman to the right of Welch.
Welch was not just a member of the diplomatic corps in Athens, as Gifford’s frequent references to him led me to believe. He was a trained archaeologist who, in 1899, had directed the British Museum’s excavations at Kouklia and Klavdia on Cyprus and was also part of the BSA’s excavations at Phylakopi on Melos. During WW I, he was with the British army in Macedonia, this time serving as an Intelligence Officer. In 1922-1924, when Hazel met him at the BSA, he was stationed in Athens as Vice Consul. We can now add Francis Welch and possibly Winifred Lamb to the people who might have inspired Hansen to work outside the “boundaries” of the American School.
Upon her return to America in 1928, Hansen was hired at Stanford, first as an Instructor and then as an Assistant Professor (1931). After the publication of her dissertation in 1933, she was promoted to Associate Professor (1935). Alan Kaiser, writing about Mary Ross Ellingson in Archaeology, Sexism, and Scandal: The Long-Suppressed Story of One Woman’s Discoveries and the Man Who Stole Credit for Them (Lanham 2015) has included a chapter with charts of the career opportunities available to women in academia before and after WWII. The decade 1930-1940 was the last decade before the 1970s when women occupied 25% of the faculty positions in American universities. Hansen was fortunate to have matured as a scholar within the early years of that decade. By then, the flirtatious girl of the 1920s had also made a personal commitment: to remain unmarried. Apparently, there was no place for married women professors in American academia. After the Depression of 1929, U.S. legislation became increasingly hostile to female employment, especially in academia, where anti-nepotism policies were introduced. If she ever wanted to marry one of her colleagues at Stanford, she would have to resign from her position. Her talented friend from her early years at the American School, Dorothy Burr, and other married women archaeologists of her time, such as Gladys Davidson, chose not to compete with their husbands for academic positions.
It is also surprising that a promising scholar such as Hansen was in the 1930s, did not produce much after the publication of her book (1933), except for a long article in Hesperia 1937 that secured her promotion to full professor in 1940. My search in JSTOR yielded only four papers presented at the annual meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA): “The Lebes Gamikos in the Stanford Collection” (AIA Meetings, 1929), “The Use of Wings as an Attribute in Greek Art” (AIA Meetings, 1935), “The racial continuity of Prehistoric Thessaly” (AIA Meetings, 1937), and ‘Protogeometric Vases from Skyros” (AIA Meetings 1950). In the meetings of December 28-30, 1937, Hansen, together with Hetty Goldman and Dorothy Kent Hill (another of David Robinson’s students at Johns Hopkins), were the only women speakers among thirty-four participants.
The slow pace of research by an energetic scholar such as Hansen may also reflect sexist attitudes that prevailed in academia before the 1970s. To support the research of male professors, universities were systematically assigning higher teaching loads to female faculty, leaving them little time for research. Margalit Fox in The Riddle of the Labyrinth (New York 2013) makes a strong case that Alice Kober’s research on the decipherment of Linear B suffered from her heavy teaching loads at Brooklyn College. Unlike Kober, Hansen was, however, able to negotiate two sabbaticals, as well as some semesters off (in exchange for summer work), during her career at Stanford.
Geese and Ganders
In 1936-1937, Hansen spent her first sabbatical in Greece. Charles H. Morgan, the new Director of the School, reported that “Professor Hazel D. Hansen of Stanford University continued her researches in the prehistoric pottery of Thessaly and assisted Professor Broneer in the excavation on the North Slope of the Athenian Acropolis” (Annual Report 56, 1936-1937, p.15). At first glance this would appear to have been a good year for Hazel: working on her pottery from Thessaly and participating in Broneer’s excavations (remember, she, Broneer, and Mylonas were old pals after having shared quarters as students at the Palace of Prince George on Academias Street). But it wasn’t actually such a good year for Hazel, at least in part. We would not have known anything about her troubles if it weren’t for a letter she addressed to Verna and Oscar Broneer from the deck of the M.S. Lafayette on Sept. 19, 1937. It starts as a happy enough reminiscence about all the pleasant experiences she had had during the year: “in fact it was such a grand year that I almost wish it were starting over again […]. Even on this fine boat which serves the most delectable food –the choicest French culinary art can produce—I must confess that the appearance of a pilaphi at lunch yesterday really made me feel homesick for Greece.”
Among her pleasant experiences, she probably counted the celebrations for the Centenary of the University of Athens. The American School participated with many of its members representing U.S. universities. “The University celebrations have been quite wearing but the essential Academic business is over now. Peabody [the President of the School’s Board of Trustees] represented the School and most of the School members were there in force to represent various American seats of learning. Priscilla [Capps] did her usual efficient rescue work, and outfitted most of them with gowns and hoods, so that we made a very creditable showing indeed” noted Charles Morgan to Edward Capps, Priscilla’s father and Chair of the School’s Managing Committee on Apr. 20, 1937 (AdmRec 318/4 folder 1).
The happy tone of her letter, however, changes in the second paragraph. As she fondly recalls her last two weeks in Athens where “there was a luncheon or dinner party of some sort for me every day and I was literally snowed under with gifts and mementos,” we read that Oscar and Verna were not part of the festivities. There had been a terrible blow-out between Oscar and her, with Broneer losing his temper. Although we only have her testimony to what happened, it is worth citing parts of her letter because they are very revealing about how little respect even women of high-professional status received from their male peers. In 1936-1937, Hansen was a tenured professor at a competitive university. Broneer, promoted to the rank of associate professor at the American School (without any tenure process, however), was running a small excavation on the North Slope of the Acropolis, where he had discovered the Sanctuary of Aphrodite. Professionally he and she were equals.
In the spring of 1937, Broneer asked Hansen to study the finds from the dig. You would think that mutual respect would have governed their professional relationship. Apparently, not. According to Hazel, Oscar treated her as a servant.
“In all those first weeks of work with you, you did nothing but find fault –never did you speak one word of approval or even thanks for anything I did. You completely forgot that I was generously giving you my time (not being paid as the Agora people, for example) […]. All the Agora people had told me repeatedly during the winter that you were very difficult to work with –that I would regret it- but I thought I knew better” Hazel wrote in her letter (ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers, Box 13, folder 1).
She further implied that he was running a messy dig, bawling her and the workmen out “at times badly” for petty reasons. She also reminded him that she had worked with other first-rate excavators, such as Goldman, Heurtley, and Blegen “who never demanded of their staff what they did not do themselves.” She would always give him credit for the opportunity to study the prehistoric pottery from the North Slope, but “the inspiration [for her to write a good paper] was killed that awful day in April…”. She did, however, enclose the draft of a long article, which was published in Hesperia of 1937 (pp. 539-570).
Broneer utterly dismissed her complaints in his reply of Nov. 17, 1937. His short answer acknowledged briefly her “important contribution to the meager knowledge that we have of prehistoric Athens.” In her article, “The Prehistoric Pottery on the North Slope of the Acropolis, 1937,” she established connections with the island of Aegina, especially during the Middle Helladic period.
Hansen and Broneer must have patched up their relationship at some point because on Dec. 6, 1938, she wrote him a long and friendly letter about her future plans. She had finally convinced her department to agree to an arrangement that would allow her “to teach in alternate summers and in exchange, she would take a six months leave every other year.” For the summer of 1939, she was planning to spend most of her time in Thessaly, “running around on a mule, and working on Strabo.”
Honorary Citizen of Skyros
The first time we hear about her association with Skyros (an island to the north of Euboea) is in the Director’s Annual Report for 1939-1940 (p. 20). “Miss Hansen was honored by the Greeks of the island of Skyros. She owns a house there and spends much of her time on the island when she comes to Greece. She was made an honorary citizen of the island, a distinction which brings with it freedom from taxation and exemption from military service.” Moreover, “for the first time in the history of the island the American flag was flown over the City” reported Gorham P. Stevens.
But what was the reason for this high distinction? (Of course, I had to laugh at Stevens’s comment about exemption from military service.) In a note to Stevens, on Sept. 5, 1939, two days after he telegramed her the news about England declaring war on Germany, she explained why she couldn’t leave Skyros: “All our 400 vases and sherds […] are still on the floor, etc. and unless I put them in order no one will and I hate leaving the place in a mess.” In addition the rain had washed down “a part of a cliff and exposed another grave which, if we do not dig immediately, will be ruined,” and, because of the cooler weather, she worked on Skyros better than in Athens.
Note that she uses the first plural in her note: “all our 400 vases” and “if we do not dig immediately.” She must have partnered with somebody in this Skyrian project. Was it her old friend John Papademetriou, a native of Skyros, who undertook a small trial excavation on the island in 1935? Or was it Phoebus Stavropoulos (1904-1972), who in February of 1938 dug four Protogeometric graves which had been exposed to view during the winter rains? She refers to both of them in an essay titled “Prehistoric Skyros,” published in the Studies Presented to David Moore Robinson on his Seventieth Birthday (1951, pp. 54-63). It is unclear, however, what kind of service she rendered in 1939; I suspect that she was honored for her efforts to organize the island’s first museum by putting together a display of the pottery and other objects found in the graves. In “Prehistoric Skyros” she refers to the one-room museum in the town hall, which was damaged during WWII. “When I visited Skyros in 1947 I undertook to make the room and cases repaired and I washed and put together as many of the vases as possible” (p. 59, note 18).
The publication of the pottery from the Skyrian graves and a travel guide for Skyros would become her life-long projects after 1939, both left unfinished, however. Her personal papers in the School’s Archives show that she had made considerable progress on both projects. Her guidebook captures information of ethnographic interest about life on the island before the invasion of tourism.
“One evening at dusk as I passed along the road I counted 47 people coming from various directions- their yellow kerchiefs streaming about their heads, each with a huge stamna, water jar, on their heads, their skirts billowing out in the breeze… The typical woman of Skyros has a water jar on her head –trudging on her way to the fountain. Sometimes she is a smiling, brown-faced girl. Again a ragged urchin, another time an old woman worn with toil, whose bronzed and wrinkled face betrays her hard lot,” she wrote in her chapter about the town’s fountain house.
WW II must have put her Skyrian projects on hold for several years since she was not able to get back to Greece until 1947. In the School’s Annual Report of 1949-1950, Director John L. Caskey noted that Hansen was on the island of Skyros inventorying the objects in the local museum and “writing a catalogue of the prehistoric and Geometric pottery” (p. 28). That same year she received official permission to publish the prehistoric material. “The island’s dependence upon Thessaly” formed the principal idea behind all her work about Skyros in the Bronze and Early Iron Age. Through her pottery studies, she further argued that the island was drawn into the Mycenaean orbit not through contacts with the south but from the north.
With the Office of Strategic Services?
Returning to Stanford after her visit to Greece in 1947, Hansen, together with Wayne S. Wucinich (1913-2005), gave on-campus presentations about their Balkan experience. Wucinich, a historian of Serbian origin, who had worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during the War, had recently joined the faculty of the history department at Stanford. Hansen spoke about the need for U.S. military and political aid to help terminate the Civil War in Greece (The San Francisco Examiner, May 16, 1948). In May 1951, after a 6-month stay in Greece, she delivered another public talk about the political situation in the country. In “Greece: the Land of Struggle,” she talked about the material aid that America had offered to Greece “from monumental works down to such useful items as nylons, sports, shoes, and bubble gum.” But that wasn’t enough if America wanted to prevent the infiltration of communism in Greece. “The failure to eliminate corruption… to reduce unemployment and to narrow up the gap between wages and soaring prices threatened to perpetuate all the familiar social ills on which Communism thrives” (Times Advocate, Mar. 22, 1952). Hansen’s involvement in the political affairs of Greece and the public talks she delivered after each visit to Greece suggest that: a) she had been recruited by the OSS during the War (her knowledge of Greece’s topography and language would have made her an ideal candidate), and b) her post-WW II trips to Greece may have been partially funded by the U.S. government.
Cold War Realities
After 1950 Hansen did not participate in any more AIA Meetings, and her “Prehistoric Skyros” in David Robinson’s Festschrift was her last publication. She must have put all her efforts into turning her Skyrian field notes into a book. She also continued to work on the restoration of the Cesnola Collection in the archaeological laboratory she had established in the basement of the Stanford Museum. But it is also very possible that she was preoccupied with administration at Stanford.
The university underwent a fundamental change after WW II, especially under Provost Frederick W. Terman (1955-1965). The transformation took place during Terman’s tenure in the Electrical Engineering Department. According to the historian of science and geneticist C. Stewart Gillmor, “as the department grew in stature, so did Fred as an academic administrator.” Terman was also responsible for the cross-fertilization between academic and industrial research, which is “one reason why university scientific discoveries are so rapidly translated into new industries, companies, products, and services” (C. S. Gillmor, Fred Terman at Stanford: Building a Discipline, a University, and Silicon Valley, Stanford 2004, p. viii). On the other hand, during Terman’s tenure as Stanford’s provost, the university ratcheted up its support of hard sciences at the expense of geography, history, and classics. Furthermore, his peers were astounded by how he could “downplay or even eliminate established programs or academic emphases that lacked promise for the future” (N. Cohen, The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball, New York 2017). According to Cohen, Terman never directly engaged in a dialogue with the professors who objected to his new agenda; instead, he privately undermined their academic status, by challenging their competence and intelligence. Cohen’s archival research in Stanford University’s institutional records revealed dismissive comments, such as “hardworking but not particularly bright biologist… who specializes in fish.” Among these efforts, Terman decided to shrink the department of classics by not replacing two retiring professors. How could the study of classics support business opportunities? And when Hazel Hansen wrote him to express her objections to the departmental cuts, Terman never replied, but privately dismissed her as a “single woman—lonely—frustrated” (Cohen 2017, p. 50). This reduction of teaching positions probably translated into an increased teaching load for Hansen and much less time for research.
Meeting her Match
In 1956-1957 Hansen was the Annual Professor at the American School. Rhys Carpenter was the Visiting Professor. We read in her annual report that she conducted a weekly seminar on prehistoric pottery, where “in the first three sessions the Neolithic pottery of Thessaly was studied in detail for this was new material for all the members of the class” (ASCSA Annual Report 76, 1956-1957, pp. 48-49). She also organized Saturday meetings at which the students sorted, washed, and cataloged sherds. (I am now almost certain that she is responsible for the rich Neolithic collection of sherds from various Thessalian sites in the School’s teaching collection.) In addition, she offered an elementary course on Homer, but the sessions were not rewarding. “And the question still remains why some students come to the School with so little Greek. Why do they think that Greek is divorced from archaeology?” Hansen wondered in her report.
Her early death in 1962 deprived me personally of first-hand information about this dynamic woman. While searching for people who might have known her personally, I realized that Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, professor of archaeology at Bryn Mawr College for almost forty years (1957-1994), was a student at the School in 1956-1957. Knowing that Bruni (as she is known by her students) reads my blog, I wrote her. She not only responded within a day, but also went hunting for her own letters from Greece to her family. In one of them, she found what she was looking for.
On Feb. 15, 1957, she and Miss Hansen took a trip to Korakou to hunt for sherds. After collecting sherds and having a meal together, they returned to Athens. With Bruni’s permission, I quote: “But I almost ruined the pleasant occasion when Miss Hansen asked me whether I wanted to keep at least one sherd for myself. Since she insisted, I finally selected one with matte-painted traces, which (to my recollection) I had personally found.” However, Miss Hansen was furious with Bruni’s choice because she believed that she had found the sherd and also considered it the most diagnostic sherd of those they had collected. “How dared I select just that very sherd?” “I finally blew my own top: I told her that I was not a prehistorian… [and] at any rate, I was not interested in keeping any sherd at all and she could certainly have it. Rather than ruining our relationship, my outburst seems to have cleared the air, and we continued to be friendly for the rest of her stay in Athens.” Ridgway found Hansen difficult and domineering but also a good teacher. She also asked me to be kind to her, recognizing the difficulties Hansen must have endured as a woman throughout her academic career in a coed, competitive institution. Ridgway pointed out that even in the 1960s, colleges like Bryn Mawr “objected to my being married and having children….”. For the record, Ridgway had four children, published more than eight books and hundreds of articles while supervising 36 dissertations, including my own.
Hansen satisfied her need for a child by informally adopting one from Skyros. In The Stanford Daily Archives, a few days after her death, Stanford’s President Wallace Sterling reminded people that “she also became the sole supporter of a WW II orphan who grew to maturity on the island.”