Forgotten Friend of Skyros: Hazel D. Hansen (Part II)

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.

Hansen’s monthly report (March 1924) to the School’s Director, where she lists her trips, and also proudly claims that she discovered the prehistoric site of Μαγούλα Παλιάμπελα (“and not even mentioned by Mr. Wace”). ASCSA Archives, AdmRec 108/1, folder 5.

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.

Winifred Lamb, Francis B. Welch, Hazel D. Hansen, 1923. Reproduced with the permission of the British School at Athens, Winifred Lamb Personal Papers, LAM 3/1/6/13.

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.

Male-Dominated Academia

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.

Source: Kaiser 2015, p. 97, fig. 4.3.

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.

Hazel Hansen with her male colleagues at an oral examination, 1940. Stanford Historical Photograph Collections.

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).

Celebrations for the Centenary of the University of Athens. Ida Thallon Hill, Charles H. Morgan, Oscar Broneer, Elizabeth P. Blegen, Hazel D. Hansen, Arthur Parsons, Ambassador Lincoln MacVeagh, Richard H. Howland. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

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).

Mycenaean pyxis from Αγαλίνη, Skyros. ASCSA Archives, Hazel D. Hansen Papers.

Hazel Hansen’s sketches of pots from Grave IV at Magazia (Μαγαζιά), Skyros. ASCSA Archives, Hazel D. Hansen Papers.

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.

Linaria, Skyros 1939. ASCSA Archives, Hazel D. Hansen Papers.

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.

Hazel Hansen in the basement of the Stanford Museum, 1945. Stanford Historical Photograph Collections.

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.

Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway. Source: Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, Winter 2020, p. 13.

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.”

Forgotten Friend of Skyros: Hazel Dorothy Hansen (Part I)

“Her main contribution was not destined to be in the field of excavation, but in discovering in dark cellars a good number of broken vases still covered with earth, discovered by others over the years in the island of Skyros. There she collected, cleaned, patched, and provided with a shelter transforming into a small Museum a room in the City Hall of Skyros. For this service to archaeology and the island she was made Honorary Citizen of Skyros,” wrote archaeologist George Mylonas about Hazel Hansen in early 1963, a few months after her death, in the Annual Report of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter).

I asked several archaeologists of my generation and slightly older if her name or her association with the island of Skyros rang a bell. It did not, although she was known well enough in Greece, for her death to be noted at length in Kathimerini (December 22, 1962), one of the most respected Greek newspapers. «Ηγγέλθη χθες στην Αθήνα ο θάνατος της φιλέλληνος αρχαιολόγου καθηγητρίας του Πανεπιστημίου Στάνφορδ, Χέιζελ Χάνσεν, η οποία είναι ιδιαιτέρως γνωστή δια το σύγγραμμά της περί του αρχαιοτέρου πολιτισμού της Θεσσαλίας…”. In addition to her work in Thessaly and Skyros, the note referred to her participation in the excavations at Olynthus and on the North Slope of the Acropolis. The author of Hansen’s Greek obituary knew her well and wanted to capture the accomplishments of a friend and able colleague. It must have been (again) George Mylonas, whose friendship with Hazel started in the 1920s when they were both at the American School.

Hazel D. Hansen, 1923. ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers.

A Californian by birth, Hazel Dorothy Hansen (1899-1962) taught classics and archaeology at Stanford University for more than three decades. When she was not teaching at Stanford, she was somewhere in Greece; later in her life, she owned a house on Skyros. I first became interested in Hansen because of the many times I encountered her name in Natalie Gifford’s correspondence. (Gifford’s son and professor of Classics at Brown University, William [Bill] Wyatt, gave transcripts of his mother’s correspondence to the Blegen Library in the 1980s, now in the School’s Archives.) Natalie Murray Gifford (1897-1967) was a student of the School in 1922-1923, the same year as Hansen. “Miss Hansen was on the boat. She is very pleasant and I think I shall like her,” scribbled Natalie to her mother (ASCSA Archives, Natalie M. Gifford Papers, September 22, 1922).  However, their meeting must not have been entirely accidental. Hazel had received her B.A. (1920) and MA (1921) from Stanford University, where she had taken most of her classes with Augustus T. Murray (1866-1940). The latter, together with his wife Nella, daughter Lydia, and their niece, Natalie, were also aboard the ship to Greece. Murray was to be the School’s Annual Professor that year. Natalie, a Bostonian, had received a B.A. from Radcliffe College (1918) and an Ed. M. from Harvard in 1921.

Upon their arrival in Athens, the two women moved into the American School on Spefsippou Street (now Souidias). It was unprecedented, since the School until then provided rooms only for men and couples. Before 1922, the women students boarded in pensions, the most famous being the Merlin House. (About the history and location of the Merlin House, see “The Man from Damascus, the Good Wife, and Baby Solon.”) Edward Capps, Chair of the School’s Managing Committee, had made an executive decision to allow women to take rooms in the building for the first time.

First Time Coed   

“The events of September 1922, culminating in the destruction of Smyrna and the flight of the Christians from Asia Minor, raised a serious problem just before the opening of the work of the School; for Athens was crowded with refugees and living conditions were exceptionally difficult. Director Hill promptly raised the question by cablegram whether the rooms in the School building should not be thrown open to the women students, and your Chairman [Capps, referring to himself] took the responsibility of giving him full power to act.” (ASCSA Annual Report 1922-23).

Hazel and Natalie were assigned rooms at the east end of the building, while the men were given the west end and rooms on the first floor.

“Our chamber maid’s name is Anna and we have lots of fun getting her to teach us Greek. Miss Hansen knows an awful lot. She is very young, too, just twenty-three today. She seems lots older to me, but now that I know her age I feel quite patriarchal” wrote Natalie, who was just two years older than Hazel” (September 29, 1922).

Within a week, a third woman joined them in the School’s premises. Elizabeth Pierce (later Blegen) in her mid-thirties was a lot older and more experienced than the two girls, but they all got along well. Elizabeth “turned out to be a peach” and the three would “bum around together all the time” (October 5, 1922).  In fact, she was the binding element in this threesome, for when she left for Italy in February 1923, the group fell apart. “She [Elizabeth] is a mighty nice person and really more congenial than Hazel who is rather a grind. What’s more, Hazel has taken a great shine to the Brits and goes off with them when she isn’t studying so I haven’t as much company as usual” complained Natalie to her family (February 14, 1923). On another occasion, we hear about Hazel’s special friendship with the British consul in Athens, a Mr. Welsh, who was “old enough to be her father.” (March 20, 1923).

The late months of 1922 were devastating for the city of Athens, which was flooded with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Asia Minor. Bert Hodge Hill, as Chair of the Athens American Relief Committee, worked day and night to offer food and shelter to the destitute; at the same time, as Director of the American School, he made sure that the students felt safe and comfortable and led a normal life.

Natalie’s letters describe lots of field trips, afternoon teas, dinner parties, and romantic entanglements. In January of 1923, Carl Blegen, the Assistant Director of the School, became engaged to Elizabeth Pierce, who broke up with him a few months later upon the arrival of her friend and lover, Ida Thallon.  At about the same time, Alan J. B. Wace, Director of the British School at Athens, would become involved with Helen Pence, an American archaeologist from another “sister” institution, the American Academy in Rome. Leicester B. Holland, the School’s architect, would fall in love in the spring of 1923 with Louise Adams, another classicist from the Academy in Rome. To these known romances, we can now add that of Hansen and Mr. Welch of the British Embassy. (For the identity of Welch, see “Forgotten Friend of Skyros: Hazel D. Hansen [Part II]”.)

Of Archival Serendipity  

It is common in archival research to find descriptions of an event for which there are no photos. Such is the case with Gifford’s letters, which are full of beautiful, lengthy descriptions of people and events, but her photos have not been preserved. In other collections of personal papers, we have lots of photos but little or no information about the events that led to their creation. Imagine the joy when I finally matched a description of Gifford with a photo taken by Hansen.

While searching the internet for Hansen, her name came up in a book review of 1943. The book in question was This Is Greece: As Photographed by Members of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and their Friends (New York 1941); the book is a beautiful collection of black and white photos of Greece taken in the 1920s and 1930s. While leafing through it, I found that Hansen had contributed two photos from Megara. Her photos matched Gifford’s description of a trip to Megara that she, Hansen, Holland, Blegen, and other members of the School took on April 11, 1923.

Cover of This Is Greece (New York 1941)

“Yesterday was the day that the Megarian women dance in costume, and we all wanted to see it… The place was crowded. The women had on their most elaborate costumes. Some had bright colored velvet jackets heavily embroidered with gold, very full black skirts and white petticoats with lace on them. Many of these women had white silk scarfs on their heads trimmed with gold lace. They were really wonderful things… Most of the women had more or less coins draped all over them. Some had a row sewed around the edge of their kerchief and most of them had a regular breastplate of them.”

Hazel Hansen’s photographs in This Is Greece, p.88.

Several years later, Hansen would contribute her Megarian photos to This is Greece. She must have owned an extensive photographic collection, but it has not survived. Soon after Hansen’s death, in 1966, Lionel Pearson, Professor of Classics at Stanford, shipped to the American School a few folders containing material primarily from Hansen’s last project, the study of prehistoric and geometric burials from the island of Skyros. An accompanying note wrote: “Miss Hansen’s will had specified that the M.S. notes should be destroyed. Her sister (Mrs. J. D. Taylor, San Mateo, Calif.) preferred not to do this, but delivered the papers to Prof. Pearson, who in turn sent them to ASCS.”

An early version of the “English Patient”

In late May of 1923, Hazel, Natalie, Elizabeth Pierce, Carl Blegen, Ida Thallon, Dorothy Cox, Leicester Holland, Bert Hodge Hill, Alan Wace, and several others took a cruise in the Aegean on the “Zion,” a private yacht owned by American millionaire and philanthropist, Charles D. Pratt. (About the “famous” cruise of 1923, see “All Aboard: Cruising the Aegean in 1923.”). One can easily spot Hansen in the photos because of her plaid dress.

The passengers of the Zion at Delos, 1923. Hazel Hansen with a white hat and plaid dress, seated, front row, fifth from right; Natalie Gifford with black hat standing next to Hansen.  ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers.

Mr. Welsh did not join the cruise, but he was with her on a long walk through the countryside on June 19, 1923, when she fell and broke her leg. We know this because of a detailed account her friend Natalie Gifford sent to her mother concerning the dramatic circumstances of Hazel’s fall:

“Mr. Welsh, the English consul, was with her, and, since the place where they were was absolutely deserted, carried her through a cactus hedge in a ploughed field and left her while he went off to get some vehicle to take her back to Athens. It was just dusk and she had to lie there helpless for two or three hours all alone.”

I must admit that Natalie’s lively description recalled scenes from the English Patient (1996) with Katharine Clifton (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) lying helpless in the cave while her lover, Almásy (Ralph Fiennes), was crossing the desert desperately looking for help. Unlike Katharine, who eventually died in the cave, “Mr. Welsh came back with a sousta, a two-wheeled cart without springs and it took them to a tiny inn about an hour’s walk from Athens…” and from there they managed to get the last bus to Athens.

We know from Natalie’s letters that Hazel was hospitalized at Evangelismos and bore a heavy plaster cast for many weeks. The injury must have been severe because, a year later, another student, Dorothy Burr (later Thompson), entered in her diary: “Hazel’s nearly losing her leg frightens me; what a change to her life that would have been!” implying that Hazel struggled with her broken leg for a long time (Bryn Mawr College, Special Collections, Dorothy Burr Thompson Papers, entry for June 15, 1924; hereafter DBT diary)

Diaries vs. Letters

Gifford left Greece a few days after Hazel’s accident. Hansen received an advanced fellowship that allowed her to stay in Greece until the end of 1924. Without recourse to Gifford’s letters, we have to rely on Burr’s diaries and the School’s official reports for information about Hansen’s second year. Although letters and diaries are both private texts, they differ considerably from each other as sources of information. Letters have a recipient; therefore, they tend to be more descriptive and informative about events and people. Diaries, on the other hand, are self-centered, reflective, and occasionally cryptic, therefore not easily understood. This the case with Burr’s diaries: they reveal more about Dorothy and less about others.

Dorothy Burr at Nemea, 1924. ASCSA Archives, Dorothy Burr Thompson Photographic Collection.

Although Hazel pops in-and-out of Dorothy’s diaries throughout the year, she never emerges as a full-fledged person. The two women socialized together on many occasions, going out to lunches and attending tea-parties. In mid-May 1924, they went to Nemea to see Blegen’s excavations, and some days later, they traveled to Thebes to see Hetty Goldman and the mound near Leuctra (Eutresis) she was going to excavate in the fall (DBT diary, entry for May 25 and 26, 1924). In June, all three women returned to Nemea to excavate with Blegen.

There is only one mention of Mr. Welsh at a tea party where Hazel was present too (DBT diary, February 9, 1924); other than that, there is very little information about Hazel’s personal life in Dorothy’s diaries. There is, however, one episode worth recording because it haunted Dorothy for a while; we do not know what Hazel thought of it, but it must have been an extremely awkward moment for both women, especially when considering the morals of the time.

“I forgot to mention the unfortunate episode in the garden, when Hazel came upon J. [Dorothy’s code name for Franklin Plotinus Johnson] and me sitting in silence in the dark.  What she thought, I rather dislike to imagine, for I must admit the general aspect and the hair down for dancing was – shall I say suspicious? […] it looked badly and made me realize how important it is to be a little attentive to appearances. I dislike being caught in even such a slightly undesirable position. ‘Perhaps she thinks our sitting here is not proper’ said J. in his naive honesty.  So I have myself to thank for any gossip” penciled a troubled Dorothy in her diary (on June 15, 1924 but the incident must have taken place earlier, at some undefined time).


After a European summer break -Italy for Dorothy and Switzerland for Hazel- during July and August of 1924, the two women returned to Greece for the fall. Earlier in the spring, they had committed to excavating with Miss Goldman a prehistoric mound at Parapoungia, an Albanian village near ancient Leuctra. Before leaving for Thebes, Hazel and Dorothy “went down to the De Jongs to giggle over his caricatures, particularly of Evans, Woodward, and the Tank,” entered Dorothy in her diary on September 14. Piet de Jong would join them as the architect of the excavation. He would also draw caricatures of them. (See Goldman’s caricature here: “Hetty Goldman: The Potentate of American Archaeology in Greece“.)

De Jong, who was going through a “Japanese phase,” portrayed Hazel as a Japanese woman wearing a blue-grey kimono. “Her very black hair and the caste of her features may also have suggested this notion to Piet” added Rachel Hood, who published De Jong’s caricatures (once in the Sinclair and Rachel Hood collection, now at the Ashmolean) in 1998. Hazel’s cartoon is set against a big pine tree decorated in Japanese style and a winding path leading to the summit of the mound. The white skeleton on the left refers to the human remains that Hazel found during the excavation.

Hazel D. Hansen’s caricature by Piet de Jong, 1924. Reproduced from Rachel Hood, Faces of Archaeology in Greece: Piet de Jong’s Caricatures, Oxford 1998. Original at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University.

Hazel’s discovery is also mentioned in Dorothy’s diary: “Hazel got a baby in a pithos” (entry for October 18, 1924). A month later Hazel would baptize their foreman’s (George Deleas) newborn daughter. “… an elaborate ceremony beginning with mutterings and answers while H. held the baby and chose Irene as its name; then its clothes were removed and it was plastered with oil, screeching as its eyes filled; then H. dipped it in hot water in a splendid caldron; it was dressed in clothes she brought it (all damp) and held as she waltzed round the caldron with a priest and George Deleas incense-swinging, chanting and bobbing, almost like witches. G[eorge] gave money to all present as witnesses” Dorothy described wryly in her diary (November 15, 1924).

Proud parents and baby on their way to church, Parapoungia 1924. ASCSA Archives, Dorothy Burr Thompson Photographic Collection.

Visiting Sixty-Five Thessalian Mounds

In the ASCSA Annual Report for 1923-24, Hill reported that “Miss Hansen, the Fellow of the Institute, remained in Athens the first part of the summer, and then, after a holiday in Switzerland, visited Constantinople. She has traveled extensively and has […] been indefatigable in making one-or-two-day excursions from Athens, no one of our School having in my time covered this region with equal thoroughness. Her principal work for the year has been studies in Thessalian topography and history in connection with which she made four journeys of four to twelve days each to Thessaly, and has prepared two papers: one entitled ‘The Aleuadae: A Thessalian Noble Family,’ the other ‘The Ancient Sites between Triccala and Larissa in Thessaly.’ In the course of these journeys, she reports visiting 65 of the mounds listed in Wace and Thompson, Prehistoric Thessaly, and noting seven not included in that list…” (p.21).

We do not know what triggered Hazel to turn into Thessalian prehistory; her background at Stanford was in Classics, and her advisor, Augustus T. Murray, was a distinguished philologist translating ancient authors for the Loeb Classical Library. In the preface of her book Early Civilizations in Thessaly published in 1933, based on her dissertation, Hansen stated that her interest in Thessaly “began with an extensive trip made in that region in the spring of 1924 […] followed by three others during the same year” (p. vii). Although she does not mention Goldman in the preface of her book, Hansen’s participation in the Eutresis excavation in the fall of 1924 would have helped her understand how prehistoric mounds were formed.

Hazel’s transformation from a classicist into a Thessalian prehistorian, however, must have taken place during her first year in Athens (1922-23), when she was socializing with members of the British School, something we would not have known absent Natalie Gifford’s letters. She intended her dissertation to be a reinterpretation of Wace and Maurice S. Thompson’s Prehistoric Thessaly (1912), by analyzing and presenting their results “by historic periods rather than by site.” We do not know if Wace encouraged her to take it up, but if she had hoped for his guidance, I doubt she received much. Wace left Athens in the spring of 1923 when his directorship at the BSA was terminated.

In an Athenian Lecture Room

Although she acknowledged Wace and Walter Heurtley in the preface of her book, Hansen credited the Greek archaeologist Christos Tsountas (1857-1934) for inspiration, “the mention of whose name recalled to mind many pleasant days in an Athenian lecture room where the first glimpses of the early civilizations of the north were given” (p. ix). Hazel must have attended one of Tsountas last classes at the University of Athens, where he taught from 1904-1924. (Ιn the fall of 1924 Tsountas moved to Thessaloniki to offer his services to the newly founded University of Thessaloniki.)

In Tsountas’s class, she must have met two of her life-long friends and supporters, archaeologists George Mylonas and John Papademetriou. Mylonas, who would go on to have a distinguished career in the U.S., began his association with the American School in 1924, not as a student but as its Bursar; his name first appears in the School’s Annual Report of 1924-1925, which means that he was not hired until the second half of 1924. Was it Hazel who introduced Mylonas to the American School?  They would both become part of David Robinson’s inner circle. Hazel would dig at Olynthus, together with Mylonas, in 1928 during Robinson’s first campaign. Yet, it is unclear how long she stayed at Olynthus and what her responsibilities were there. By then, she had completed her Ph.D. at Stanford (1926) and was teaching as an instructor in the Classics Department.

Hazel Hansen at a costume party with George Mylonas, Oscar Broneer, Priscilla Capps, R. S, Darbishire, and others, at the School’s Annex on Academias Street, 1927-1928. ASCSA Archives, Oscar Broneer Papers.

On March 22, 1927, the San Francisco Examiner featured a photo of Hazel, announcing that she was the winner of the prestigious Alice Freeman Palmer Fellowship for 1927-28 and that she intended to return to Greece.  The School’s Annual Report of that year, the first by Rhys Carpenter as new Director of the School after Hill’s forced resignation in 1926, is laconic about Hansen’s activities, her name appearing only once as part of the Olynthus staff. The first campaign of Olynthus began in February 1928 and lasted until June of the same year. She must have joined the Olynthus campaign as a prehistoric pottery expert, but it is highly unlikely that she stayed there the entire season. After all, she was in Greece to revise and enlarge her dissertation so that it could be published as a book.

The San Francisco Examiner, March 22, 1927, announcing Hazel Hansen’s fellowship award and her return to Greece.

Unlike other women in the Olynthus Excavations (Wilhelmina Van Ingen, and later Mary Ross Ellingson) who had a troubled relationship with Robinson, Hazel enjoyed his support.  Her book was not only published by Johns Hopkins University, where Robinson taught, but he also paid for more than half of its publication cost (Hansen 1933, p. x). Besides (or probably in exchange), a considerable part of her large collection of prehistoric sherds went to Johns Hopkins. Hansen was also one of the few participants in the Olynthus excavations who later contributed an essay to the two-volume festschrift that Mylonas published in honor of Robinson (Studies Presented to David Moore Robinson on his Seventieth Birthday, Saint Louis 1951-1953). (For the controversial David Robinson, see also: “Tales of Olynthus: Spoken and Unspoken”; and ‘The Modern Greek Exam, “Professor Blank’s” Method, and Other Stories from the 1930s”.)

David M. Robinson, 1931. Photo taken by Francis H. Bacon (ASCSA Archives, Francis Henry Bacon Papers).

Mixed Reviews

Her book received mixed reviews. On the one hand, James P. Harland (AJA 1933) and A.D. Fraser (Classical Philology 1934) praised it and thought that it should be given “a place besides those great works on Thessaly,” though suggesting a second, revised edition. On the other hand, her old fellow student from the American School, Franklin Plotinus Johnson (the classicist she “caught” with Dorothy Burr in the School’s garden), was not so generous with his comments. He characterized it as “frankly a compilation,” and criticized her for not including the results of recent works, such as Blegen’s Gonia, Goldman’s Eutresis, and Mylonas’s scholarship (Classical Journal 1935, pp. 233-234).

Wace’s delayed review of her book in 1938 can best be described as cold, if not politely negative. “Thus the usefulness of this book is restricted first by its limitation to Thessaly, second by premature publication, and third by the fact that as regards Thessaly itself there was then no new material from scientific excavation which might have given it the character of a new and original work…” Wace concluded in his review (Gnomon 14, 1938, pp. 534-538).

Whether Hansen planned to publish a revised edition of her book or not, it did not happen. She would devote the rest of her life to two projects. When in Stanford, she spent most of her time with her students in the basement of the Stanford Museum restoring pottery from the Cesnola collection that had been seriously damaged in the 1906 earthquake. When in Greece, she retreated to her beloved island of Skyros, where she had been entrusted by her old friend from the University of Athens, John Papademetriou, with the publication of a large group of burial pottery found on the island.

I will be writing about her mature years, including a major falling-out with archaeologist Oscar Broneer, in my next post. For somebody who left very few personal papers, there are a surprising number of chapters to write about Hazel Hansen.

To be continued.

To Live Alone and Like It: Women and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens Between the Wars.

“But it is not education only that is needed. It is that women should have liberty of experience… to idle and loiter, the mental space to let your mind wonder,” wrote Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own in 1929. The work was based on lectures she delivered in October 1928 at Newnham College and Girton College in Cambridge (both for women). She further advised her female audience “to drink wine and have a room of their own.” I will not dwell on the issue of wine because women of all classes had access to alcohol, at least privately, but for a woman to have a room of her own was highly unusual before WW II, especially for women who had not inherited wealth. Woolf would be eternally grateful to her aunt for leaving her a lifelong annual stipend of 500 pounds.

That a woman could live alone by her own choice was almost unheard of. Young women who moved to the big cities in search of work were usually sharing apartments with others of the same sex, for a few years at most, until they got married. However, WW I upset traditional demographics by creating a population imbalance in the western world: more women than men. To put it bluntly, for these extra women it meant that the prospect of marriage was less attainable (Scutts 2017). If Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was fighting her own battles in ultra conservative England, Marjorie Hillis (1889-1971), an American writer and contemporary of Woolf, was sufficiently daring to publish in 1936 a book that encouraged single women to take control of their lives and Live Alone and Like it. “A Lady and Her Liquor,” “Pleasures of a Single Bed,” and “Solitary Refinement?” were some of the chapter titles. Her book became an immediate best-seller and remained popular for many years.

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Rediscovering the American Pioneer Spirit in Greece, 1928: The Letters of Robert Stroock

In the Main Reading Room of the Carl and Elizabeth Blegen Library in Athens, on the narrow side of one of the old bookcases, hangs a heavy bronze plaque inscribed: “In Memory of Robert L. Stroock: A Lover of Ancient Greece. MCMXXX”.

Unlike other commemorative plaques at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) which have often changed locations or even have been withdrawn from public view over the years, this one has remained in the same spot since it was dedicated shortly after Stroock’s death in 1930.

On display in the Carl and Elizabeth Blegen Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens

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Grèce en vogue: A New Wave of American Philhellenism in the 1920s

Raymond, Penelope, and Menalkas Duncan, 1912. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress.

Raymond, Penelope, and Menalkas Duncan, 1912. Source: George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress.

In early October of 1924, Elizabeth Pierce Blegen, together with Ida Thallon Hill, was planning one of their first (perhaps the first) official dinners in the Director’s House at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (hereafter, the School or ASCSA). They were both new brides. In July Elizabeth (Libbie) had married Carl Blegen at Lake Placid, New York. Blegen was then assistant director of the School. Within a month, Ida, her lover and former professor at Vassar College, married Bert Hodge Hill in England. Hill had been the director of the School since 1906. Robert L. Pounder has recently written about the complicated nature of the Blegens’ and Hills’ relationship (or partnership as they themselves described it) [“The Blegens and the Hills: A Family Affair” in Carl W. Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narratives, edited by N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J. L. Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta 2015, pp. 83-96]. Libbie kept a social diary recording the activities of the two couples during the academic year 1924-1925. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Trail of a Greek Bourgeoisie Clad in Traditional Garb

Posted by Vivian Florou

Vivian Florou here contributes to the Archivist’s Notebook an essay about  high-society Greek women in the decades between the two world wars. The traditional festive costumes that they wore on their social outings defined the aspirations of their class. Florou explores this fashion trend within the intellectual context of the period and the so-called “Generation of the Thirties.” Vivian, who studied archaeology and cultural heritage management, co-edited with Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan and Jack L. Davis, a collection of essays, entitled Carl W. Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narratives (forthcoming later this year). In that volume she explores the social life of two American couples (Carl and Elizabeth Blegen, and Bert and Ida Hill) who lived in the neoclassical mansion that now houses the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation on 9 Ploutarchou street in Kolonaki, Athens.  


On Sunday evening, the 25th of October 1931, Antonis Benakis and his wife received representatives of the International Council of Museums in the grand ballrooms of the newly established Benaki Museum, his former residence. A page of the daily newspaper Πρωΐα (Proia) the next morning preserves forever in a caption to a sketch the particular event that distinguished that reception: “Κυρίαι και δεσποινίδες της κοινωνίας φέρουσαι διαφόρους ελληνικάς ενδυμασίας επέδειξαν εις τους ξένους την χάριν και την αρμονίαν των ελληνικών αμφιέσεων.” (Madames and mademoiselles of society in Greek costumes of various kinds demonstrated to foreigners the joy and harmony contained in Greek apparel.)

From their names on the sketch we learn that these were women of the Greek elite of that period. What were they doing dressed in clothes so foreign to the experiences of their daily lives? Why were they swirling the heavy fabrics of their garments amidst the foreign representatives? Did their behavior simply reflect a folkloric movement or was it an expression of “committed art” set against an historical backdrop? This clipping from Πρωΐα of 1931 inspired me to look for photographs that shed light on the appropriation of folk art by the Greek bourgeoisie in the interwar period (1919-1938), but also earlier, in the 19th century.

Sketch of women in traditional dresses at the gala in the Benaki Museum. “Πρωΐα” newspaper, October 26, 1931

Sketch of women in traditional dresses at the gala in the Benaki Museum. “Πρωΐα” newspaper, October 26, 1931

After the foundation of the Greek state in the 1820s, the spirit of romantic nationalism that had earlier inundated the rest of Europe would prevail in Greece too and would bring with it a broader interest in the folk cultures of the newly constituted nation states. An example of behavior characteristic of this period was the formulation by the Greek Queen Amalia (1836-1862), and then by Queen Olga (1867-1913), of a conventional language of dress inspired by folk tradition, which would operate as a unifying symbol for their subjects and would visually inscribe in apparel the aspirations of the elite of that era (Macha-Bizoumi 2014, 48-55; Politou 2014, 56-63). For these reasons Queen Olga decreed a new attire for Ladies-in-Waiting at the Royal Court, one that was based on traditional garments of northern and eastern Attica. Read the rest of this entry »