In 1897 a young American woman announced in the newspapers her return to Chicago after a year in Europe. “Miss Mabel Gordon Dunlap of Michigan Boulevard, who has been in Europe for a year, will sail for home on Wednesday” (Chicago Inter Ocean, August 15, 1897). The same woman had also made an earlier announcement that she was still in London “spending most of her time at the British Museum” (17 July 1897). While in London she printed a handsome pamphlet, titled “A Critical Study of Sculpture and Painting,” that contained information about her as a teacher and a lecturer, and a summary of two art courses that she was “ready to deliver before ladies’ clubs and schools” in the winter: “A Course of Twelve Lectures on the History & Philosophy of Greek Sculpture,” and “A Course of Twelve Lectures of the History of Painting in Italy.” While in England she had attended lectures by Charles Waldstein, Professor of Fine Arts at Cambridge University (and former Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens), whom she quoted in her brochure: “There are those who make art, there are those who enjoy art, and there are those who understand art.” Dunlap’s courses, fully illustrated with stereopticon views, were designed to help people understand art.

The pamphlet that Mabel Gordon Dunlap published in 1897. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Her brochure also contained press notices covering a series of lectures that she had delivered the previous year in Portland, Oregon. “Late of Chicago University” is the only information that is provided in the pamphlet about her academic background, meaning that she had attended classes but had not obtained a university degree. In 1892 the newly founded University of Chicago attempted to engage the local community and offer access to as many students as possible through extended education. Dunlap must have been one of the first to participate in the Chicago University Extension.

Still only 24 years old in December 1897 but armed with confidence, Dunlap (in later years her name appeared as Dunlop as well) secured a series of paid lectures in New York. A long article in the New York Tribune described the details of one event at Carnegie Hall where Dunlap staged a memorable performance:

“The rooms were decorated for the occasion with cut flowers, and softly lighted with shaded lamps, and the lecturer was clad in a wonderful purple robe, embroidered with gold in a Greek meander pattern. The gown is that of a Master of Fine Arts in the University of Pisa a hundred years ago, and with the accompanying gold-tasseled cap, constitutes Miss Dunlap’s lecture costume. In the daytime it is purple and at night white, but otherwise never changes.”

Mabel Gordon Dunlap in one of her lecturing outfits. Source: New York Public Library, Digital Collections.

In her lecture, titled “The Value of a Critical Study of Great Works of Art,” Dunlap condemned amateurism in art for if people really loved art, they should not simply enjoy it but “study [it] to get the pleasure that comes from true appreciation of the best works of art” (New York Tribune, Dec. 8, 1897). In February 1898, she delivered a series of lectures at the Waldorf-Astoria and the Metropolitan Museum about Greek sculpture taking a few breaks to lecture at other nearby places, such as Pittsburgh. That year she left for Athens, Greece, which she used as a base for the next few years while travelling to Constantinople, Rome and Paris.


Mabel did not come to Athens as a student of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or School hereafter); the lack of an undergraduate degree would have prohibited her from being admitted to the School. It remains a mystery how she funded her European trips before her marriage to Serbian diplomat Slavko Grouitch in 1902, when she was almost thirty. Nothing in the information that I managed to gather about her suggests that she was an “American heiress,” such as other globetrotters of her age. In fact, most of the information that one can find about Dunlap on the web concerns her later life, as the wife of a distinguished diplomat, and her fund-raising activities in America to alleviate the suffering of the Serbian people during WW I.

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1898. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Born in 1872 or 1873 in Clarksburg, West Virginia (WV), Dunlap was raised by neighbors after her mother’s death and the disappearance her father. According to an entry on the web page of the Harrison County WV Historical Society: “She lived in a penniless condition until her father was located working as a manager for the railroad company in Rock Island, Illinois.” He was forced to provide her with an annuity which allowed the knowledge-thirsty girl to attend school. In later years, as she tried to re-create her past, Mabel spoke fondly of her father’s transforming influence on her, but one should take her accounts with a grain of salt.    

The annuity she had secured from her father (which was likely railway stocks) must have allowed for a decent living, but if she wanted to travel abroad she had to find ways to finance her trips. Mabel owed her intellectual and social advancement largely to her intelligence, as well as to her “rare beauty,” exquisite voice” and her “well-balanced enthusiasm” according to a press release (Chicago Inter-Ocean, November 20, 1896).


I became interested in Mabel Dunlap some twenty years ago when I found in the ASCSA Archives a copy of the pamphlet she had printed in England in 1897. In 2000, we opened the trunks that contained the papers of Ion Dragoumis (1878-1920), the legendary diplomat and statesman, who was assassinated on Kephissias Avenue (one of the main streets of Athens) on July 31, 1920 by supporters of Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos. Together with the pamphlet there were several letters by Mabel from the late 1890s and early 1900s, and a few photos of her. Mabel also figured large in Ion’s youthful diaries (1895-1902), which were published by Theodoros Sotiropoulos in 1988.  

In an exhibition, organized by the ASCSA Archives and titled Ion Dragoumis: Between East and West. One Hundred Years after his Assassination, which opened on October 15, 2020, the blown-up portrait of Mabel Dunlop is eye-catching. Five years older than him, she quickly cast a spell on Ion. She has “des gouts raffinés… she is half païenne and half décadante” according to a description in his diary (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 75, entry for April 23, 1900). But she also fell hard for Ion, at least for a while. She was his first, but not hers.

View of the exhibition on Ion Dragoumis at the Makriyannis Wing of the ASCSA. Photo: Konstantinos Tzortzinis.
Mabel Dunlap’s portrait visible on the right. Photo: Konstantinos Tzortzinis.

From Ion’s diary, we learn a lot about Mabel’s earlier life, although it is difficult to crosscheck the accuracy of her story. For example, her mention of an early and unfortunate marriage is not documented elsewhere.

“She was very young when she married. Her husband, Lionel, was very sensitive, perhaps like her. They did not leave well together. They were separated by court. When he heard the news [of their divorce] he went to the tavern, where men in those places go, and drank too much; that, as well as the idea that he would no longer have her as a wife, drove him to such despair that he committed suicide. She was mad at first and then very sad which made her suffer a lot. She had her father [at least] and slowly-slowly near him she found peace while studying Greek archaeology… Then her father died, whom she admired more than anybody in the world. He was handsome and noble, and artiste. She lived by herself or with a cousin for a while, travelled a lot, and fell in love with many… if the man she liked each time interested her, she would give him her body as well. But it always ended soon after her initial enthusiasm was gone…  But she holds no memory of the past, which means that she never falls deeply in love and explains how she carries her enthusiasm from one man to the other… ”

Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 107, entry for January 14, 1901 (my loose translation).
Ion Dragoumis (on the left) at the age of 18, with his aunt Tasha Kontogiannaki and his younger brothers Philippos and Alexandros. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

Their relationship was most likely consummated in April 1900. They must have carried on for another year in-between Mabel’s trips to Constantinople and Paris, although Mabel was soon out of it. In January 1901, puzzled by Mabel’s inability to commit to anyone, Ion scribbled: “The situation scares me. When I am with her, I feel a strong love for her, but then I see her awful passivity and while I want to show her my feelings I feel disarmed… I cannot understand how she lives… Nothing makes an imprint on her” (my loose translation).

Mabel must have treaded on thin ice. The morals of the time, especially in a small European capital like Athens, were relentless, and keeping up appearances must have been difficult for a “voluptueuse” like Mabel. Genuine intelligence, grace, and impeccable manners must have saved her from falling into disgrace; in addition, her maverick nature and small financial independence allowed Mabel not to become a kept woman.

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1900. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

It is unclear whether her relationship with Ion was widely known in the upper circles of Athenian society. When in town, Mabel stayed at the Merlin house on the corner of Kephissias and Academias street, where most foreign women, including many students of the American School, took up residence. After Ion’s extensive entries, the best description of Mabel belongs to Ida Thallon (she would marry the School’s director, Bert Hodge Hill, in 1924), a student of the American School in 1899-1901. “We knew she [Mabel] was coming to Athens, and I was anxious to see her again. There are a lot of amusing stories about the last time she was in Athens and took the town by storm. Dr. Wilhelm [=Adolf Wilhelm, a famous epigraphist and director of the Austrian Archaeological Mission, and a resident of the Merlin House] is much struck on her, a victim of her first visit…” Ida wrote to her mother (ACSCA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill, Box 3, folder 3, May 8, 1900).

A few days later in another letter (May 13, 1900,) she elaborated more about Mabel in her description of the Inselreise, the annual island trip that architect and archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld organized every year for members of the foreign archaeological schools in Athens. From her description, it appears that Dunlap had also joined the trip at some point. “Miss D[unlap]’s fame had preceded her and the Damen expected she would steal their steadies but she made no effort in that direction; she was very tired on the trip and had a sprained ankle and anyway, she lets the men do the chasing.”

On another occasion, Ida exalted Mabel’s fine qualities: “You see Miss D. is stylish and very even and a fine talker and knows a tremendous lot about art and archaeology, having been brought up to it since she was a child. Her father always surrounded her with books of that sort and it is second nature to her. She is also very attractive to the men and they fall tremendously in love with her etc.” Not everybody shared Ida’s feelings towards Mabel:

“Lida [Shaw King] and I like her very much; Cambridge [a nickname for a British girl], I think disapproves of her because she (Miss D.) is rather unusual and a type she (C) is not accustomed to, and Mrs. Smyth and Miss Adt are positively cattish to her; I think they are jealous” concluded young Ida. On another occasion, Ida described the Smyths as being awfully horrid to Mabel. “Mrs. S. laid it on thick and told Miss D[unlap] what a beautiful bunch of flowers Karo [=Georg Karo, archaeologist and future director of the German Archaeological Institute] had sent her and described them in detail” only to hear from Mabel, “Yes, I think he has good taste, he sent me a beautiful bunch yesterday.” Karo had borrowed a basket from Mabel to hold his potsherds during the “Inselreise,” and “naturally sent it back filled.”

ASCSA Archives, Ida Thallon Hill Papers, Box 3, folder 3.


In August 1902, Mabel married Slavko Grouitch (Grujić) [1871-1937], chargé d’affaires of the Serbian Legation in Athens, and the scion of a notable Serbian family. In between her relationship with Ion and her marriage to Grouitch, she had been engaged to a Mr. Pennell (again the information from an undated letter she sent to Ion from London). Ion and Mabel continued to correspond and occasionally see each other, even intimately, until 1915. “She nourished me for two years, I don’t think she realized it” Ion wrote in his last, long diary entry about Mabel (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 179, entry for April 11, 1902).  Her imprint on Ion’s mind, body, and soul lasted for years, and defined him as a man. He was badly shaken when in early July 1902 he received a letter from her: “Mabel wrote me ‘Live, my boy, live,’ and then she announced her wedding” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 1, folder 4, diary, entry for July 3, 1902). Later that year, he would write: “Mabel’s love is gone… she no longer exists but her ideas have stayed and are related with mine with… whether I write to her or not, her ideas are alive and mix with mine and struggle with mine, occasionally exchanging sweet talks, or bites” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 1, folder 4, diary, October 21, 1902 [my paraphrase]).  

Mabel Gordon Dunlap, ca. 1900s. Her wedding photo? Source: WikiCommons.

As kindred spirits Ion and Mabel also shared an admiration for the French philosopher and thinker Maurice Barrès (1862-1923), whom they met when he was travelling in Greece in the spring of 1900.  Although largely forgotten today (and criticized for his anti-Semitic views), Barrès at the turn of the century was highly influential and considered by his contemporaries as the model engagé intellectual. Following his visit to Greece, Barrès published Le voyage de Sparte (1906) in which he laid out his beliefs about social Darwinism. And who else other than Mabel Dunlap embodied the core idea of social Darwinism, namely, “survival of the fittest”?

“Barrès advised me to be more affirmative (Il suffit d’ affirmer)” wrote Ion in his diary. In the same entry, he also recalled that Mabel had told him that it was a disadvantage not to trust his strength, not to claim his position, even if he had to push others below where they belonged regardless of age or worldly opinions (Sotiropoulos 1988, p. 77, entry for May 24, 1900). A year or so later, she would write to Ion from Paris: “Mr. Barrès was here yesterday, and we spoke much of you. He, too, finds your mind of rare power and balance… Your right ear must have burned during the hour and a half of his visit” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, May 20 [undated]).

While living in Paris, where Grouitch was posted soon after their marriage, Mabel tried to help Ion’s brother, Niko, la bête noire of the Dragoumis family. A painter without any financial support from his family, except for a small trust that allowed him to subsist, Niko led a reclusive and marginal life in Paris: “Nico will not come to me. He says he is not presentable because of his clothes… He writes me though, sweet sad letters… If only one could convince him of the dignity of work, of the nobility of earning one’s own bread in some manner… Money is the key to life. Sad but true. Work, my boy, foul fortune to give you gold for some of your dreams, then you realize the others” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, “Greek Christmas” [undated]).

Ion’s older brother, Nikos Dragoumis (1874-1933). Source: Νίκος Δραγούμης. Ο Ζωγράφος, 1874-1933, Athens 2015, p. 10.


Until she married Grouitch, Mabel had pursued “one dream and followed it as a moth will the flame—that dream was my vision of the ideal beauty of the gods…”. She rejoiced in the study of ancient Greece “and worshipped Athena in the ashes of her greatness” (ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, Paris, April 26 [undated]).

In Paris, where she and Slavko moved at first, she was living “the life of a nun… all my time is passed in the galleries, the gardens, here in my little salon”. Finally, there was “no gossip of black tongues to disturb me… Alone with my ideals and my dreams, forgetting and forgiving the past…” One thing, however, disturbed Mabel’s serenity: the lack of work. “I should like to do something, to work for someone I love, for my friends all.” Always Olympian in spirit, Mabel would also advise Ion, her beloved Hermes (as she addressed him in her letters), to search for serenity, for “to complain is too mortal for a child of the gods” (all quotes from an undated letter she wrote on April 26th [1902]).

Ion and Mabel continued to write to each other although with less frequency on Ion’s part after 1905. By then he had met in Alexandria and fallen in love with Penelope Delta, who would dominate his thought until 1908.  Mabel held on to her love of Greece through her love for Ion.

“When I think of Greece and you, it is to recall certain lovers on Pendeli, the ride up to Delphi and the afternoon rest on the grass, your eyes and certain dawn lights, when the sun came up, your lips, and the perfumed fruit of Greek gardens” Mabel would write him, and when he fretted about the social and political ugliness of Greece, the ever aesthete Mabel advised him “to shut away you Socrates in the prison he deserved” and encouraged him to find comfort “in the possession of the objective beauty we set our hearts upon. You have always the long thrilling curve of Parnes and the violet sheen on Hymettos and the cool kiss of the purple waters to calm your fever. These are as they always were the real grandeur of Greece because of what men wrote and did for them.”

ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers, box 4, folder 2, St. Petersburg, Jan. 10, [1906].
Ion Dragoumis, 1908. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

The new century, however, had no room for aesthetes like Mabel, as she would soon discover. By marrying a statesman from a poor and tortured Balkan nation, she would have to put aside her Greek dream, change course, and become a pragmatist. In 1911 she would go to America, not to visit museums but “to study the schools of domestic science for women…”.  Her new goal was to uplift the Serbian women and made plans to establish a school for them in Belgrade (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 29 January 1911).

By 1914, the Grouitch couple was living in Belgrade since Grujić had been appointed as secretary-general of the Serbian ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to historian Christopher Clark, Grouitch was one of the main contributors of the reply to the Austrian-Hungarian ultimatum of July 23rd, 1914, which was “a masterpiece of diplomatic equivocation” (Clark 2013, p. 464).  Despite her skilled diplomacy, Serbia did not escape the war with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Soon after, Mabel went to London where with her own expenses she led a team of 10 English nurses and two surgeons to Serbia to help the wounded and organize relief aid in the battlefield (The Baltimore Sun, August 20, 1914).  

Mabel Dunlap Grouitch in the middle. The Pittsburgh Press, August 5, 1914.

Unable to enter Serbia by a direct route, they traveled to Serbia via Italy and Greece. While briefly in Athens, she did not see Ion who had been transferred to St. Petersburg, but she was met by his sisters. “When I landed it seemed to me impossible that I could be there and you not come to meet me. Then out of the dusty crowd come three goddesses bearing flowers, your flowers, Effie, Charliclea and Alexandra… Such joy it was to drive up to the ‘violet-crowned’ city. How my heart felt as each sacred and well-remembered point appeared… The next day I lunched with dear Nata and then you come. For the moment, I quite forgot, even yet I cannot believe that it was Philip [Ion’s younger brother]…”.

Two days later she and the English nurses and surgeons travelled to Thessaloniki and from there they all entered Serbia. Writing from Nish (Niš), the wartime capital of Serbia until 1915, Mabel worried about her personal belongings at Belgrade where she also saved Ion’s letters, “even the little envelope marked ‘it comes from the gods’.” But if they were to be destroyed by war, she still hoped that their friendship could “last through fire and flood and disaster of every kind. Ours is so old and precious, Jean [Ion]. You must help me to keep it always, whatever comes,” she asked him on September 20, 1914.    

In addition to her initiative to bring medical assistance from England, Mabel tried to mobilize young surgeons from Baltimore medical schools by sending a petition through her friend George Dobbin Penniman, an attorney in Baltimore: “I wish the people in America could know the need of Servia… Other nations engaged in this horrible war have their efficient corps of surgeons and Red Cross nurses supplied with abundant funds, while Servia burdened with the debt of two recent wars and with thousands of subjects still suffering from the crushing effect of Turkish rule, has not the means to procure doctors and nurses and medical supplies, and the suffering of her brave wounded soldiers will be terrible” (The Baltimore Sun, August 20, 1914).

Within a short time, Mabel through her various European connections secured the aid of the International Red Cross, while through targeted publicity in the U.S. press, she managed to attract the attention of Mabel Boardman, the head of the American Red Cross, hoping to place Serbia on the list of the ARC beneficiaries (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Sept. 27, 1914). In February 1915, Mabel was in New York fundraising for Serbia. Within a few days after her arrival she put together the Serbian Agricultural Relief Commission, which included Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard, Charles Scribner, and journalist Albert Shaw. The Commission’s goal was to secure seed, grains and farm implements for 800,000 starving Serbians: “All of the able-bodied men of Serbia are at the front. The women and children must plant and cultivate the crops in the spring or there will be no grain on which the nation can live next winter” (The Wilkes-Barre Record, February 5, 1915).  In addition, the ARC had raised enough money to establish a baby hospital in Serbia. The announcement in the newspapers also mentioned that the establishment would be known as the Mabel Grouitch Baby Hospital in recognition of her Red Cross activities (Pittsburgh Daily Post, 18 July 1915).

Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 18, 1915.

Today Mabel Grouitch is considered one of the greatest benefactors of Serbia. When I searched her last name spelled as “Grujić,” I came across many Serbian pages dedicated to her, including a recent novel in the form of historiographical metafiction, by Maja Herman-Sekulić, titled Ma Belle: The First American Lady of Serbia. Through the use of “Google Translate” I was able to skim through most of them. Moreover, after the war, in 1920, she and Slavko secured funding through the Carnegie Corporation for the erection of the University Library in Belgrade. In a recent, well-researched article, historian Ljubinka Trgovčević wrote that her story is “the story of a woman who connected two countries and two cultures” and who managed “to bring America closer to Serbs, and Serbia to Americans” (2008, p. 325).

One thing, however, struck me as strange while browsing through the Serbian web pages. There were studded with inaccuracies, starting from Mabel’s birth year: 1881. Mabel was born either in 1872 or 1873 and there is no doubt about it since she gave Ion a small calendar marking her birthday on it (1873); they also frequently referred to their age difference (he was born in 1878) in their letters. They were other inaccuracies about her early years in America and her studies, one page mentioning that “Mabel had enrolled at the ASCSA at which later she taught.” Some of the confusion must have derived from her obituary in the The New York Times, “Mme Grouitch Aided Refugees” (August 14, 1956), which noted her age as 75, and also that she had been “a student at the American School of Archaeology in Athens.” Skilled at promoting herself, Mabel never missed an opportunity to reinvent her past, especially when she moved from one country to another.


From Ion’s diary we know that Ion and Mabel met again in Athens in the late summer of 1915. He had resigned from the diplomatic corps to pursue a political career, representing a party in opposition to Venizelos. He was also involved since 1908 with actress Marika Kotopouli.  In August 1915, he scribbled that he had encountered on the same social occasion both Mabel “who had returned from America on her way to Serbia” and an unnamed woman, most likely Penelope Delta: “two women that I loved and they loved me, and who did not know each other. After eating, I walked with the first [Mabel] to Zappeion and kissed her under the darkness of the trees. Then I returned to my beloved one [i.e. Marika]” (Sotiropoulos 1986, p. 107).

In December of the same year she was briefly back in Athens. Among Ion’s papers is her last (preserved) letter to him and a draft of his reply. Mabel was upset because Greece had not offered any aid to Serbia when her adopted country had been attacked by Bulgaria in October 1915; she was further afraid that Greece would ally with Bulgaria against Serbia. In his reply Ion told his “dear pagan” that her fears were unfounded.

Mabel Grouitch, ca. 1920. Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
Ion Dragoumis, 1915. ASCSA Archives, Ion Dragoumis Papers.

A year later, in December 1916, Mabel entered Ion’s diaries for one last time. “The women I loved or loved me are slowly-slowly renouncing me. Last year Mabel wrote me some strange letters showing that she did not approve of my political choices. The Friend [Penelope Delta] the same; especially, this year that her father was imprisoned for conspiring with the Venizelists, she told my sister that she had been disillusioned with me” (Sotiropoulos 1986, p. 161, entry for December 31, 1916 [my loose translation]).

If those two continued to correspond during Ion’s exile in Corsica (1917-1919) we have no evidence. He returned to Athens in November 1919. Seven months later he would be murdered by supporters of Venizelos. She must have learned the news about Ion’s assassination in America where her husband had become the first ambassador of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in Washington.  It must have been a blow to her, to have lost her dear Hermes. Her “gods” had not taken care of him.


I would like to thank Jennifer Bakatselou for transcribing a portion of Mabel Gordon Dunlap’s letters. It was not an easy task because of her difficult hand-writing. Another difficulty when studying Dunlap’s letters is that most of them are undated.

Mabel Dunlap Grouitch came up one more time in the ASCSA Archives. On May 17, 1930 she sent a letter to Rhys Carpenter, Director of the ASCSA (1927-1932), and his wife where she referred to the charming evening she and Slavko had spent with Mrs. Carpenter at the School last spring and that they were “still hoping to take advantage of her kind invitation to stay at the School next time” they visited Greece (ASCSA AdmRec, box 108/1, folder 12). 


Clark, C. 2013. The Sleepwalkers. How Europe Went to War in 1914, London.
Sotiropoulos, T. 1986. Ίων Δραγούμης. Φύλλα Ημερολογίου Ε’ (1913-1917), Athens.
Sotiropoulos, T. 1988.  Ίων Δραγούμης. Φύλλα Ημερολογίου Α’ (1895-1902), Athens.
Trgovčević, L. 2008. “Mabel Grujić – An American in Serbia. Contribution on Her Humanitarian Work during the World War One,” in 125 Years of Diplomatic Relations between the USA, Belgrade, pp. 311-325.

“Who Doesn’t Belong Anywhere, Has a Chance Everywhere”: The Formative Years of Emilie Haspels in Greece.


Filiz Songu studied archaeology in Izmir and Ankara. As an independent scholar, she works for the Allard Pierson in Amsterdam and is a staff member of the Plakari Archaeological Project in Southern Euboia. She just completed her biographical research into the life and work of Dutch archaeologist Emilie Haspels. In her contribution to From the Archivist’s Notebook, she discusses Haspels’s early formative years in pre-WW II Greece, and the challenges she and other women archaeologists of her time met in a male-dominated field. Since Haspels worked with many foreign archaeological schools in Greece, Songu’s essay is literally a “Who’s Who” of foreign archaeology in interwar Greece.

Caroline Henriëtte Emilie Haspels (1894–1980) was a prominent classical archaeologist in the Netherlands in the decades after WW II. She was the first female professor of Archaeology at the University of Amsterdam and the first female director of the Allard Pierson Museum. Most scholars know her from her study The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments (1971), which is still a reference work on the rock-cut monuments in the Phrygian Highlands in central Turkey. For another group of academicians, Emilie Haspels is known for her other classic publication, Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi (1936).

One may wonder what the connection is between these two widely differing fields of specialization. When I started my biographical research into the life and work of Emilie Haspels, my original focus was on her pioneering fieldwork in Turkey. However, when I dug deeper into her personal documents, I discovered more about other significant periods of her life. Her archive provided glimpses of, for instance, her time in Shanghai in 1925–26, and her enforced stay in Istanbul during WW II. It shows how the twists and turns of history affected both her private and her academic life. Key to understanding her archaeological carrier is what I like to call her “Greek period.” The years she spent in Greece in the 1930s doing her PhD research appear to be her formative years as an archaeologist. With the field experience and special skills she acquired in Greece, she paved the way, perhaps unconsciously, to the Phrygian Highlands, which became her life’s work. It was also during her Greek period that she started to build up a wide international network. Haspels’s personal documents and correspondence in various Dutch archives provide complementary information about the scholarly community in pre-WW II Athens and connect with the writings in Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan’s blog.

Becoming an Archaeologist

Haspels’s Greek period started in the spring of 1929 with her arrival in Athens as a foreign member of the French School. A little about her academic background may be useful here. Haspels had studied Classics at the University of Amsterdam between 1912 and 1923. She minored in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology, attending Jan Six’s classes.

Emilie Haspels as a student at the University of Amsterdam, ca. 1920. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

After her graduation, she taught Latin and Ancient Greek in secondary and high schools in the Netherlands. However, she was determined to continue doing archaeological research, preferably on Greek pottery. In 1928, she started her PhD at the University of Utrecht under the supervision of Carl W. Vollgraff. She earned a scholarship to study at a university abroad, followed by what was meant to be a six-month stay in Greece. She chose to go to Oxford, where she studied with Sir John Beazley and also attended classes given by John L. Myres, Stanley Casson, Marcus N. Tod, and Gilbert Murray. Beazley took it upon himself to become her mentor. After leaving Oxford, she maintained intensive correspondence with him. In his letters, he encouraged Haspels in her research on Greek pottery and advised her whom to contact and where to publish her articles.

Letter from John Beazley to Emilie Haspels, September 7, 1929. Source: Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

The French School at Athens and Foreign Excavations

After two semesters at Oxford, Haspels’s scholarship allowed her to spend six months in Greece. At the time, the Netherlands did not have research facilities in Athens. Haspels therefore had no choice other than to follow in the footsteps of previous Dutch scholars, mostly classicists, who traditionally entered the French School as membres étrangers. Her supervisor, Vollgraff, a former foreign member, had made a request to the French School. This was not to her liking, and in one of her letters to a Dutch colleague she complained:

“I’m really not in the mood for the French School! The German Institute has Buschor and the British School has Prof. Ashmole, who according to Prof. B[eazley] will be of great use to me. At the French School? … Nobody. ‘And where are the French people when they are in Athens? You never see them in the museums,’ according to Prof. B[eazley].”

Haspels to G. van Hoorn, December 12, 1928 (University Library Utrecht, Special Collections, Collection Van Hoorn).

However, she soon changed her mind: she was content with the accommodation and research facilities provided by the French School. She felt “welcome to participate in English, German and French excavations all over Greece,” as she later noted in her memoirs about her fieldwork and expeditions in Turkey (Berndt 2012, p. 11).

Haspels had her first fieldwork experience in the spring of 1929 at the British School’s excavations of the prehistoric site of Thermi on Lesbos under the direction of Winifred Lamb. (On Lamb, see David W. J. Gill, Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator, 2018.) She was initially involved in the field photography and pottery analysis, but when she came back the following year she supervised her own trench.

Haspels at Thermi, Lesbos 1930. Source: Haspels Family Archive.
Haspels with Richard W. Hutchinson, Thermi 1930. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

Her six-month period in Greece appeared to be the prelude to a much longer stay, thanks to another scholarship as well as paid assignments for the French School. After Thermi, she joined two more British projects. In 1930–1933, she worked during two campaigns with Humfry G.G. Payne (1902-1936) at the Heraion in Perachora (Corinthia). In 1932 she worked briefly with Walter A. Heurtley’s team on Ithaca studying the pottery. In Samos, she joined the German excavations at the Heraion (1931 and 1932) directed by Ernst Buschor (1886-1961). The British and German excavation directors did not allow her to participate in the publications, but did give her permission to publish semi-scientific articles about their projects for the Dutch periodicals Hermeneus and Bulletin Antieke Beschaving (e.g., see Haspels 1933 and Haspels 1934).

Haspels in Perachora, 1930-1933. Text on reverse of photo: “Yanni, Payne, Emilie, Blakeway. Excavations Perachora (washing sherds).” Source: Haspels Family Archive.

The situation with the French School was different. As a foreign member, she was given more responsibilities and chances to participate not only in the School’s excavations, but also in the publications. At the French School’s excavation on Delos, where she worked regularly between 1930 and 1935, the director Joseph Chamonard allowed her to publish pottery from the earlier excavations in the Apollo sanctuary. The other French project she was involved in was on Thasos, where she excavated between 1931 and 1934, the final year as field director. The director, Pierre Devambez, asked her to study and publish the Archaic pottery. She was also allowed to write an article about the excavations for The Illustrated London News in 1932.

The Illustrated London News, September 3, 1932.

Connecting Link

Haspels went from one project to another and stayed in Athens for only short periods of time. When in Athens, she studied pottery at the National Museum, and also used the opportunity to socialize with the members of the other foreign schools. Working with different foreign teams put her in a unique position to bring these members together. In her memoirs, she mentions how she took the French to the monthly tea at the American School, which was one of the reasons why Mme. Roussel, wife of the director of the French School, called her the “connecting link between the institutes” (Berndt 2012, p. 12–13). Though she did not follow the academic program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, she did participate in some of its activities:

“It was a fortunate coincidence that at that time the extensive excavation of the Agora at Athens was taken in hand by the American School; the new group of excavators were eager to make acquaintance with the members of other schools and encouraged us to come to the dig and see their findings.”

Berndt 2012, p. 12.

It is here that her lifelong friendship with Lucy Talcott and Gladys Davidson Weinberg began, as her correspondence during and after WW II shows.

In Athens she also participated in Wilhelm Dörpfeld’s city walks:

“At that time we suddenly heard that Dörpfeld was going to give lecture tours on the Acropolis. This was an incredible experience, it made one feel as if we actually lived in the times of Schliemann, profiting by the wisdom of Schliemann’s architect-excavator of Troy.”

Berndt 2012, p. 12.
Dörpfeld’s tour on the Acropolis. Haspels standing on the right, holding an umbrella, Dörpfeld standing in the middle of the group and pointing, 1931. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

In one of her letters to her sister in the Netherlands, she commented on Dörpfeld’s late years. (About Dörpfeld and his theories being challenged by younger scholars, see also “On the Trail of the “German Model”: ASCSA and DAI, 1881-1918.”)

“Remember I talked about that famous old professor, Dörpfeld, we were told about in high school? Well, he wanted to organize a trip with a group to Ithaca and Leukas. The trip was canceled because only one [person] signed up: not one single German, for example. How pathetic it is to grow old!”

Emilie to C. Haspels, September 14, 1931. Source: Haspels Family Archive.

During her stay in Athens she also enjoyed the cultural life. She mentions, for example, attending a concert “directed by [Dimitri] Mitropoulos, then still at Athens” (Berndt 2012, p. 13). In her archive there is a photo that has only a brief note on the back, saying that it was taken during a recording session of folk singing in Athens in 1930. In this photo, we see the French linguist, Hubert Octave Pernot (1870-1946), professor of Modern Greek, who was leading a project to create a permanent record of modern Greek folk songs. To his left is an unnamed woman, whom I think is musicologist Melpo Logotheti-Merlier, founder of the Musical Folklore Archives, which is now the oldest section of the Center for Asia Minor Studies. She is known to have assisted Pernot in the abovementioned project.

Hubert Octave Pernot and Melpo Logotheti-Merlier in Athens. Haspels standing at the back, looking to the side. Text on reverse: “Barracks in Athens. 1930. With Prof. Pernot, for recording folk-songs on gramophone.” Source: Haspels Family Archive.

All this may seem interesting and exciting, and shows how intensive and productive her years in Greece were. However, the absence of a Dutch institute in Athens distressed her. In one of her reports to the University of Utrecht, she described her situation as follows:

“Of course, at each excavation you have different functions because each excavation has different demands; but because of my studies, I’ve usually been occupied with the vases. […] I can’t underestimate how big an advantage it’s been for me being Dutch, as I’ve been able to join all these different excavations by the various schools: who doesn’t belong anywhere, has a chance everywhere. On the other hand, I do see the disadvantage of not belonging anywhere.”

Report for Philological Society at Utrecht, 1932, Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

End of Greek period

In 1935, Haspels submitted her PhD thesis titled Bijdrage tot de studie van Attisch zwart-figurig (“Contribution to the study of Attic black-figure”). The following year she published a more extended version in English under the title Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi. This study received many positive reviews written by, for example, Gisela M.A. Richter and T.B.L. Webster. Renowned French pottery expert Charles Dugas (1885-1957) not only praised Haspels’s research methods and outcomes, but also called attention to the unusual character of this endeavor: it was written in English by a Dutch female archaeologist from Oxford who had become a foreign member of the French School at Athens, which published it  (Dugas 1937, p. 40). Dugas also used his review to advise the French School to take Haspels as an example and open its doors to female researchers and accept larger numbers of French women into scientific research. The highest recognition, I believe, came two decades later. Beazley in the ‘Instructions for Use’ to his Attic Black-figure Vase-painters (1956) referred to Haspels’s research on lekythoi in the following manner:

“One of the largest classes of black-figure vase, the lekythos, has been thoroughly studied by Miss Haspels in her fine work Attic Black-figured Lekythoi. I have not reproduced her list. I have made additions; and especially if I had much to add, I have not hesitated to repeat what is there, following no hard and fast rule; but if a vase does not appear in my pages, it should be sought in Miss Haspels’s index.”

Beazley 1956: pp. iix-ix

The completion of her PhD research marks the end of her Greek period. Very soon afterward, a new phase in her life would start. Her field experience and pottery expertise made her the best candidate for another French project, this time in Turkey. Albert Gabriel (1883-1972), director of the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, asked her to direct the excavations at Midas City in Anatolia. Here, she conducted five campaigns between 1937 and 1939, when WW II broke out, trapping her in Turkey, where she was forced to remain for six years.

Although she started to work in Turkey, she kept in touch with scholars she had met in Oxford and Athens. She corresponded with Beazley regularly, even during WW II. In his letters to Haspels, Beazley informed her about his ongoing research, once in a while colored with news of a more personal nature, for instance about his wife’s volunteer work for British soldiers: “My wife has invented a woolen garment for the forces and has sent out over 2500. It bears the classical name of Kredemnon” (Letter from Beazley to Haspels, September 6, 1942). (See also M. Alden, “Mrs Beazley’s Kredemnon: Homeric Comforts for the Troops, 1939-45” in Costume 44:1, 2010, pp. 106–109.) Her friendship with Winifred Lamb, who conducted fieldwork between 1935 and 1937 in Kusura Höyük, became stronger. A recurring topic was their exchange of experiences of working in Turkey.

It was most probably Lamb who introduced Haspels to Francis H. Bacon, who was also known as “Uncle Bacon.” (On Bacon, read also “Francis H. Bacon: Bearer of Precious Gifts from the Dardanelles.”) The earliest correspondence between them is from 1937, some years before Bacon’s death, when Haspels started to conduct excavations at Midas City. Together with this letter, Bacon shared some photographs that he took during his visits to Athens in 1930 and 1931. One shows their mutual friend Winifred Lamb “in Athens Museum workshop,” two others are portraits of Wilhelm Dörpfeld taken “in my room at Grande Bretagne,” and one is of Sophia Schliemann “in her house at Phaleron.”

Photographs taken by Francis H. Bacon in Athens in 1930 and 1931, from left to right: Winifred Lamb, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, Sophia Schliemann. Source: Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.

When WW II ended, Haspels returned to the Netherlands, and soon became a professor at the University of Amsterdam. Now that she had tenure, she could finally start her own field project. Between 1946 and 1958, she organized four survey expeditions to the Phrygian Highlands. During her excavations at Midas City, she came to realize that this was still a largely unexplored region. It was a terrain where she could make a name for herself, but it also appealed to the romantic side of her. As she would later observe in her monograph: “I had to record what I found, I am the last of the travelers” (Haspels 1971: viii). Finally, she belonged somewhere.

Although her Phrygian research dominated the rest of her academic life and a good part of her retirement, she did not lose her connection with Greece and Athens. She traveled regularly to Greece, and organized and guided excursions for Dutch students. In 1956, she was invited to join the ceremonies marking the dedication of the Stoa of Attalos.

Opening session of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the American School held in the garden of the Gennadius Library, as part of the ceremonies of the dedication of the Stoa of Attalos. Haspels can be traced sitting right in front of the photographer standing in the middle (red arrow). Source: ASCSA, Athenian Agora Excavations Archive (#2003.01.0032).

She continued to visit Athens, often before and after her expeditions in Turkey. In her personal documents, she mentions that during these visits she was asked to help classify and date pottery from the Agora excavations. Her correspondence with Lucy Talcott includes this photo of Attic lekythoi found during the Agora excavations. On the back is typewritten information, to which Talcott added a handwritten, personal message: “C.H.E.H.! How we have been working for you! L.T.”


Beazley, J. D. 1956. Attic Black-figure Vase-Painters, Oxford.
Berndt, D. (ed.) 2012. Emilie Haspels. I am the Last of the Travelers: Midas City Excavations and Surveys in the Highlands of Phrygia. With Contributions by Halet Çambel, Istanbul.
Dugas, C. 1937. “Une étude de céramique grecque,” Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé 56, pp. 37-40.
Haspels, C. H. E. 1933. “Bij ons op Ithaka,” Hermeneus, vol. 6.1, pp. 7–13.
—————————1934. “Bij ons op Samos,” Hermeneus, vol. 6.10, pp. 159–166.
—————————1935. Bijdrage tot de studie van Attisch zwart-figurig, Nijkerk.
—————————1936. Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi, Paris.
—————————1971. The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments, Princeton.
Songu, F. 2019. “Emilie Haspels’ Griekse jaren,” Tijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie, vol. 60, pp. 47–53.

“Mr. Lo”: The First Chinese Student at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1933.

In the late 1990s, a few years after I was appointed Archivist of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School), Robert (Bob) Bridges, the Secretary of the School, brought to the Archives a Chinese metallic vase to be saved because it was part of our institutional history. Bob said that the bearer of the gift was a former student of the School from the 1930s, who had visited Greece and the School in the 1980s. Underneath the vase, Bob had pasted the donor’s professional card to make sure that his identity was not lost. The print on the card read: Luo Niansheng, Professor [and] Research Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; and scribbled on it: Lo Maote student of the American School in the academic year of 1933-1934.

The vase that Luo Niansheng (Mao-Te Lo) gave to the School in the 1980s, as a token of remembrance. ASCSA Archives.

Luo Niansheng’s business card underneath the vase. ASCSA Archives.

The School’s Directory in Louis E. Lord’s History of the American School of Classical Studies (1947) lists the following information for “Mr. Lo”:

LO, MAO TE 1933-1934 – Tern., Chinese Educational Mission, 1360 Madison Street, Washington, D. C, or 317 College Avenue, Ithaca, New York; Per., Yu-Tai-Huan Company, Lo-Chwan-Tsing, Ese-Chung-Hsien, Sze-Chuan, China. A.B., Ohio State University, 1931.

About the same time that Bob delivered Niansheng’s present to the Archives, I met Richard (Dick) Howland, a former Chair of the School’s Managing Committee (1965-1975) and a student of the School from 1933 to 1938. Howland was in his late eighties when he visited the Archives carrying another important gift: his photographic collection from the time he was a student at the School. As Howland reminisced and identified people in the photos, we stumbled upon a few showing a Chinese man either alone or with other School students: Howland identified him as “Mr. Lo.”

Sidney Gould, Richard (Dick) Howland, Martin H. Johnson, Mao-Te Lo, Olympia 1933. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

Richard Howland, 1996. Photo: ASCSA Archives, Richard Howland Papers.

In addition to the photos, Howland also delivered a bundle of letters he had written to his family during his first year in Greece in 1933-1934. There I found a few brief references to the elusive “Mr. Lo.”

“Two more new men have come – a fellow named Martin Johnson, from Williams, who is very congenial, and with whom I am rooming on the trip, and Sidney Gould, from Yale.  There is also a Chinese, who recently came, so in all there will be 4 men on the trip, and 9 girls, – besides the 2 profs” wrote Howland on October 5, 1933.

Several months later, on April 11, 1934, somewhat puzzled Howland mentioned Mr. Lo again: “… we had to go to tea at Mr. Lo’s, to meet his German wife, whom he had married last summer and only recently had come to Athens.  She speaks no English or Chinese, and he little German.”


Many years passed before I again became interested in Mr. Lo. In 2016, the School received an EU grant to digitize several archival collections, including Richard Howland’s photographs. While creating metadata for the Howland photos, I stumbled again upon Mr. Lo. Curious about him, I ran several fruitless Google searches for the name “Mao-Te Lo.” Absorbed by the need to complete the EU project in time, I did not persist, and more importantly, I did not run any searches for the other name printed on the business card with the Chinese vase: Luo Niansheng. Had I done so, as my good friend John W. I. Lee, Professor of History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, did recently, I would have found that Luo Niansheng (1904-1990) had an illustrious career in China as a translator of ancient Greek authors. According to the Wikipedia entry, he was also honored for his work by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1987.

On another webpage, “Greek-China Relations,” I read that the Premier of the People’s Republic of China Zhou Enlai (1954-1976) “gave Luo Niansheng the order to write the first ancient Greek-Chinese dictionary.” More recently, Alexander Beecroft in an essay titled “Comparisons of Greece and China” included Niansheng in the list of scholars who had translated ancient Greek authors into Chinese: “Another Chinese scholar with training in the Western classics, Luo Niansheng, published the major works of Greek drama gradually over a period from the 1930s through the 1960s; his prose translation of the Iliad was completed after his death in 1990 by Wilson Wong and published only in 1994.”

Two Chinese scholars, Rongnü Chen and Lingling Zhao, in another essay, titled “Translation and the Canon of Greek Tragedy in Chinese Literature,” elaborated further about Niansheng’s work: “After Yang’s first Chinese translation, Niansheng Luo finished in 1939 (published in 1947) the second Chinese translation of the play [Prometheus Bound] from the original Greek… Luo’s translation was extensive and included a prologue by himself as the translator… the main text of the play, and 141 annotations and four appendices. It can be said that Luo’s translation was a landmark event in the introduction of not only Greek tragedy, but Western literature to the Chinese canon of literature” (Comparative Literature and Culture 16:6, 2014).

In an article, titled ‘Classics in China,” about the establishment of the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC) in Changchun, William Brashear made a special note of Niansheng’s major contribution toward the spread of classics in China: “Prof. Luo Niansheng, for example, who studied at Ohio, Columbia and Cornell universities in the 1930s, was recently cited by the Greek government for his translation of ancient Greek literature into Chinese. Many of his translations have been performed on China’s stages. Also, Prof. Luo has written scholarly articles on Greek drama and just completed a dictionary of classical Greek and Chinese” (The Classical Journal 86:1, 1990, pp. 73-78). Brashear must have referred to the visit of Greek Prime-Minister Andreas Papandreou to Beijing in April 1986, followed by the visit to Athens of Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang.

Thirty-three years later, in November 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping, while on an official visit to Greece, published an article in Kathimerini, titled “Let Wisdom of Ancient Civilizations Shine through the Future.” After paying homage to Nikos Kazantzakis, who had written about his travels to China (1935 and 1957), President Jinping singled out Luo Niansheng of all Chinese scholars for his studies of ancient Greece. “A renowned Chinese scholar and translator, is remembered for his life-long dedication to the translation and research of Greek literature and for his important contribution to furthering our friendship, a legacy carried on by his son and granddaughter.”


Niansheng’s prominence in Chinese culture, especially his role in the advancement of comparative literature between Greece and China and his early association with the American School, made me think it was time to take a closer look at the School’s administrative records. A first search through Applications proved disappointing since Mao-Te Lo’s application to the School was missing; however, I was fortunate to discover a duplicate in the files of Edward D. Perry, Professor of Classics at Columbia and Secretary of the School’s Managing Committee.

Mao-Te Lo’s application to the ASCSA, 1933. ASCSA Archives.

The application provides much information about Lo’s family and educational background. Born in Szechuan, on May 29, 1905 (unlike the Wikipedia entry where Niansheng’s birthday is given as July 12, 1904), the son of Chin-Chen Lo, he had studied at Tsing-Hua University (1927-1929) before coming to the U.S. in 1929. He was enrolled first at the Ohio State University (1929-1931) where he received his B.A., and then briefly at Columbia (1931), before going to Cornell University (1932-1933). According to the application, his studies in the U.S. were supported by a five-year scholarship (1929-1934) from his alma mater, the Tsing-Hua University (his spelling).

A web search to find more about Tsinghua University proved very rewarding because it answered my first question: What was a Chinese student doing in the U.S. at a time when international studies were not that common? I copy from Wikipedia’s entry about the Early History of Tsinghua University:

“Tsinghua University was established in Beijing [in 1911], during a tumultuous period of national upheaval and conflicts with foreign powers which culminated in the Boxer Rebellion, an uprising against foreign influence in China. After the suppression of the revolt by a foreign alliance including the United States, the ruling Qing dynasty was required to pay indemnities to alliance members. US Secretary of State John Hay suggested that the US$30 million Boxer indemnity allotted to the United States was excessive. After much negotiation with Qing ambassador Liang Cheng, US President Theodore Roosevelt obtained approval from the United States Congress in 1909 to reduce the indemnity payment by $10.8 million, on the condition that the funds would be used as scholarships for Chinese students to study in the United States. Using this fund, the Tsinghua College (清華學堂; Qīnghuá Xuétáng) was established in Beijing, on 29 April 1911 on the site of a former royal garden to serve as a preparatory school for students the government planned to send to the United States.”

Built in 1917, the Grand Auditorium with its Jeffersonian architectural design is a centerpiece of the old campus at Tsinghua University. Source: Wikimedia Commons (photo: Stephen W. McNamara).

“Mr. Lo” must have gone to the U.S. as part of the so-called Boxer Indemnity Scholarship program, which aimed at improving the relationship between the two countries. Of course, the ultimate goal behind that program was to create an influential group of American-educated-Chinese leaders who would support U.S. policies in China. From 1909 to 1929, the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program sent around 1,300 Chinese students to study in America, which also led to the creation of the China Institute in New York in 1926. The majority of the Chinese students looked for placements in universities that supported Science, Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine and Commerce, with MIT being a favorable destination. Mao-Te Lo’s pursuit of classics must have been exceptional.

Mao-Te Lo, 1933. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

On January 26, 1933, enrolled at Cornell University, “Mr. Lo” addressed a letter to Samuel E. Bassett, the School’s Chair of Admissions and Fellowships, asking whether he was eligible to “enter the American School at Athens or not, with only a first degree and about two years of graduate work” (ASCSA Archives, Samuel E. Bassett Papers, box 1, folder 2). Bassett must have forwarded Lo’s letter to Perry, whose reply to Lo is not preserved, but it must not have been very encouraging. At risk of not being accepted at the School, Lo addressed a passionate letter to Perry stating that:

“To enter that classical school is vitally important for me. I can never secure another opportunity going to Greece in my life, if I fail this time. And I will never close my eyes when I die, without seeing the golden Mycenae” (ASCSA AdmRec, box 311/6 folder 3, Lo to Perry, March 13, 1933).

In the same letter, he provided more information about how he came to study the classics: “under the influence of Milton and Shelly, I first turned my attention to Greek literature.” He already knew that his future life would “chiefly be spent in translating and imitating this great literature directly from the Greek; instead of from the modern language as we used to do in my country,” implying that the ancient Greek authors were known in China only through western translations.

Suspecting reluctance in the acceptance of his application by the American School and following Eugene Andrews’s advice -Andrews, professor of Classics at Cornell, was a student at the School in 1895-1896- “Mr. Lo” went to see Perry in New York in early April 1933. He carried with him his Chinese translation of Euripides’s Iphigeneia. A year later, Perry would fondly reminisce about Lo’s visit to Columbia: “I often have to laugh when I think of the time when he gravely handed [LaRue] van Hook and me copies of his Chinese translation of the Iphigenia in Tauris as an erudition specimen. Not a muscle in his indicated the keen enjoyment he must have had over our evident mystification” (AdmRec 311/4, folder 9, Perry to Capps, April 19, 1934).

Soon after Lo’s visit, Perry dispatched a letter to Edward Capps at Princeton. “You have not returned to me the correspondence with the young Chinaman, Mr. Mao-Te Lo, concerning his admission to the School, which I sent you several weeks ago… He appears to be a very intelligent young man, who might, I think, properly admitted to the School as an Associate Member. His command of English is fairly good, but not as good as I expected to find it…” Perry scrawled on April 3, 1933.

Eight weeks later, Lo’s acceptance to the School was still up in the air with his original application lost somewhere between New York, Princeton, and Athens (Perry had asked Capps to mail it to Richard Stillwell, the School’s Director), and Mr. Lo agonizing about his admission. However, a comment in Perry’s letter to Capps (May 22, 1933) suggests that it wasn’t only “Mr. Lo” pushing for his acceptance. “Frankly, I doubt if he gets as much profit from admission to the School as he seems to expect, but the Chinese Gov’t seems entirely willing to have him go, so that is his and their affair,” wrote a somewhat skeptical Perry. On June 3, Perry wrote again to Capps, implying that Stillwell had not received Lo’s application and was reluctant to admit him to the School. “From Stillwell’s letter I judge that possibly you had not sent him Mao-Te Lo’s original application. What am I to do about the matter now? Lo is sailing on the Europa, June 16.”

Lo’s problems were not only with the American School but also with the Greek Consulate in New York, which would grant him only a three-month visa to Greece. Perry armed Lo with a strong introduction letter that he could use “on the way to Greece as well as on his arrival at Athens.” Perry was afraid that Lo’s extreme politeness (“painfully polite”) might not open doors for him. Capps, more concerned about Lo’s limited visa, wrote to the Greek Consul-General “asking that this be modified by a communication to Athens, on the ground that it will not do for the Greek Government to limit the period of residence of any of our students” (AdmRec, box 311/4 folder 8, Capps to Perry, June 19, 1933). The Greek Consul-General reassured Capps that Lo would not have any problem extending his visa once in Greece (Capps to Perry, June 21, 1933).

After spending three months in Europe, where he must have met and married his German wife, Lo sailed from Brindisi to Piraeus at the end of September. There were eight first-year students altogether, five women and three men. Oscar Broneer, Assistant Professor of Archaeology at the School, led most of the trips. Thomas Means (1889-1961) of Bowdoin College was that year’s Annual professor.

Mary Elizabeth Barton, Janet Morgan, Lillian Libman, Winifred Ruter, Oscar Broneer, Mao Te Lo, Richard H. Howland, Constance Gavares, Dorothy Traquair, and Mrs. Means, 1933. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

Means’s report for the fall semester is our best source of information for “Mr. Lo’s” progress at the School. As with many non-native English speakers studying classics in American universities (myself included), “Mr. Lo [was] fighting on two fronts, English and Greek.” Means further added that “with his [Lo’s] permission, I am receiving and correcting, in advance of class conferences, his translations into English from the Greek especially assigned to him.” Notwithstanding the language issue, Means acknowledged Mr. Lo’s “good mind, probably one much better than we realize.” He found him pleasant, “more mature than that of the others… making very considerable progress… working indefatigably.” “He has my respect,” concluded Means (AdmRec 1001/1 folder 7, Means to Stillwell, January 25, 1934).

Thomas Means, ASCSA Annual Professor, 1933-1934. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

We owe the best description of “Mr. Lo” to Winifred L. Ruter (later Merckel), a graduate of Hunter College, who was the Fellow in Greek Language, Literature, and History in 1933-1934. In a letter she sent to Perry about the School trips, she described some of Lo’s difficulties during the trips, how his donkey once ran away with him, or was lost for over an hour another time at Lycosoura, or how he was startled by a huge tortoise. Not to mention that some of his fellow students, the younger ones, were occasionally “heartless to him.” But, despite his adventures, Lo was determined “to get all the advantages to be derived from his work here. He works on Greek literature like a little Trojan… studying the Oedipus Tyrannus” with the help of Means (AdmRec, box 311/4 folder 9, Feb. 8, 1934).

Mao-Te Lo riding a donkey, 1933. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

In writing to Capps on April 12, 1934, at the conclusion of the School’s academic year, Perry described a letter he had received from Lo (unfortunately, not preserved) “as a fine specimen of true courtesy.” Before leaving from Greece, Lo submitted his required School paper, titled “Oedipodeia: A chronological sketch of the original source material of Greek and Latin Tragedy, submitted as a “School Paper” at the American School of Classical Studies.”

Aside from the immaturity of his younger fellow students, Lo was lucky to have encountered before, and during his year in Greece, educators such as Edward Perry and Thomas Means, who, putting aside any western prejudices, did not deprive Mao-Te Lo from experiencing Greece at first hand.

Martin H. Johnson, Lillian Libman, Richard H. Howland, Mao Te Lo, Mr. and Mrs. Means at lunch in Nemea. ASCSA Archives, Richard H. Howland Papers.

In “Essays about Greece,” Lo wrote about his Greek experience. The essays are in Chinese, but I was able to read one thanks to the translation of Huizhong Zheng, a graduate student of John Lee at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In it, Lo writes about his School trips and encourages his fellow Chinese to visit Greece if they want to read some “living books,” referring to the works of the ancient Greek authors.


In 1986, while Luo Niansheng was still alive, the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing mounted the first public performance of Oedipus King, adapted and co-directed by Luo Jinlin, a classical scholar and the son of Niansheng. “In the summer of the same year, per invitation from the European Cultural Center of Delphi, the academy took the adaptation to both Delphi and Athens” (Shouhua Qi, Adapting Western Classics for the Chinese Stage, New York 2019). It must have been the same year that Mao-Te Lo or Luo Niansheng returned to Greece after half a century to watch his son staging the very same play he had translated at the American School in 1934. I don’t know the exact year he visited the School, but it must have been that summer.

Thirty-plus years later, in 2018, an older Luo Jinlin would stage an adaptation of Aristophanes’ Birds at the National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing. The play was the NCPA’s first in-house production of an ancient Greek com­edy. The production of The Birds was based on Luo Niansheng’s translation of 1954. (For a video, see Aristophanes’ ‘The Birds’ in Beijing: Blending Greek drama with Chinese culture.)

“The Birds” at the National Center for Performing Arts in Beijing. Photo: via NCPA and CGTN.

Luo Tong, Luo Jinlin’s daughter and Luo Niansheng’s granddaughter, who was the co-director of the Birds, said in an interview: “It was my grandfather’s wish to promote ancient Greek plays among the Chinese audience. By understanding a different culture, we can take a broader view of the whole world” (China Daily, April 2, 2018).

Chinese dramatist Luo Jinlin (left) and his daughter Luo Tong (right). Source: China Daily (April 2, 2018).

Author’s Note: Without Mao-Te Lo’s and Richard H. Howland’s gifts to the School, I would not have been able to write about Luo Niansheng’s Greek experience at the American School in 1933-1934.

Is this Julia Ward Howe?


Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University and an expert in Palaeolithic archaeology in Greece, and his wife Priscilla Murray, an anthropologist and Classical archaeologist, here contribute to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story about the purchase of a miniature portrait of an elegant, young woman in an antique fair, their research to identify both the subject of the portrait and its creator, and, finally, their thrilling discovery.

Even from a distance, the small portrait of a beautiful young woman had a commanding presence. We bought the miniature watercolor on ivory (less than 10 by 8 cm) at an antique fair in Holliston, a town near Boston, Massachusetts, because the sitter was dressed a la Gréque with a Greek column in the background. The quality of the painting, which points to a very accomplished miniaturist, together with the appearance and accoutrements of the subject, suggest that the painting was an important commission by a socially prominent person. We loved the painting, and of course, we were intensely interested in the identity of the young woman.

Julia Ward Howe (?). Miniature on ivory, 3.9 x 3.1in. Curtis Runnels and Priscilla Murray Collection.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »