May Morris - early feminist design activist

This month we are celebrating the birthday of May Morris (1862-1938). She was an early feminist design activist!

Often overshadowed by her famous father William Morris, May was an artist in her own right. May was part of the first generation to study fine crafts in art schools like the National Art Training School in South Kensington, which later evolved into the Royal College of Art

She focused on embroidery, managing the Morris & Co embroidery workshop and contributing designs to other departments.

The disregard for women’s work during the period is one of the reasons May’s legacy has not been better known until recent reappraisal. At the time women were not allowed to join great institutions such as the Art Worker’s Guild, and frustrated by this, May formed her own Women’s Guild of Arts.

May Morris bed hanging

Image credit: 1917 bed hangings, Cranbrook Art Museum