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William Morris Arts & Crafts Textiles

Jane and May Morris

May Morris, Father's Daughter

May Morris platinotype by Frederick Hollyer

I'm a remarkable woman - always was, though none of you seemed to think so. ~May Morris

A famous father's daughter, May was the younger of William Morris's two daughters, and decidedly the daughter fate brought him closest to, after her old sister Jenny's boating accident that resulted in frequent severe seizures.

May was an expert at embroidery, a skill she learned from her mother. By 23, she was head of the Embroidery Department at Morris and Co. But May did much more than design textiles for her father's business. She wrote lectured, wrote books, even a play about her relationship with George Bernard Shaw and it's painful demise. We can only do so much with our time, and May chose to spend over a decade of her time here organizing and editing her father's Complete Works. Her introductions to the sections add so much more and provide invaluable context.

Born at Red House, William Morris's first married home that he planned and built along the path Chaucer's pilgrims would have traveled, May was born a day-later birthday present to Morris on 25 March 1862. May's preferred artistic medium was embroidery, although she lived and breathed the air and passions of her father, the artists and craftsmen that often came to Red House. Decidedly not a demure wallflower quietly working in a drawing room, May studied embroidery at what became the Royal Art College. By the time she was 23, she was the director of the embroidery department at Morris and Co.

Two years before her father's death in 1896, May burned bridges that could never be rebuilt: May's relatively short marriage to a socialist that her mother disapproved became estranged due to her affair with her father's friend, George Bernard Shaw. She and her father, lifelong penpals, fell silent. Morris wrote many letters to his older invalid daughter, Jenny, in his last years, but no letters at all remain from Morris to May from that period. May Morris edited her father's 24-volume Collected Works after his death, a five-year undertaking, and completed The Sundering Flood (Project Gutenberg), an early modern fantasy novel whose ending Morris dictated to her from his deathbed. She died at Kelmscott Manor, Morris's later family home, in 1938.


May Morris Flower Pot

May Morris Spring and Summer

May Morris Acanthus

May Morris Honeysuckle

'A Garden Piece' Border Tiles

May Morris Mondays on Facebook

Jenny Morris

Jane and Jenny Morris, 1864.

Jenny was the eldest daughter of William and Jane. She developed epilespy in 1874 and her seizures were quite severe. Her future changed radically at that point. Plans for her education were put on hold and canceled. William grieved her illness greatly and there are hints in his letters that blamed himself or his bloodline. Jenny modeled as an angel for Burne-Jones' Days of Creation.