Written by Emily Simons and Madaline Harris-Schober
My name is Webb, in me you see
How much in little there can be,
My mind enquiring is in tone,
And all its sparkles are my own!
Ridley 1994, 39
After seven months of rail and ferry travel, Jessie went on to Greece. Jessie spent her leave at the prestigious British School of Archaeology in Athens, travelling to Crete from the mainland to further her research. While there, she met Arthur Evans, and later students recall her stories about him as "Screamingly funny!" (Ridley 1994, 165). At the end of this trip, she was nominated as the alternate delegate to the League of Nations assembly in Geneva where she discovered the plight of Armenian genocide survivors, returning to Australia to raise funds to support refugees.
Upon returning to Australia and subsequent 'lady of the hour' public lectures, Jessie highlighted the need for more female archaeologists and often commented on women's different statuses in different countries and universities. Her recommendation to both Australian and international counterparts was the promotion of mentorship; for educated women to watch for talented students within their fields and to give them all possible help. Jessie was a firm proponent of humanism and was noted for her support of disadvantaged students and women abroad.
Jessie was a trailblazer. Her travels, which now read like an adventure novel to archaeologists and historians alike, portray her as a figure of intellectual vigour, and a woman of understated wit.
It is remarkable that upon her death she bequeathed £7128 to the University of Melbourne to endorse the study of ancient history and archaeology. The fund, originally intended to support her retirement, instead encourages students to spend a 'season' devoted to research in Greece. Jessie created this scholarship from her retirement funds to "assist a student to have the chance she herself never did, to study at the European institution she knew and remembered best, the BSA or equivalent" (Ridley 1994, 141). This remarkable opportunity has benefitted many students in their postgraduate study at the University of Melbourne. Such generosity made Jessie a fantastic teacher and endeared many to her during her time at the University.
It is a humbling experience to write about Jessie Webb and her life for AWAWS and even more so to chronicle some of her adventures and highlight her legacy.
References and further resources
Adele De Dombasle
Eleanor Stewart / Jacobs (nee Neal)
Eugenie Sellers Strong
Eve Stewart (nee Dray)
Marjorie Burnell (nee Smyth)
Olwen Tudor Jones
Theme: Research Methods
About the Blog
The contribution made by women to ancient world studies in Australia and New Zealand has often been neglected. Our blog aims to bring you new research and insights into some of these remarkable women.
Written by AWAWS members, these entries will hopefully be a starting point to discovering more about the diversity of people who have shaped our understanding of the ancient world.
Write for the Blog
We are currently seeking contributors to the blog. If you would like to write your own entry on any aspect of the history of women in ancient world studies, please get in touch with your idea and a draft outline of your entry via firstname.lastname@example.org