Written by Candace Richards
“Relatively late in life in March 1935 Burnell became engaged to Marjorie Kane Smyth (1888–1974). She had worked as a nurse in Egypt and France during World War I, published a collection of her poetry, Poems, in London in 1919, and was also a painter, on one occasion exhibiting her works alongside other Australian artists in Paris at the Salon d’Automne in 1925” (Harting 2016, 85).
Marjorie Smyth’s service during WW1 places her squarely in Egypt, and we can be certain that she was the one who purchased the Abydos calcite jar, like many other service people who bought antiquities during their wartime postings. The fact that it was donated in both her married name and her husband’s, after he had passed, is not uncommon, and was followed up by Marjorie with a donation to the University of Sydney to endow a Classical Greek essay prize in Frederick’s honour in 1962 (Calendar 1963, 452).
The pitfalls of tracking married women in scholarship are varied and require active recognition of the many ways in which women can be easily written out, or in this case, ‘assumed out’ of history. The donation credit line for the Burnell’s Abydos jar has now been updated in the Nicholson Collection's databases to reflect the full names of both individuals, including an acknowledgement of Marjorie’s maiden name, and Marjorie has now been acknowledged as the collector of the item.
- Harting, Andrew. 2016. ‘Frederick Spencer ‘Fritz’ Burnell (1886-1958)’ in The Lysicrates Prize 2016: The People’s Choice. Sydney. 77-89.
- Newman, Vivien. 2016. Tumult and Tears: The story of the great war through the eyes and lves of its women poets. Barnsley, South York Shire.
- Calendar of the University of Sydney for the year 1963. Sydney 1962. accessed: http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/Calendar/1963/1963.pdf
Written by Candace Richards
The University of Sydney
Archival research at the Nicholson has revealed that women’s contributions come in many forms including administrative and technical support often undertaken behind the scenes for the improvement of the collections; research and publication of the collections; education and public outreach; collecting activities, often as part of archaeological research on behalf of the museum or financing collecting practices; donors to the collection; and finally, as family support when women are often active in the research or collecting process and then if outliving their partner assume responsibility for the management of collections and posthumous legacies. The teasing out of the individual stories and collective roles women played is part of my long-term research project ‘The Hidden Women of the Nicholson Museum.’ It is hoped that in addition to highlighting the many accomplishments and contributions women have made throughout the history of the Nicholson, we can examine how we construct our own histories, and offer new approaches to constructing historically accurate and inclusive institutional narratives.
Written by Natalie Looyer
University of Canterbury, NZ
Those in the Department who had known Marion spoke about her with warmth and joviality. When the opportunity for an oral history project on Marion’s life was suggested, I jumped at the chance and set about interviewing family, friends, past students and colleagues of Marion. The project took me up and down New Zealand and as far as Sydney and Adelaide where I followed the threads of Marion’s network. Throughout these interviews – twelve in total – I learned about Marion’s impressive career as a scholar, a collector and a teacher. Through the memories of those closest to her I came to understand the extraordinary legacy that she left behind, not only in her remarkable collection of antiquities, but also in the influence that she had on the lives of great Classics scholars whom she nurtured.
Marion began her academic career in Medicine, excelling at university and receiving a medical scholarship to a London Hospital. But she was rejected upon arrival, as her application had not made it clear that she was a woman. Marion then turned to Classics – perhaps what she had wished to study all along. She soon began teaching at the University, where her compassion for students earned her their respect. She valued the traditional learning of Latin and Greek, but she also valued material culture as a way of understanding life in the ancient world, which inspired her to begin collecting antiquities for her teaching.
Marion developed relationships with prestigious scholars such as Dale Trendall and John Beazley, which put the Logie Collection on the global map. But Marion’s most cherished relationships were to those in her close community. Her family and students remembered her as an advocate for young people, especially young women. She took her students seriously. She was generous with her time, hosting many of her students at her own house gatherings. And she was generous with her resources, gifting her collection of antiquities to the University for future generations of Classics students.
Marion continued to enjoy visits from her past students well into her retirement. One of my favourite comments in an interview comes from Professor Edwin Judge of Macquarie University, a past student of Marion. When speaking about his return visits to his hometown in Christchurch, he said, “Marion, we assumed, would always be there. And nothing could possibly be wrong in Christchurch with Marion there.”
Edwin’s comment seemed particularly pertinent in the context of the Christchurch earthquakes, which, eleven years after Marion’s passing, caused extensive damage to the Logie Collection. But Marion’s attitude – that if something fell out of her bike and broke, it could just be put back together again – stood the test of time. After an extensive rehabilitation project in 2014, the Logie Collection was fully conserved and is now on public display at the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities in Central Christchurch. Marion’s legacy lives on in her collection, but as my interviewees pre-eminently remembered Marion’s warmth and generosity over her material contributions, I came to realise that perhaps her greatest gift was the way in which she fostered her community and those around her.
Natalie Looyer, from the University of Canterbury, was first to present her paper ‘The Academic Legacy of Miss Marion Steven.’ This was the culmination of Natalie’s wide ranging oral history project on the legacy of the woman who not only founded the Logie Collection, but whose legacy can be measured by the success of her students and who is remembered as a remarkable teacher who shaped the lives of generations of classicists.
Throughout the conference, AWAWS was proud to also support an anti-bullying workshop, drinks for members and hold a special meeting in which it launched its new mentoring program. Each of these activities was supported generously by the ASCS which co-sponsored events and facilitated our participation. A special thanks to Dr Daniel Osland, conference convenor, and AWAWS Treasurer, Gwynaeth McIntyre, for their wonderful work organising the conference and for their support for the AWAWS events.
Abstracts from each our of presenters are available in the ASCS41 conference program - https://www.otago.ac.nz/classics/ascs-2020.htm
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.
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