Polymathic Daughters: May Morris and Eleanor Marx


This special Polymath Festival 2020 event will feature a panel discussion on the life and work of Eleanor Marx and May Morris. Both daughters of “Great Victorian” men, the two women had polymathic careers in their own right; May Morris (1862-1938) as a designer, embroider and writer and Eleanor Marx (1855-98) as feminist, socialist, translator, journalist and editor. The discussion will explore the careers and lives of both women, as well as their joint involvement with the Socialist League where they acted in socialist plays and entertainments together, often alongside the playwright George Bernard Shaw. The discussion will be led by Eleanor Marx's biographer Rachel Holmes and May Morris expert Anna Mason, with Festival Director Waqās Ahmed.

About the Panel

Anna Mason was curator at the William Morris Gallery between 2009-2016. She has been researching the life and work of May Morris since 2014 and co-curated the recent exhibition. She is co-author of May Morris: Arts & Crafts Designer and May Morris: Art and Life . She currently works for the National Trust and is editing May Morris's correspondence with Margaretta Frederick, Delaware Art Museum.

Rachel Holmes is the author, most recently, of Eleanor Marx, serialised on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. Her new book Sylvia Pankhurst: Natural Born Rebel is published by Bloomsbury this September. Her previous books are The Secret Life of Dr James Barry and The Hottentot Venus: The Life and Death of Saartjie Baartman. Holmes is co-editor of Fifty Shades of Feminism and I Call Myself A Feminist. She wrote ‘The Barrister's Tale’ for the Refugee Tales series calling for the end of indefinite immigration detention and is a contributor to Ahdaf Soueif and Omar Robert Hamilton’s This is Not A Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature.

Waqās Ahmed is author of the internationally acclaimed book The Polymath (Wiley 2019) and founder of the DaVinci Network, the global movement committed to unlocking the many-sided potential of humans worldwide. He recently curated the Official Opening Celebrations of the 500th Anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery and is the Director of Polymath Festival 2020.