As all those who write about historical women can attest, uncovering women's personal histories, even if those women end up being relatively public figures later in life, can be hard work. In researching for Archaeologists in Print, I was very glad to have been able to illuminate the early lives and professional careers of some of the women I included in the book. UCL's student Session Fees books were a wonderful resource for this, as were many digitised newspaper articles that allowed me to chart the frequency and development of women's public lectures and tours.
I wasn't always successful though, as the short biographies in the Appendix reveal. At the time of writing I was unable to track down information on the early life of Dorothy Mary Simmons Mackay, for example, so I couldn't include her birth or death dates or whether she went to university. A biographical article from 2010 on her husband Ernest Mackay (see below) in the University of Pennsylvania Museum magazine Expedition simply said she was an anthropologist.
Thankfully, I'm now able to add a bit more detail. Dorothy Simmons was born in Croydon, around 1881. Her father owned "Simmons & Co." a company manufacturing prams. She entered UCL as a student in the autumn of 1901, but not in Archaeology or Egyptology (the two departments I looked at in UCL's Session Fees books). Rather, it appears, she studied Greek and French, obtaining certificates in both. By 1902 she had been awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of London.
That wasn't the end of her student days though, because over the next few years she took classes at UCL in Botany, Geology, Zoology and Calculus, garnering awards and certificates along the way. She ended up with an Honours B.Sc. in Zoology by 1909. In 1912 she married archaeologist Ernest Mackay, who had been working as an assistant of Flinders Petrie's (perhaps they met on UCL's campus!). Thereafter, she began working in archaeology alongside Ernest in Egypt, Iraq and India.
She returned to UCL to research Archaeology in the 1940s, decades after embarking on her first archaeological excavation. Among the records at UCL for Dorothy Mackay was an indication that she was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. So, off I went to the Antiquaries to discover more. What I saw there was very interesting.
The Society of Antiquaries Library has a copy of a short tourist guide-pamphlet Dorothy Mackay had written about the excavations at the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro*, in the Sindh province of what is now Pakistan but was then India (under British rule), in the late 1920s. I'd seen this pamphlet while writing Archaeologists in Print and it is duly referenced there. But the Society also had a copy of another guide-book by Dorothy Mackay which revealed that in the late 1940s and early 1950s she was working in Beirut, Lebanon as Curator of the American University of Beirut Museum, and that during World War II she had been an assistant Curator at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Her short history of the American University of Beirut Museum highlights among other details the role of women in its development and in researching its collection. These included Florence Day (daughter of geologist and former Museum Curator Alfred Day) who published studies of pilgrim bottles and lamps in the Museum's collection in its journal Berytus; an unnamed woman from Syria whose financial endowment enabled a Chair of Archaeology to be established at the University; and "Mrs Bayard Dodge" (formerly Mary Bliss, niece of Palestine Exploration Fund excavator Frederick J. Bliss), whose organisational acumen enabled the Museum's collections to be safely packed and stored when the Museum turned into a wartime food supply centre.
Dorothy Mackay's death was recorded briefly in the Antiquaries Journal for 1953, and I've now found a short obituary of her in The Times (which I had missed when writing!). Despite these finds, the lack of published record of her life is an (unsurprising) tragedy, for a woman who worked to obtain two degrees, was a professional archaeologist for her entire working life, as well as a published author and museum curator. But as I uncover more about her, that will definitely be rectified.
Many thanks to Robert Winckworth (Archives Assistant, UCL Records Office) for finding and sending me records relating to Dorothy Simmons' student days at UCL. Thanks are also due to Alice Dowhyj at the Society of Antiquaries for finding the notice of Dorothy Mackay's death in the Antiquaries Journal.
Mackay, D. M. 1951. American University of Beirut Lebanon: A Guide to the Archaeological Collections in the University Museum. American University of Beirut: Beirut.
The Times, 1953. Mrs D. M. Mackay. The Times Digital Archive, 13 Feb: 8.
*Also the setting of a 2016 Bollywood film Mohenjo-Daro, set in 2016 BC. There are amazing birds-eye views of the reconstructed city in the beginning of the film, which has as its first dance sequence a very catchy tune with a cheerful chant: "Mohen-JO, Mohen-JO, Mohen-JO, Mohenjo-Daro!"