As a father’s daughter and lover of all things William Morris, I have a special appreciation for the relationship of William Morris and his daughter, May.

May Morris Flower Pot on cream background

May Morris Flower Pot Tile

On March 25, 1862, the 28 year-old William Morris received his best birthday present ever: the bird of his youngest daughter, Mary, always called May. May was close to her father most of her life — joining him in his Socialist League activities, and as Director of Embroidery at Morris & Co..

Maybe we can’t help but disappoint those who love us most.  In William Morris’s final years, he and May became estranged; there are many letters to his older daughter Jenny during this period, but none to May.  May was married to a socialist of whom her mother disapproved, but carried on a several year long affair with George Bernard Shaw, her father’s friend.  How painful it must have been for him to witness his daughter’s unfaithfulness, especially in light of how much pain his wife Jane’s affair with Rossetti had caused him.

After his death, May left Morris & Co. to become prominent in her own right, teaching and giving lectures on embroidery and textile arts.  But she was still her father’s daughter retracing his journey to Iceland, where her father had summered and translated the Eddas while Rossetti took up residence at Morris’s home — at Morris’s invitation, in order to guard what was left of Jane’s reputation.  After his death, May edited her father’s collected works, all 24 volumes of them.

Happy Birthdays, William and May.

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Morris Society of Canada, William Morris birthday cakes

Articles:

William Morris: The Soul of Arts and Crafts

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