Grace M. Crowfoot (1877–1957)

Author of Methods of Hand Spinning in Egypt and the Sudan

Includes the names: Grace Crowfoot, Grace Mary Hood Crowfoot

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Grace Mary Crowfoot, née Hood, known as Molly, was born in Lincolnshire, England, to a family of minor landed gentry. Her grandfather collected Egyptian antiquities, which were displayed in a wing of the family's estate at Nettleham Hall built for that purpose. Through her family, she came to know many archaeologists, including Sir Flinders Petrie, and she became lifelong friends with Hilda Petrie, his wife. Molly went to finishing school in Paris and wanted to attend Oxford University, but her mother discouraged it. Instead, she participated in her first archaeological dig at the prehistoric cave at Tana Bertrand, above San Remo on the Italian Riviera. She found 300 beads and signs of early occupation, which led to a publication in 1926. In 1908, Molly trained as a professional midwife at Clapham Maternity Hospital in London. The following year, she married John Winter Crowfoot, a British educator and archaeologist with whom she would have four daughters, and went to live in Cairo. Molly learned photography and used her photos to illustrate the first of several botanical books she produced during her years in the Middle East and North Africa. During World War I, the family moved to the Sudan to avoid the fighting. Molly took up the spinning and weaving that occupied much of the time of local women and became a proficient weaver herself. At the request of Sir Flinders, she compared these methods with ancient Egyptian methods of spinning and weaving and found they had changed little. The end of the war brought the family back to England. Molly became an advocate of women's rights and a pacifist, joining the League of Nations Union. When her husband became director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and was put in charge of several excavations, Molly organized the excavation headquarters and worked in the field. She saw the excavation reports through to publication. She also continued her interests in botany and textiles and published several more books and scholarly papers. At the outbreak of War II, she returned to England and worked on the Sutton Hoo Ship burial. After the war, she co-wrote a paper on the embroidered panels of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. With the recovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, she published a paper on the Qumran textiles. She trained a generation of textile archaeologists during her career.
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