How a great American scientist helped Serbian soldiers

How a great American scientist helped Serbian soldiers

Someone once said, “Hard times create great people.” During the Great War, the Serbian army suffered tremendous hardships, famine, typhus, crossing Albania through the harsh winter, and the horrors of war in general. On the other hand, the population of the Kingdom of Serbia faced all possible problems brought on by the wars, and small Serbia, which was drawn into the war by the force of circumstance, failed to independently preserve and feed its own people.

Regardless of the fact that the United States was neutral at the beginning of the war, in the first three years of the world’s largest military conflict until then, large amounts of money and tons of humanitarian aid arrived to the citizens of Serbia from the United States. The purpose of that money was to feed the civilian population, refugees, to fight against typhus, to help and maintain agriculture, and even to transport refugees.

A bright example of the American people’s sincere help to the Serbian people in the First World War was given by Harriet Boyd Hawes, a woman archaeologist who bears the main credit for excavating the city of Gournia, a Bronze Age site on the Greek island of Crete.

Harriet Ann Boyd was born in Boston (Massachusetts) on October 11, 1871. She lost her mother as a child, so she grew up with her father and four other brothers. The biggest influence on her decision to choose archeology as a life vocation was made by her eleven-year-old brother Alex, who in a way took on the role of a parent. Harriet enrolled in classical studies at Smith College in Northampton in 1888. After graduating in 1892, she worked as a lecturer for several years, after which she decided to travel around Europe.

In 1896, she enrolled at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece. Her original intention was to continue her studies in England, but she decided to go to Greece under the influence of an archaeologist, a brother of Louis Dyer and famous researcher and egyptologist Amelia Edwards, whose lectures she attended as a student at Smith College.

During her stay in Greece, she volunteered as a nurse in Thessaly during the Greco-Turkish War.

On the island of Crete, she participated in the excavation of Knossos, led by British archaeologist Arthur Evans. She soon gained a reputation as a great expert in archeology, and in the spring of 1900, for four months, she led excavations at Kavousi.

Between 1901 and 1904, Harriet discovered and excavated Gournia, a city of Minoan civilization, and thus became the first archaeologist to discover and excavate a complete Early Bronze Age Minoan settlement.

She ceased fieldwork in 1906 when she married English anthropologist Charles Henry Hawes with whom she had two children, Alexander and Mary.

Harriet began her selfless commitment and mission for the Serbian people in 1915, when she sent humanitarian aid for Serbian soldiers and refugees by Lafayette, via Italy and France to Albania, which she collected in America. On the islands of Corfu and Vido, she personally provided assistance to Serbian soldiers from February to April 1916. She worked as a nurse, distributed humanitarian aid, organized a kitchen for the sick and wounded, assisted by a Serbian officer, a Greek cook and two soldiers. During the war she used the experience gained as a Red Cross nurse in the Greek-Turkish War. In 1917 she became the head of the humanitarian organization Smith College Relief Unit in France.

After her husband retired in 1936, they returned together to Washington DC and remained there for the rest of their lives. She died March 31, 1945 in Washington DC.

Her daughter, Mary Allsebrook, published the book Born to Rebel: The Life of Harriet Boyd Hawes in 1992.

The Faculty of Philosophy and the National Museum have launched an initiative to give a street in Belgrade the name of this great woman who indebted the Serbian people and shed light on the name of her homeland, America, all over the world.

Ljubiša Stojanović,

Paraćin, Serbia