Mary "May" Morris was an English artisan, embroidery designer, jeweller, socialist, and editor. She was the younger daughter of the Pre-Raphaelite artist and designer William Morris and his wife and artists' model Jane Morris.
May Morris was born on 25 March 1862 at Red House, Bexleyheath, and named Mary as she was born on the Feast of the Annunciation. May learned to embroider from her mother and her aunt Bessie Burden, who had been taught by William Morris. In 1881, she enrolled at the National Art Training School, the precursor of the Royal College of Art, to study embroidery In 1885, aged 23, she became the director of the embroidery department at her father's enterprise Morris & Co..
In 1886, May fell in love with Henry Halliday Sparling (1860–1924), secretary of the Socialist League. Despite her mother's concerns about her future son-in-law, they married 14 June 1890 at Fulham Register Office. The marriage broke down in 1894 as a result of her affair with a former lover, playwright George Bernard Shaw. The Sparlings were divorced in 1898 and May resumed her maiden name.
In 1907 she founded the Women’s Guild of Arts with Mary Elizabeth Turner, as the Art Workers Guild did not admit women.
She edited her father's Collected Works in 24 volumes for Longmans, Green and Company, published from 1910 to 1915, and commissioned two houses after his death to be built in the style that he loved in the village of Kelmscott in the Cotswolds.
May Morris died at Kelmscott Manor 17 October 1938.
May Morris was an influential embroideress and designer, although her contributions are often overshadowed by those of her father, a towering figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. William Morris is credited with the resurrection of free-form embroidery in the style which would be termed art needlework. Art needlework emphasized freehand stitching and delicate shading in silk thread thought to encourage self-expression in the needleworker in sharp contrast with the brightly coloured Berlin wool work needlepoint and its "paint by numbers" aesthetic which had gripped much of home embroidery in the mid-19th century.
May Morris was active in the Royal School of Art Needlework (now Royal School of Needlework), founded as a charity in 1872 under the patronage of Princess Helena to maintain and develop the art of needlework through structured apprenticeships.
Morris also designed and made jewellery. She began to design jewellery around the turn of the 20th century, and was probably inspired by the Birmingham jewellers Arthur and Georgie Gaskin, who were old family friends.