Macbeth, Ann (1875-1948)

Ann Macbeth, 1875-1948. Ann Macbeth, 1875-1948.

Ann Macbeth (1875-1948) was a British author, embroideress and head of the Embroidery department at the Glasgow School of Art, from 1908 to 1921. She was the daughter of the Scottish engineer, Norman Macbeth, and Annie MacNicol.

Ann Macbeth was born in Bolton (England) and in 1897 went to Scotland to study embroidery at the Glasgow School of Art. Macbeth was trained under Jessie Newbery, a well-known embroideress of the period. In 1901 she exhibited embroidery at the Glasgow International Exhibition, and the following year won a silver medal at the Turin International Exhibition of Decorative Arts.

In 1904 she graduated and almost immediately became a member of the staff of the Glasgow School of Art. Between 1904 and 1912, she taught embroidery as well as metalwork, bookbinding and ceramics. She succeeded Jessie Newbery as the head of the School’s department of embroidery in 1908. It was during this period that she started to influence the way in which embroidery was taught to children, including teaching stitches using a variety of coloured threads. She was also active in the British suffragette movement and designed the so-called WSPU Holloway Banner (1910).

In 1911, Ann Macbeth and Margaret Swanson published a book called Educational Needlecraft, which is regarded as a classic educational book of the period. Her own designs were related to the Glasgow Movement and in particular, to the work of the famous Scottish designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). Macbeth regularly exhibited items at various venues, including the Lady Artists' Club, Glasgow. She also designed for various companies, including Liberty’s of London. An example of her work can be seen in the form of a communion table frontal, Glasgow Cathedral. Other works by her are in St. Patrick’s Church, Patterdale (Cumbria), where she lived from 1921 until her death in 1948. While living in Patterdale she continued to produce embroideries.

She published several books about embroidery and related crafts including:

  • with Margaret Swanson. Educational Needlecraft, London: Longmans, Green and Co. (1911).
  • The Playwork Book, London: Longmans, Green and Co. (1918).
  • With May Spence, School and Fireside Crafts, London: Methuen & Co. (1920)
  • Embroidered and Laced Leatherwork, London: Methuen & Co. (1924)
  • Needleweaving, Kendle: Arthur W. Simpson (1926)
  • The Country Woman’s Rug Book, Leicester and London: The Dryad Press (1929). (available at:


  • EWAN, Elixabeith, Sue INNES and Sian REYNOLDS (eds., 2006). The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women: From the Earliest Times to 2004, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, p. 216.
  • NEWBERRY, F.H. (1901), 'An appreciation of the work of Anne Macbeth,' The Studio, pp. 40-49

Digital source: 'Obituary: Anne Macbeth,' The Glasgow Herald, 2nd April 1948 (retrieved 16 April 2016)


Digital source of illustration (retrieved 1 July 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 19 March 2017 18:51