Dame Caroline Haslett

Caroline Harriet Haslett was born on 17 August 1895 in Worth, a village in Sussex.

She lived near Ashdown Forest and grew up loving flowers, trees and animals. The Haslett family had five children, though Caroline's older brother William died when he was just 3 years old.

Caroline's father was an engineer on the railway and from him Caroline learned to love machines and tools. She was usually happier playing with nuts and bolts than making dolls' clothes.

Was Caroline good at school?

Caroline went to school in Haywards Heath, then a country town with 5,000 people. Because of a bad back, she had to rest most days to strengthen her spine. She loved reading but she still found it hard to keep up with schoolwork because she was away from school so often. Her teacher said, as she did not seem very clever, Caroline might leave school early but Caroline was not going to give up so easily.

Why was housework so hard?

Caroline's mother, like most women, worked hard all day long cleaning, washing, cooking, lighting fires and carrying in coal. There was a lot of housework and there were no machines to help. It made Caroline think that it was no wonder so many women got so tired and ill.

A woman sweeps her floors and the step outside Poorer women would have to sweep their floors and rugs with a brush
Two girls help their mother with the housework Girls would help their mothers with house hold chores such as shaking out rugs and cleaning and polishing
A woman using an early vacuum cleaner in a dining room. A vacuum cleaner in 1910. While the invention was popular with the very rich, poorer women would have to sweep the floors with a dust pan and brush. By 1953, 66% of housewives in Britain owned electric cleaners
A laundry worker using a dolly stock and tub to clean clothes, prior to the invention of the washing machine. Before washing machines were invented washing clothes and bedding was very hard work and took an entire day. This woman is washing clothes with a dolly stick and tub of hot water
A woman washing clothes with a tub and wash board. Others would use a tub and wash board to scrub clothes clean
A montage image showing four types of equipment used in laundries at the turn of the century. Clockwise from top, left : a mangle, a wringer, an iron and a steamer. A variety of tools were available to help women with wash day. From top, left : a mangle, a wringer, an iron and a steamer

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