By Anne Locker, Library and Archives Manager
This is the second IET Archives blog post looking at the re-cataloguing of the correspondence of Dame Caroline Haslett. The first instalment can be found here.
The Caroline Haslett correspondence collections documents the amount of work Caroline put into building and maintaining professional relationships and friendships. She wore many hats: Director of the Electrical Association for Women (EAW); President of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (IFBPW); President of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES); member of the British Electricity Authority; advisor to Ernest Bevin; and advisor on women’s employment during the war. She used her different roles to meet key people and build up relationships she would draw upon to get things done.
In this blog I dig into two files from the C section of correspondence to show her methods: Mr and Mrs Carpenter (NAEST 033/13/13) and Mrs R G Casey (NAEST 033/13/14).
Frank (Joe) and Vera Carpenter
141 items, 1946-1955
Mr H F (Frank) Carpenter, known to his friends as Joe, was Manager of the West Midlands Joint Electricity Authority, Chairman of the Electrical Development Association (EDA) and member of the British Electricity Authority (BEA). The first letter in the file is from March 1946, when Caroline congratulated Carpenter on his appointment as Vice-Chairman of the EDA. From Mr Carpenter’s response, we can see that the two were already on good professional terms. He mentioned her work for the Government’s Hosiery Working Party and suggested arranging lunch to introduce another useful contact.
The next note in the file is a more sombre one: a message from Caroline’s secretary to inform her that Mrs Carpenter had died suddenly. Caroline immediately sent a telegram of condolence.
In December 1947, Carpenter was appointed Chair of the EDA and Caroline arranged a lunch at the Hungaria Restaurant in London with Carpenter and his second wife Vera. By 1949, the three were playing golf together at Highgate Golf Club and meeting regularly for lunch. Caroline supported Vera’s application to join the Forum Club the same year.
The close friendship between Caroline and the Carpenters can be seen in correspondence from 1953, after Joe was awarded a CBE. Caroline wanted to arrange a lunch in his honour, and he and Vera agreed to travel up to London to attend (by this time they had moved from London to Sussex). Joe writes,
“You are really dreadful, and we can see there is no arguing with you [about the lunch party]. On your own head be it!”
This correspondence shows a distinct pattern that Caroline repeats when building her contacts in the UK’s engineering industry:
- Establish a good working relationship, often on a committee.
- Lunch with contact (and usually his wife) at the Hungaria (or accept an invitation in return).
- Golf, or other social event (but preferably golf).
- Forum Club (for interested wives) and/or invitation to volunteer with the Electrical Association for Women.
- Weekend visits and regular correspondence, which continue after the individual has retired/moved on from his role.
This created a large and friendly network Caroline could draw upon for help. She also helped in return: recommending people for new jobs, smoothing over disputes and linking people with new networks and people.
Mrs R G (Maie) Casey
61 items, 1942-1955
The Maie Casey correspondence shows a rather different pattern that Caroline tended to follow for international networking:
- Invite to lunch at the Forum Club with notable guests
- Start long airmail correspondence and exchange gifts
- Letters of recommendation for international visitors
- Reconnect on occasional visits to the UK
Maie Casey, artist and patron of the Australian Women’s Pilot Association, was the wife of Richard G Casey, later Baron Casey, Governor-General of Australia. Maie and Caroline met in London, and Caroline arranged a lunch in her honour in 1942 – at the Forum Club. This sketch of a seating plan shows the people invited to meet Mrs Casey, including Lady Cripps (noted as vegetarian) and Lady Moir.
In June 1942, the Caseys moved to Cairo, where Maie got involved with the women working for the Palestine ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) and the Wrens who were posted in Alexandria. In 1943 they moved to Calcutta, and again Maie was very interested in the work of women there.
In 1943, Maie set out her thoughts on post-war reconstruction and the role of women after the war. She writes,
“I have a great belief in women, and I believe we should play an increasing part in world affairs. Not only directly; as much by persuasion and influence and by influence as through direct action … You particularly can and I am sure will influence the women you come into contact with towards active participation in the future, not only in practical deeds but in thought and interest.”
Caroline and Maie talk about the election of the Labour government in the UK and the Liberal/Country coalition in Australia. Both were very involved in women’s movements in their respective countries: Caroline with the EAW, WES and the IFBPW and Maie with the YWCA.
As with other international friends. Maie was able to help with the food shortages Britain and the rest of Europe faced in the late 1940s. Regular parcels of tinned goods arrived from Australia, and these were distributed to Caroline’s family and friends.
Caroline and Maie also welcomed visitors to the UK and Australia, especially women who were in turn looking to build their networks. For example, Maie wrote in 1948 to introduce Mrs Medley, wife of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and Mrs Menzies, wife of the Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies.
In the early 1950s, Maie was appointed to an international committee set up by the Institute of Contemporary Arts to judge a sculpture competition. The theme was ‘The Unknown Political Prisoner’. This press cutting, dating from her visit to the UK around 1953, focused less on her artistic career than her hobby of flying planes!
NAEST 033/12-18 also includes correspondence with:
Irene Calvert MP
Margaret ‘Peggy’ Campbell
Barbara Castle MP
Mrs G Catlin [Vera Brittan]
Comtesse de Chaudun
Lady Cynthia Colville
Margery Corbett Ashby
Dorothy A Cummins
If you would like to find out more about the Haslett correspondence collection, please get in touch.