Caroline Haslett

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Dame Caroline Harriet Haslett, DBE, JP (17 August 1895, Worth (now in Crawley, West Sussex) – 4 January 1957, Bungay, Suffolk) was a British electrical engineer and electricity industry administrator.[1][2]

She was the first secretary of the Women's Engineering Society, and the founder and editor of its journal, The Woman Engineer.[3] She was co-founder and first director of the Electrical Association for Women, which pioneered such 'wonders', as they were described in contemporary magazines,[4][5] as the "All-Electric House" in Bristol in 1935. Her particular interest was electricity, and how this might benefit women by liberating them from household drudgery.[6] In the early 1920s, few houses had electric light or heating, let alone electrical appliances; the National Grid was not yet in existence.

Way is being made by electricity for a higher order of women - women set free from drudgery, who have time for reflection; for self-respect. We are coming to an Age when the spiritual and higher state of life will have freer development, and this is only possible when women are liberated from soul-destroying drudgery...

I want her to have leisure to acquaint herself more profoundly with the topics of the day

— Caroline Haslett [6]

Early life[edit]

Caroline Haslett was born at Worth, Sussex, the eldest daughter of Robert Haslett, a railway signal fitter and activist for the co-operative movement. After school in Haywards Heath, Haslett joined the Cochran Boiler Company as a secretary.[3] Managing to transfer to the works during the war, she acquired a basic engineering training in London and Annan from 1914 to 1918, and from that time became something of a pioneer for women in the electrical and professional world.


In 1919 she became first secretary of the Women's Engineering Society (WES) and was President in 1941. In November 1924 she co-founded and became the first director of the Electrical Association for Women. She was Chair of the Council of Scientific Management in the Home and presented papers on home management in various countries.

In 1932 the National "Safety First" Association (the forerunner of RoSPA) extended its activities to Home Safety, and Caroline Haslett was appointed as chair of the Home Safety Committee, a post she held until 1936. She became the first woman vice president of the association in 1937.[7]

From 1946 to 1954 Haslett was the only woman member of the Council of the British Institute of Management, and the first woman Chairman (from 1953 to 1954) of the British Electrical Development Association. She edited the Electrical Handbook for Women and Household Electricity.

Dame Caroline became President of the British Federation of Business and Professional Women and President of the International Federation in 1950. She was greatly helped by JPFrederick Stephen Button, CBE.


In recognition of her services she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1931 and was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1947. She was elected an IEE Companion in 1932. From 1950 until her death she was JP for the County of London.

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War she was the only woman member of the 20 person committee convened by the IEE to examine the requirements for electrical installations in post-war Britain, part of a larger scheme of Post-War Building Studies. An important part of those recommendations was a new plug and socket standard, the first requirement for which was To ensure the safety of young children it is of considerable importance that the contacts of the socket-outlet should be protected by shutters or other like means, or by the inherent design of the socket outlet. The result was BS 1363.[8]

She undertook several missions at the request of the British and United States Governments and was appointed chairman of the Hosiery Working Party and Honorary Advisor on Women's Training to the Labour Ministry.[9]

Final years[edit]

In the spring of 1954 she began to show signs of ill health. Following several coronary thromboses she retired to live in the Bungay home of her sister (and biographer) Rosalind Messenger, and it was there that she died on 4 January 1957.[10] Reportedly, her dying wish was that she be cremated by electricity.[11]


  1. ^ "Haslett, Dame Caroline Harriet". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  2. ^ Haines, Catharine M. C. (2001). "Haslett, Caroline". International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. ABC-CLIO. pp. 127–129. ISBN 1576070905. 
  3. ^ a b 'Dame Caroline Haslett: Outstanding Woman Engineer', The Times, 5 January 1957
  4. ^ "The all-electric house in Bristol". Design for To-Day: 5–8. January 1936. 
  5. ^ "Dame Caroline Haslett". BBC Woman's Hour. 
  6. ^ a b Electricity and women - the EAW in the inter-war years, University of Westminster 
  7. ^ Messenger, Rosalind (1967), The Doors of Opportunity, A Biography of Dame Caroline Haslett DBE Companion IEE, London: Femina Books, pp. 76–77 
  8. ^ "Post-War Building Studies No. 11 Electrical Installations", HMSO, London 1944
  9. ^ "Archives Biographies: Dame Caroline Haslett". Institute of Engineering and Technology. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  10. ^ Messenger, Rosalind (1967), The Doors of Opportunity, A Biography of Dame Caroline Haslett DBE Companion IEE, London: Femina Books, pp. 197–201 
  11. ^ "Dame Caroline Haslett". BBC - Radio 4 Woman's Hour. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 

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