Caroline was steeped in the cloth trade of the East End of London. Both her parents came from weaving stock, so had been around the manufacture of cloth since childhood, but by the time Caroline – their first daughter and oldest child – came along her father was making a living from making straps and dog collars. Since the neckwear of vicars in the 1880s was more usually referred to as a clerical collar at that time, it’s likely that Caroline’s parents’ income depended on fancy collars for pampered pooches.
Production of luxury, non-essential items, was far from unusual in Shoreditch in the last two decades of the 19th century, where Caroline and her seven siblings grew up. The households surrounding them housed tailors and other cloth workers, invariably of Jewish descent and having arrived in the UK from Russia or Poland, and from the census records of their occupations it is clear that their work involved non-essential clothing and fancy or decorative items.
By 1901 Caroline – who by this stage was in her early 20s – and her whole family were working together to produce luxury fabric items. Her father still made dog collars, while her mother stitched shirts, two of her sisters were machinists while a brother worked with them. Caroline herself was an embroidery cutter, so would have be involved in fiddly and intricate work that put the gloss and style on the products the rest of her family made.
By this stage, Caroline might have been expected to get married, but instead she chose to continue her embroidery and stay working within the family business. This was also a choice made by several of her sisters – the entire family stayed working together for the next decade. The sister closest to Caroline in age died in 1910, in her early 30s, but had worked closely with the rest of the family until that point.
With seven active family members working, their fortunes went up. They were able to move from Shoreditch to Mile End, and Caroline’s father acted as the official salesperson for their products, as a hawker. Caroline herself, alongside one of her sisters, embroidered ladies’ jackets, while one brother made belts, a sister produced garments for horses, another produced hand lace, and the youngest sister was apprenticed to a dress maker.
The difference in the economy caused by the First World War meant that luxury items were less in demand and the situation changed for Caroline’s family. She, alongside several of her younger sisters, married during the four years of the war.
The man of her choosing was a widower with three young children – who had relied on his younger unmarried sister for family support for five years after his wife’s death until Caroline came into the picture. She gained a new family, but at the age of 40 was probably getting past the age of child-bearing, so did not have any children of her own. They moved to Marylebone, where her husband worked as a French polisher and undertaker.
Caroline died ten years later, at the age of just fifty, making her husband twice widowed.
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