Feature Articles - The Life of Evelina Haverfield - Marriage and Independence

Evelina Haverfield At the age of nineteen, Evelina married Major Henry Haverfield, an  officer in the Royal Artillery, who was twenty years her senior.  They settled in Exeter where Henry was stationed with his regiment, and lived there until his retirement from the army in 1890, when they moved to a country house near Sherborne, Dorset.

During their first two years of marriage, Evelina gave birth to two boys.  Their marriage, although a happy one, was short, as Henry died after only eight years of marriage.  His death left her a young widow with two small boys to raise on her own.

Evelina was fortunate in having had a happy childhood, and parents who encouraged learning and independence.  Because of her particular situation she enjoyed a level of personal freedom not shared by most women of her time.  In the late1800s, social customs still confined most women to living at their parental home until they married, and curtailed their freedom to act independently outside of their domestic situation.

By the 1890s, an increasing number of women demanded the right to live independently of their parents, to manage their own finances, to travel alone, and to determine the direction of their lives in all respects.

These new ideas became synonymous with the concept of the "advanced woman".  Not only did Evelina enjoy considerable freedom to live her life as she chose, but she expected to be able to do so even if her choices
ran counter to accepted social customs.  Her lifestyle was that of an "advanced woman", years ahead of her time.

During the last half of the nineteenth century the modern bicycle was developed, and by the 1890s large numbers of people enthusiastically adopted it's use.  Evelina acquired one, named it Pegasus, and used it extensively, in company with others but also by herself.  This latter use by a woman was considered very daring in the 1890s.  Her diary for several months in 1896 gives some idea of the busy, strenuous, and unconventional lifestyle that she frequently chose for herself.

April 1896

For her boys, John and Brook, who were eight and seven years old, Evelina planned a two-week holiday at Eastbourne.  Along with a governess to supervise the boys, and with Pegasus included, the party took the train from London to Eastbourne.

Some days there, they all went together for a day's outing, on foot or by steamer.  But because of her interest in historic buildings and ancient sites, Evelina did a lot of sightseeing on her own, with Pegasus, while the governess kept the boys occupied.

On their return to London at the end of the holiday, the governess and the boys travelled by train, but Evelina chose to ride Pegasus most of the distance, about sixty miles!  It took her seven hours to reach London as the day was windy, the road hilly, and the weather very hot.

May 1896

With three friends, all on bicycles, Evelina made day trips from London to see such well-known places as Hampton Court and Richmond.  On one such excursion they visited friends in Guildford, and then cycled on as far as Winchester.  At this point her friends headed back to London, but Evelina continued on her own through small villages to stay with friends in Hampshire and Dorset.

She pedalled as far west as Sherborne to see friends there, and then cycled back to London.  Some days, after six or seven hours of pedalling, she arrived "not at all tired".  Other times she reported, "arrived 7:30 very hot and dusty".

June/July 1896

Evelina, along with her sister, Helen, and two gentlemen friends, went to Norway for five weeks of fishing the mountain streams, and sailing in the ocean fiords.  She spent long hours fishing and sailing, in all kinds of weather, excited by the challenge that these sports provided.

On her return to London, in early July, she wrote: "Boys delighted to see me again.  So ended one of the happiest months I ever passed."

August 1896

She took the boys to Weymouth for a month's holiday before taking them to their first boarding school.  Her diary doesn't describe this holiday, but it no doubt was planned so that the boys were entertained while Evelina was free to pursue her own strenuously active interests.

September 1896

"Today I took the boys to their first school, Park House, Reading.  Friends met us there.  We did some shopping for the boys and then all drove up to the school where in half an hour's time I had to bid my dear fellows farewell.  They did not mind at all, I was rather overcome.  I went straight up to Scotland that night to Ross-shire for a visit with friends at Strathgarve."

October 1896

Following her visit to Scotland, and her return to London, Evelina went down to Torquay to visit other friends.  Her diary briefly describes one day's activity during her stay:

"Walked to Teignmouth with Alice Cardin, Mr. Trodsham and Mr. Erskine, lunched and took a boat up the Teign to Newton Abbot, back to tea at Combe Cellars.  Rowed back to Teignmouth whence Alice and Mr. T went home by train.  Erskine and I walked back, bright moonlight, home by 8 o'clock."

This brief entry in her diary sounds like an ordinary pleasant day's outing by four young people.  But because of the actual distances between the places she mentioned, it appears that they may have walked for most of three hours before lunch, and spent another three hours on the river in a rowing-boat, with only a break for tea before starting for home in the afternoon.

At this point, two of the party had had enough exercise and understandably chose to return to Torquay by train.  But Evelina, always keen for more activity, chose to walk the eight miles back.  And one of the gentlemen, whether he had had enough or not, was obliged to accompany her.

They got back after dark having been out possibly for eleven hours, most of it walking or rowing.  Anything less strenuous probably would not have held her interest.

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A "dope can" was a metal syringe containing petrol for priming an aircraft engine.

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Evelina Haverfield