Edith Aileen Hassett has arguably been the most interesting person in the Anglo Indian Project so far. From marrying her half-cousin to lying about her age, she has provided much intrigue. This post will re-focus on Edith, in particular her official records.
A note on the title of this blog post: Edith died in 1963, officially named Edith Aileen Smith. However, she divorced in 1956 and never changed her name. There is evidence of Elaine, Edith’s daughter, attempting to change Edith’s name (after Edith’s death) to Hassett. This was refused by Darlington Council in 1963. Whilst the official records show ‘Smith’, this blog post will honour Elaines effort to change her mother’s name, hence, the title Edith Aileen Hassett.
Edith was born on 31 October 1903:
Her baptism record reveals:
- Birth date: October 31st, 1903
- Baptism date: December 24th, 1903
- Baptism location: Christ Church, Byculla (Bombay)
- Name: Edith Aileen Wharton
- Parents: William Bernard and Sophia Charlotte Wharton
- Parents abode: Byculla
- Fathers occupation: Mechanic
- Priest performing ceremony: W. Kennelly, Chaplain
Confirming Edith’s date of birth as Halloween and her baptism as Christmas Eve, both in 1903. The baptism took place at Christ Church in Byculla, the residence of Edith’s parents, William Bernard and Sophia Charlotte Wharton.
We know Edith married David Vincent Hassett:
The date remains unknown, as official records have not been discovered yet, however, it is estimated that they married between 1919 (the year Edith turned 16 years old) and 1923 (the year their first child was born). The couple lived in Sion, Bombay, as evidenced in the baptism records of their two children, Elaine and Leonard. (Sion is the last locality within the City limits of Bombay (Mumbai). The Marathi name for Sion is Sheevwhich means boundary or limit. In the 17th century the village formed the boundary between Bombay and Salsette Island).
David Vincent Hassett died in 1941, and official records show that Edith remarried in 1942:
The marriage certificate revealed:
- Marriage location: Presbytery Catholic Mission, Ranchi, Bengal
- Marriage date: 19th April 1942
- Names: Clifford Melville Carr Smith and Edith Aileen Hassett
- Age: Clifford: 23, Edith: 34
- Bachelor or Widower: Clifford: Bachelor, Edith: Widower
- Profession of Clifford: Sgt. J.A.O.C.
- Domicile: Clifford: (unclear: Saharanpur?), Edith: Allahabad
- Father’s name: Clifford: Clifford Melville, Edith: William Bernard
- Mother’s name: Clifford: Emma, Edith: Charlotte Sophie
- Witness signatures: D’Silva, Alphi (Domicile: Piska, Ranchi) and D’Silva, R. (Domicile: Ranchi)
- Minister: Rev. E. De Meulder S.J.
This provided lots of interesting information. Firstly, was the incorrect age of Edith, which should read 39. Secondly, is the apparent 11 year age gap (in reality it is 16 years) between Clifford and Edith. Thirdly, the domicile of Clifford is unclear due to the writing on the certificate, but could be Saharanpur, which is 840 km from Edith’s stated domicile, Allahabad. Fourthly, the certificate (re)confirms Edith’s father as William Bernard, but her mother is named as Charlotte Sophie. We know from previous records that Edith’s mother was called Sophia Charlotte Wharton. This may be an innocent mistake, but may be part of Edith protecting her real age – or access to official documents (although Edith’s father’s name is spelled correctly). Finally, the certificate provides the names of Clifford’s parents as Clifford Melville (father) and Emma (mother).
On 4 December 1956, Edith and Clifford were divorced:
The divorce certificate states that the marriage “be dissolved by reason that since the celebration thereof the said Respondent [Clifford Melville Carr Smith] had been guilty of adultery.”
Some of these points will be followed up in future posts.
Edith had two children to David Vincent Hassett. The couple’s first child, Elaine Cynthia Hassett, was born on 20 November 1923. A year and ten months later, their second child, Leonard Havelock Hassett was born on 6 September 1925.
Edith died on 26 September 1963:
Her death certificate revealed:
- When and where died: 26th September 1963, Memorial Hospital, Darlington (UK)
- Name: Edith Aileen Smith
- Gender: Female
- Age: 59 years
- Occupation: Of 50 Lanethorpe Crescent Darlington. The divorced wife of Clifford Melville Carr Smith. Occupation unknown.
- Cause of death: I (a) Broncho pneumonia, (b) Cerebral thrombosis, (c) Arteriosclerosis. II. Hypertension (certified by M.L. Rathi M.B.)
- Informant: E.C. Wheeler, daughter
- Registered: 27th September 1963
- Registrar: J.N. Tomlinson
A common, and sad, theme throughout the Anglo Indian Project has been the young ages of death. Edith is another young death at just 59 years old, in Darlington, UK. The cause of death was split into four parts:
Ic: Arteriosclerosis is where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances.
II: Hypertension is high blood pressure.
As previously documented, it appears Edith had a colourful life which she lived to the full. Her early life was fraught with tragic events, orphaned by the age of 11. Her later life too, seems to have had its difficulties. As with David Vincent Hassett, Edith’s life is best summed up by her daughter, Elaine:
Mums has always been the sweetest and dearest person to me in all this world. She was plump, dark haired and had the prettiest hands I have ever seen. She was ever so gentle and ladylike and never uttered a harsh word or swore. She had a heart of gold and nobody ever asked for alms in vain or begged for food and didn’t get it. Mums helped everybody but nobody helped her in her time.
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