In the beginning…
Irene Rose Mawer was born on 13th March 1893, to Henry Mawer (known as Harry) and Rosina Alberta Mawer (nee Turner). As the sixth and final child, Irene was born into an affluent family in the Wandsworth borough of Surrey which, following boundary changes, later became part of London.
One month after her birth Irene was baptised into the Church of England at the Holy Trinity Church in Wandsworth which was close to the family home in Wimbledon Park, Wandsworth. Her father is noted in the Baptismal records as living at Park Lodge, Wimbledon Park where he conducted his business as a house furnisher. The family moved home several times, but always stayed local to the area – no doubt to keep an eye on this family business.
With the expansion of the railways, London grew rapidly and Wandsworth came to include Putney, where Irene later went to school.
Harry was a Yorkshireman from the bluff coal and steel town of Rotherham and he was married to a West Country lass hailing from the pretty coastal town of Sidmouth in Devon. Both were living far from their original homes but all six of their children were London-born, including Irene.
As a little girl born into a wealthy family Irene would have been dressed by the household servants in the fashion of the day: a smock-type dress with layers of petticoats underneath and the material of the full skirt gathered onto a yoked bodice. Only a few years previously Irene’s mother would have been wearing the popular bustle, but by the time Irene was born clothing was changing rapidly and little girls were gaining a lot more freedom of movement. As Irene grew a older, she would have had the benefit of clothes which were a “more practical alternative to the previous rigid, fitted bodices and reflected school-aged girls becoming more active” (Colleen R. Callahan – Fashion History, lovetoknow). Perhaps this new freedom, this ability to move about with a relative ease not known to earlier gentrified children is what stood Irene in good stead for her future career in movement.