In the endless quest to find Elizabeth Miles who owned a corset business, I stumbled across Bernadette Weare – a lady who owned her own corset business in 1930’s London.
I first became aware of Bernadette when she was known as Bernadette Copsey marrying Frederick Weare in London in April 1893. Continuing to click around the Ancestry search screen, I found Bernadette in 1891 working as an assistant to Ann Drake, a 64 year old corset maker located half a mile from Buckingham Palace, born in Bristol, with a 26 year old son, Frederick Weare. Ann Drake’s business was situated alongside a butchers, a dressmaker, a trunk maker, a tobacconist, a blindmaker and a chemist.
Ann Drake, was twice a widow, the daughter of John and Mary Ann Groves, the sister to Elizabeth Groves and aunt to William Henry Miles and fourth great aunt to myself. In 1851, Ann was living in Clifton Rd, Bristol with her sisters Mary and Elizabeth working as a stay maker. In 1861, Ann was living with her sister, Mary a dressmaker in South Molten St, Mayfair and working as a stay maker. Elizabeth Adams and her daughter, Emma, were dressmakers living in the same building. Emma was the of a similar age to Mary and born in Bristol. I’ve yet to find Elizabeth nor Emma in records relating to Bristol but can only imagine that the Groves sisters had known the Adams family in Bristol and found opportunity through them when they moved to London.
Bernadette and Frederick were married in the months following Ann’s death and in the 1901 census they are living in Ann’s house continuing Ann’s business. Ten years later they are in their late 40’s with no children continuing the corset making business. After Frederick’s death, Bernadette continued the business operating in different addresses in Kensington and retiring (possibly) in Blyth, Suffolk according to the 1939 England and Wales Register.
This all appears relatively straight forward and doesn’t warrant the title of “Who is Bernadette Copsey?” That is until I began delving into her past.
In 1891, there was an additional assistant to Ann Drake also bearing the surname Copsey. Her name was Alice and she was 15 (thirteen years younger than Bernadette) and one supposes she was Bernadette’s sister. However, when I went searching for Bernadette and Alice’s family, I could find Alice’s but not Bernadette’s. Furthermore, all the hints suggested records for Emma Copsey. In addition, searching for Bernadette resulted in no success.
I suspect that Emma is Bernadette and Bernadette is Emma .. however, I can not know for sure. In any case, Bernadette is a peer of my very great aunt, Elizabeth. A woman who pursued a career with success.