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Tilly Caplan was born Tauba Goldstone in Strangeways, Manchester in 1900. Her father was from Russia and her mother from Germany. They met when watching some Yiddish theatre in Manchester.
Tilly’s family were strictly orthodox, and this upbringing had a big influence on her life. She received her secular education at Manchester Jews School but also attended religious classes on a Sunday morning. The strict anglicising tactics employed at the Jews School meant that Tilly had to accept a new name at age five. The headmistress of the girls’ section of the school, the formidable Miss Raphael, would not accept her Hebrew name, Tauba.
After school, Tilly went to work embroidering underwear and later joined the staff of Levy and Weisgard’s waterproofing factory as a machinist. She married Nathan in 1926 and had a family.