Daphne Louise Haldinstein was born on 10 February 1899 in Norwich to Alfred Haldinstein and Edith Haldinstein (Alfred's second wife). Daphne Haldin was the second youngest of seven children, her siblings were: Constance, Henry, George, Frank, Mary and Joyce. Her father Alfred was a shoe manufacturer and merchant, and later became president of the Norwich Hebrew Congregation, chairman of the Norfolk Daily Standard Company Ltd and sheriff of Norwich. The family lived at 161 Yarmouth Road, Blofield with six domestic servants, whilst Haldin was a child.
Haldin's father died in 1919 and was buried in Norwich. Unlike her siblings, Haldin never married, she and her mother remained in Norfolk after her father's death but by 1927 they had moved to London where they took up residence at 13 Ladbroke Terrace, W11. Between 1936 and her death in 1940, Haldin's mother, Edith, moved to Bournemouth where she died. Haldin remained in London living, between 1939-1943, at 80 Rossmore Court, Park Road, NW1, before moving to 1 Rossmore Court, where remained until her death in 1973.
Although christened Haldinstein, Daphne referred to herself as Haldin in all correspondence and on documents. When or why Haldin first began to refer to herself as Haldin rather than Haldinstein is unknown. No other family members did so.
Haldin's main employment was as a tutor for Truman & Knightly Associates School of Administration Services. She also worked in a freelance capacity as a shorthand instructor for Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. She held the post of honourable secretary of the Society of Jews and Christians in the early 1930s.
It is unclear where Haldin's interest in art came from and how much formal training she had as an art historian. However, it is known that she enrolled in a History of Art course at the University of London, University College (UCL) in January 1938, for at least one session, and had previously been educated at the University of London. The only known publication by Haldin was an article: Haldin, D. and Edings, C A.. (1 July 1931). 'Mediaeval Memorial Brasses (Art.)'. The Connoisseur, vol. 88, p. 20.
During the 1950s, she began research for her proposed dictionary of women artists born before 1850. It is this project to which most of the papers in the archive pertain. Haldin hoped to redress the gender imbalance in previous dictionaries of artists, and set herself the task of collecting information on female artists, of all kinds, who were based in Europe and born before 1850. She discounted those she found to be amateurs and several artists were removed from her listings if she was unable to trace or confirm them in any available source. It seems that she conducted this large research project in an amateur capacity but was assisted by at least four different people at various points. It is uncertain if they were paid, or friends, or volunteers, but she did contact the Slade School of Art at one point during the project seeking art students to help with her work. Certainly, one assistant, Gretl, was translating entries in Thieme-Becker (Thieme, U. and Becker, F. (1907-50) Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Kunstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart : unter Mitwirkung von 300 fachgelehrten des in- und Auslandes. Leipzig: Seemann) from German to English. From the material collected in the archive it seems that Haldin's process was to gather names from the above mentioned dictionaries and other sources, as well as historic exhibition lists, and then work through them to collate information into bundles of notes until they were considered complete. Assistants typed these notes up into one single entry so they could be filed separately.
Despite pursuing a number of publishers, the dictionary was never published. The material in this archive collection is largely still in note form and there is no complete manuscript or draft which would suggest that research phase was completed either.