Spinning Jenny

There is a myth that Hargreaves named the spinning jenny after his daughter (or, in some versions, his wife) who accidentally knocked over her spinning wheel, whereupon Hargreaves noticed that it kept working as normal, with the spindle now pointed upright. Hargreaves realised, the story says, that there was no particular reason the spindles had to be horizontal, as they always had been, and he could place them vertically in a row.

In fact, records show that although Hargreaves had several daughters, none of them was called Jenny (or Jennifer); and his wife's name was Elizabeth. The more likely explanation is that 'jenny' is an abbreviation for 'engine'.

© Haydn Thompson 2017