Kathleen Haddon was the daughter of anthropologist A. C. Haddon. She was educated at the Perse School for Girls and Newnham College, Cambridge, where she began studying zoology in 1907. She and her sister Mary accompanied their parents to the United States in 1909, where the sisters helped collect string games from coastal communities in Alaska. As a woman Kathleen was ineligible to receive a degree from Cambridge University in 1911, but she was appointed to work as a University Demonstrator in Zoology from 1911 to 1914. In 1914 she travelled with her father as photographer for a three-month survey of the southern coast of Papua, taking covert photographs with a portable folding Vest Pocket Kodak camera, as well as more elaborately prepared photographs with a stand camera. She did not publish her typed manuscript account of the voyage.
She married the geographer O. H. T. Rishbeth.
- Cat's Cradles from Many Lands. London: Longmans, Green & Co, 1901. ISBN 978-1-177-39789-6.
- Artists in String, String Figures: Their Regional Distribution and Social Significance. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1930. ISBN 978-0-404-14127-1.
- String Games for Beginners. 1934. ISBN 978-1-4067-9633-9.
- 'In Papua with a Piece of String', The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society, July 1915, p.140.
- 'Some Australian String Figures', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, N.S. Vol. 30, No. 2 (1918), pp.121–36. Melbourne: Ford & Son.
- 'In the Gulf of New Guinea', Country Life Vol. 24 (1929), pp.268–70.
- Henry Rishbeth (1999) 'Kathleen Haddon (1888–1961)', Bulletin of the International String Figure Association, Vol. 6, pp.1–16.
- Joshua V. Bell, 'For Scientific Purposes a Stand Camera is Essential': Salvaging Photographic Histories in Papua, in C. Morton & E. Edwards (eds.) Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame, Ashgate, 2009, pp.143–70.