You should try and install smartdrv.exe (the MS-DOS disk cache driver) onto the boot floppy. I don't know 100% for sure if the Windows 95 installation is affected, but Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 installations started from MS-DOS were incredibly slow to copy the files if smartdrv.exe wasn't loaded (the file copy phase of the installation would take at least three times as long).
Another thing that makes Windows 95 into a swap zombie is if the disk controllers are loaded in 16-bit compatabiliy mode. IIRC under origional Windows 95 (not as much under OSR2), a lot of laptops had this issue because it didn't include many chipset drivers. Even common Intel chipsets will have performance issues until you install the proper chipset software.
Of course it could also be caused by a variety of hardware related issues...
For example, I've installed Windows 95 on 486's with 8MB of RAM and had decent performance, yet an IBM Aptiva with a Pentium II and 128MB of RAM struggles and seems to perform worse. The Aptiva used an ALi IDE chipset which was really slow and IBM paired it with a Quantum Bigfoot hard drive which was also really slow due to it's large platter size.