Titanic Gazette Souvenir Shop

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Titanic Gazette Souvenir Shop

Friday, February 22, 2008

Edith Russell

Edith on the set of the A Night to Remember set

Edith Louis Rosenbaum Russell was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 12, 1879. She was a fashion writer, consultant, importer, buyer and stylist Edith Louise Rousen began her career abroad as a saleswoman in 1908 for the Maison Cheruit in the Place Vendome in Paris. Soon, she wrote for the magazine, La Derniere Heure a Paris which was published by Wanamaker Department Store’s Paris bureau and became a sketch artist for the Butterick Pattern Service.

In 1910, Edith was chief foreign correspondent to Women's Wear Daily, sending out weekly fashion marketing reports and occasional collection news to New York from the publication's Paris branch.

In 1912, Edith was operating a successful buying and consulting service based in Paris and designing her own popular retail line of clothes, called ”Elrose,” for Lord & Taylor in New York.

Meanwhile, Edith had created a name for herself as the first professional fashion stylist. The people she did largely entertainment celebrities included Broadway comedienne Ina Claire, Folies Bergere showgirl Mistinguett, and opera diva Geraldine Farrar.

Apart from her eventful public career, Edith had a notable and private life. In 1911 she was seriously injured in an automobile accident in France while driving with friends to attend the races at Deauville. The crash proved fatal for her fiance Ludwig Loewe, a wealthy German gun manufacturer.

Edith boarded the TITANIC to return to America. She was a bit on edge and didn't allow anyone to enter her room.

Edith later said this in an interview about the night of April 14:
"...In the library. The steward has just called out 11.30 'Lights out' so I gave him a few letters to post in the morning, told him I'd pay for the stamps, picked up a book and walked forward to my stateroom, which was on the same deck, A11.
As I got in my stateroom I switched on the electric light and I noticed a slight jar followed immediately by a second one and a third one which was quite strong enough to make me hold on to the bed post.
The boat came to a full stop. I walked forward to my window and saw a greyish white mass drifting by, was very much surprised and decided to take my fur coat and go out on deck to see what was all about. Well, I got out on deck I noticed a gentleman standing by the rail and several people and again, this greyish mass. I said "What on earth is that?" "That? Well, madam, thats an iceberg." "iceberg? I've always wanted to see one of those things since I was a child." "Well you're seeing a corker now. Theres 1/8th above the water and 7/8ths below and believe me, that's some iceberg." So, after that, we picked up bits of ice, played snowballs for a little while. It was very very cold, I asked one of the officers if there was any danger, he said "no" and I went back to bed."
Before she left, she locked all 19 trunks and then double checked. She got to the Boat Deck but then returned to her cabin to get her lucky pig which she had acquired in Paris. She got into Boat No. 6. After the TITANIC sank, she wound the pig's tail and it played music to drown out the cries of those in the water. It was used as entertainment for the children while awaiting rescue. Edith later filed two of the largest damage claims against the ship's owners, the first for financial loss of her merchandise importations and the other for personal injury.

Edith was American press attache to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Francaise between 1914 and 1919. She also served as war correspondent for the “New York Herald” in 1916-17. In 1918 she changed her name to Russell owing to the French fashion industry's boycotting of German-name merchants and other people like that.

In 1923 Russell received a meritorious service award from the Associated Dress Industries of America and in 1925 was recognized for her work during World War I by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

Throughout the 1920s Edith Russell contributed fashion and society news to such magazines as “Cassell’s” in London and “Moda“ in Rome. Though semi-retired from her import business by 1934, she continued traveling, lecturing, and writing.

Her adventures during the next several years included dancing with Mussolini at a dinner party and breeding dogs for Maurice Chevalier. She also made life-long friends with the young British actor Peter Lawford and his parents and spent much time with them at their home in Palm Beach. She was later a godmother to Lawford’s children with the former Patricia Kennedy.

By the mid-1940s Edith Russell, whom had lived in New York and in Paris’ Champs Elysees, made her permanent home in London at Claridge’s and later at the Embassy House Hotel.

In 1953 Edith Russell was invited by Twentieth Century Fox Studios to attend the New York premiere of the film "TITANIC," starring Barbara Stanwyk, Clifton Webb, and Robert Wagner. She was interviewed by “Life” magazine during her stay in America and also met with historian Walter Lord who included her story in his best-selling book “A Night to Remember,” published in 1956.

Russell afterwards served as a technical adviser to producer William MacQuitty on his 1958 film adaptation of Lord’s book. She was portrayed in the movie as well and attended the premiere as MacQuitty‘s guest of honor.

She made the rounds of the press during the later 1950s and throughout the 60s, telling her account of the TITANIC sinking in numerous interviews in newspapers and magazines and on television and radio. The majority of her TV and radio appearances were with the BBC. She generally brought along her legendary musical pig which she played for audiences. She was made an honorary member of the Titanic Historical Society in 1963.

Until the mid 1960s Russell traveled frequently from London to Florence, Italy where she visited her long-time friend, Jeanne Sacerdote, formerly known as the couturiere "Jenny."

Despite her advanced age and physical frailty, Russell remained active and outspoken in her last years. She attended fund-raisers, gave luncheons and teas for visiting friends, tried unsuccessfully to interest publishers in her memoirs, and continued to be interviewed by reporters about the “Titanic.”

On 4 April 1975 Edith Russell died at the Mary Abbott Hospital in London, following a ten day illness. She was 96. (Some excerpts are from Encyclopedia Titanica).

In a dedication to Edith from her husband, he said this:

To Edith
Dedication of Autobiography

Through the long years
I sought peace
I found ecstasy, I found anguish,
I found madness,
I found loneliness,
I found the solitary pain
that gnaws the heart,
But peace I did not find.

Now, old & near my end,
I have known you,
And, knowing you,
I have found both ecstasy & peace
I know rest
After so many lonely years.
I know what life & love may be.
Now, if I sleep
I shall sleep fulfilled.

Bertrand Russell


Humanette said...

so ironic that Ms. Russell was among the more vocal survivors of the Titanic, telling her story to many a media sources. Meanwhile, it is the Russell Hotel in London that is a near-exact replica of the interior of the Titanic ship...

Anonymous said...

Did you realise that you have mixed up Edith Louise Rosenbaum Russell of Titanic fame with Edith Russell, Bertrand Russell's 4th wife! The first picture is of Edith Louise Rosenbaum Russell but the second one is of Bertrand Russell and his wife. The obitury quoted is nothing to do with Edith Louise Rosenbaum Russell.

Southern Belle said...

No, I did not realize it. Thank you for pointing this out to me. Please feel free to point out any more errors to me so that I can correct them.