Monday, June 8, 2009
Survivor of All Three Sisters
Violet Constance Jessop was born on October 2, 1887 to William and Katherine Jessop near Blanca, Argentina. William had emigrated from Dublin, Ireland around 1884-1885, and his fiance Katherine followed him in 1886. Violet Jessop was the firstborn of 9, although only 6 survived. Violet got tuberculosis at an early age, but recovered despite the doctors' prediction that she wouldn't live a month. She and her family moved to Great Britain after her father died, and she continued her education in a convent school while her mother was a stewardess. After her mother got sick, she quit school and became a stewardess at the age of 23 for the Royal Mail Line. She was then transferred to the White Star Line. She was paid £2 ($10) per month, working 17 hours per day. She boarded the R.M.S. Olympic on October 20, 1910. One voyage ended shortly, after a collision with the H.M.S. Hawke in 1911. She continued as stewardess on the Olympic, until being transferred to the R.M.S. Titanic, Olympic's sister ship. She boarded on April 10, 1912 like most of the crew. She served as 1st Class stewardess and in her memoirs, she wrote that Thomas Andrews took her suggestions on improving the ship, and earned her admiration along with all other crewmen because he actually listened and gave them advice, and respected eachother, with both being Irish. She also claimed to have been friends with Scotsman and bandleader, Wallace Hartley. On April 14-15, 1912 when the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank. She was able to board a lifeboat, and was given an infant. She cared for the infant until reaching the decks of the rescue ship, Carpathia. Then, once on deck, the infant was snatched from her arms by a woman without a word, and ran off. She went on the Britannic (Titanic and Olympic's sister ship) in 1916, as a nurse (the Britannic had been turned into a hospital ship due to WWI). The Britannic struck a mine on the Aegean Sea, and began to sink. She was asleep, and immediately grabbed a toothbrush (a lesson learned after the Titanic, going for several days without a toothbrush and getting several cavities) and ran up on deck. She boarded a lifeboat and it was launched. However, the captain tried to beach the Britannic. So, with the propellers rising out of the water, the boat began being sucked towards it. She jumped despite her fear of water after the Titanic, and was sucked under the Britannic. Then, she went straight up and her head hit the bottom of the Britannic. She went into panic, and then she felt a hand which she could tell was alive. Then, they went up together and were pulled aboard a lifeboat, just as the Britannic made her final plunge. She later had severe headaches and went to the doctor where she found out that she fractured her skull. Afterwards, she continued to work for the White Star Line, and then worked for the Red Star Line, Royal Mail Line. She had a short marriage in the 1930s (the groom has never been identified), and retired in 1950 in Great Ashfield, Suffolk after 42 years at sea. One night, she got a phone call from a woman, asking if she saved a baby on the Titanic. After Violet said yes, the woman revealed that she was that infant. She laughed, and hung up. No one has ever identified the caller, or the infant. She was interviewed by Woman Magazine, and by Walter Lord for A Night To Remember. Throughout her life, she was a devout and Catholic. She was a very strong believer in prayer. She in fact, always carried a rosary in her apron or around her neck. Violet Jessop died of congestive heart failure in 1971. There is a book called "Titanic Survivor" (pictured above), telling the story of her life which is based off of her memoirs.