One could argue that ship stewardess Violet Jessop was even more unsinkable than Molly Brown, as she survived no less than three maritime disasters. Jessop was on board the Olympic in 1911 when it collided with another ship. (The Olympic was able to make it to port without sinking.) On the Titanic, she was saved when she boarded Lifeboat 16. “I was ordered up on deck. Calmly, passengers strolled about. I stood at the bulkhead with the other stewardesses, watching the women cling to their husbands before being put into the boats with their children. Sometime after, a ship’s officer ordered us into the boat first to show some women it was safe,” she wrote in her memoir.
As if that wasn’t enough, she later worked as a nurse on the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, which struck a German mine in 1916. The ship sank, and though 30 people lost their lives, more than 1000 were saved. “I leapt into the water but was sucked under the ship’s keel which struck my head,” Jessop remembered. “I escaped, but years later when I went to my doctor because of a lot of headaches, he discovered I had once sustained a fracture of the skull!” She continued to work on ships until she retired, and she died at age 84 in 1971.
Molly Brown wasn’t the only fascinating and inspiring woman on Lifeboat 6. There was also Elsie Bowerman, an advocate for women’s suffrage both before and after her fateful voyage on the Titanic. Here’s what she later wrote about that night, according to Biography.com: “The silence when the engines stopped was followed by a steward knocking on our door and telling us to go on deck. This we did and were lowered into lifeboats, where we were told to get away from the liner as soon as we could in case of suction. This we did, and to pull an oar in the midst of the Atlantic in April with icebergs floating about is a strange experience.”
Bowerman later became a nurse in World War I and also witnessed the Russian Revolution while she was stationed there in 1917. And after women got the vote in England in 1918, she was allowed to study law and became the first barrister to practise at famed London Courthouse the Old Bailey. During World War II, she served in the Women’s Royal Volunteer Service, and afterward, she helped organise the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women. Bowerman died in 1973 at age 83.
A silent film actress on holiday with her mother, Dorothy Gibson was saved on Lifeboat 7. According to Smithsonian Magazine, she later recounted that when the ship went down, “suddenly there was a wild coming together of voices from the ship and we noticed an unusual commotion among the people about the railing. Then the awful thing happened, the thing that will remain in my memory until the day I die. No one can describe the frightful sounds.”
Gibson went on to star in the first movie about the disaster, Saved from the Titanic, which premiered just a month after the sinking. But she was haunted by the disaster and soon left the movie business and moved to Europe. Tragedy struck again for Gibson during World War II, when she was imprisoned in a concentration camp. She survived but died in 1946 from a possible heart attack at age 56.
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