April 15, 1912, 8:50am: Carpathia leaves the site of Titanic’s sinking and heads for New York City with just over 700 of the original 2,224 of Titanic’s passengers aboard
Titanic survivors on the deck of Carpathia
Survivors huddle beneath blankets on Carpathia’s deck. Note the tagged deck chair: likely one of Titanic’s pulled from the water
A couple on their honeymoon who survived the sinking
Boats for Women
One of my on-again off-again obsessions is Titanic history. At some point during my life I gained possession of a book called The Titanic: End of a Dream by Wynn Craig Jones. Where’d I get it? I have no idea. But it was one of the things (along with the 1997 movie) which unlocked my fascination with all things Titanic.
The thing I found most interesting about it was that it dealt with the impact the disaster had on American/British society. These were things I’d never thought much about before…this huge knock-on effect.
And one of the ripple effects of the Titanic sinking, if you’ll excuse the actually completely accidental pun, concerned women’s suffrage.
Women didn’t have the vote yet. That wouldn’t happen until 1918 for Britain and 1920 for America. And even then it wasn’t all women. To put it bluntly, it was a terrible time to be female…
…unless you were in one very specific scenario: on board an ocean liner about to sink with limited space on the lifeboats.
And this was a scenario no-one expected to suddenly have SO MUCH relevance. Shortly after the Titanic reached its last resting place, it became increasingly clear that “who gets lifeboats and why” was a question the suffragettes were gonna have to face head-on.
Obviously we in the modern day find this all a no-brainer in the realm of “Every adult gets a vote AND a lifeboat, dummies.” Not so in 1912. Suddenly, the male-run media had the perfect stick to beat those – what words would they have used given the chance? – those virtue-signalling woke vote-wanting libs with. According to End of a Dream, one Clark McAdams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch penned this jaunty taunt:
“Votes for women!”
Was the cry
To the sky
And flashing eye-
“Votes for women!”
Was the cry.
“Boats for women!”
Was the cry.
When the brave
Were come to die.
When the end
Was drawing nigh
“Boats for women!”
Was the cry.
I would like to venture the opinion that Mr McAdams was not a very good poet.
And a man called Reverend Dr Leighton Parks, described on his Wikipedia page as a liberal but I guess one in name only, said-
…the men on the Titanic sacrificed themselves for the women and children. The women did not ask for the sacrifice but it was made. Those women who go about shrieking for their “rights” want something very different.
Ah, those pesky “rights.”
But as one could probably guess by looking at, well, any anti-woman movement over the past few decades, many women themselves were also thoroughly of the notion that the suffragettes should shut up and show some respect to the dead men at the bottom of the sea, even though it was the poor policies of other men rather than women that put them there. I suppose there was a smattering of “Don’t you make this tragedy political!” an utter failure of a concept since all tragedy is political.
A woman called Mrs John Martin – her actual name, as opposed to that of her husband, appears to be lost to history – of the League for the Civic Education of Women wrote that “we are willing to let men die for us, but not to vote for us.” Other women went further. The anti-suffragettes and First Lady Nellie Taft crowdfunded (one dollar each!) a statue to be erected to “male chivalry,” and it’s still around today as far as I know –
Suddenly attendence at suffragette rallies was down and equal voting rights were seemingly even further away. A suffragette named Lida Stokes Adams threw a little more fuel on the fire by suggesting that women aboard the Titanic “lost one of the greatest chances ever presented to aid the cause of suffrage when they didn’t assert themselves and prove they are as courageous as the men.”
Lida Stokes Adams probably wouldn’t have cared much that a century into the future some woman in her pyjamas was criticizing her via a magic box, (though she might have liked that I’m allowed to vote) but – jeez, Adams, victim-blaming much? Because there were many women who proved just that, take Ida Straus for the most famous example. Or Molly Brown, who helped row a lifeboat and urged the men to go back for more survivors. (Historians aren’t sure if she succeeded or not. She gets points for trying though.) But also there were undoubtably countless other women who were extremely courageous and their stories simply never got told. Because they were poor, third-class, and an afterthought.
Every so often there are arguments suggesting we should bring back the kind of chivalry found on the Titanic. Here’s one, for a start. (That’s the Atlantic, so it’s probably behind a paywall now, sorry.) But during 1912 there were of course many suffragettes who said simply, we would have preferred to stay with our husbands on the ship rather than get into a lifeboat and leave them. I do wonder how many of those statements were about honour rather than love.
But I also wonder about “women and children first.” The cutoff age for a “child” back then was much younger than it is now. It wasn’t eighteen, it was more around twelve or thirteen. Many boys of that age, despite being still children, were considered men and they were barred from the boats and died. Part of the anti-suffrage movement was all about promoting women as mothers above all. Yet they believed, apparently, that those mothers ought to be okay with having their sons ripped from them and left to die. What else could the endpoint of that rhetoric be?
Obviously, we know what happened, we know who won. I suppose the last word goes to famous suffragette Harriot Stanton Blatch, who upon being asked what women would have done had the positions been reversed, answered, “We should have laws requiring plenty of lifeboats.”
fourteen favourite shots: Titanic
I’ve been on a bit of a Titanic kick recently. I screencapped the movie and I remembered how utterly sad and fascinating I find that story.
I know the film gets a lot of flack but the performances! God the performances are so good. Kate Winslet says so much with just her eyes, see shots 3 and 4 for example. Also Jonathan Hyde’s acting as J. Bruce Ismay is so very underrated. The scene where he escapes the ship, ahead of people who deserved it more… oh man. That’s one of my favourite parts of the movie.
Also how great is the fading transition which makes Jack and Rose into ghosts on the decaying ship?
But I think my favourite shot in Titanic is the first one in this set, of Jack and Cal and the unnamed father standing over the lifeboat. Jack and Cal never existed, but that guy – based on what he says to his daughters in that scene, he would appear to be Benjamin Hart. Who did very much exist, and died on the ship that night.
Please make a post about the story of the RMS Carpathia, because it’s something that’s almost beyond belief and more people should know about it.
Carpathia received Titanic’s distress signal at 12:20am, April 15th, 1912. She was 58 miles away, a distance that absolutely could not be covered in less than four hours.
(Californian’s exact position at the time is…controversial. She was close enough to have helped. By all accounts she was close enough to see Titanic’s distress rockets. It’s uncertain to this day why her crew did not respond, or how many might not have been lost if she had been there. This is not the place for what-ifs. This is about what was done.)
Carpathia’s Captain Rostron had, yes, rolled out of bed instantly when woken by his radio operator, ordered his ship to Titanic’s aid and confirmed the signal before he was fully dressed. The man had never in his life responded to an emergency call. His goal tonight was to make sure nobody who heard that fact would ever believe it.
All of Carpathia’s lifeboats were swung out ready for deployment. Oil was set up to be poured off the side of the ship in case the sea turned choppy; oil would coat and calm the water near Carpathia if that happened, making it safer for lifeboats to draw up alongside her. He ordered lights to be rigged along the side of the ship so survivors could see it better, and had nets and ladders rigged along her sides ready to be dropped when they arrived, in order to let as many survivors as possible climb aboard at once.
I don’t know if his making provisions for there still being survivors in the water was optimism or not. I think he knew they were never going to get there in time for that. I think he did it anyway because, god, you have to hope.
Carpathia had three dining rooms, which were immediately converted into triage and first aid stations. Each had a doctor assigned to it. Hot soup, coffee, and tea were prepared in bulk in each dining room, and blankets and warm clothes were collected to be ready to hand out. By this time, many of the passengers were awake–prepping a ship for disaster relief isn’t quiet–and all of them stepped up to help, many donating their own clothes and blankets.
And then he did something I tend to refer to as diverting all power from life support.
Here’s the thing about steamships: They run on steam. Shocking, I know; but that steam powers everything on the ship, and right now, Carpathia needed power. So Rostron turned off hot water and central heating, which bled valuable steam power, to everywhere but the dining rooms–which, of course, were being used to make hot drinks and receive survivors. He woke up all the engineers, all the stokers and firemen, diverted all that steam back into the engines, and asked his ship to go as fast as she possibly could. And when she’d done that, he asked her to go faster.
I need you to understand that you simply can’t push a ship very far past its top speed. Pushing that much sheer tonnage through the water becomes harder with each extra knot past the speed it was designed for. Pushing a ship past its rated speed is not only reckless–it’s difficult to maneuver–but it puts an incredible amount of strain on the engines. Ships are not designed to exceed their top speed by even one knot. They can’t do it. It can’t be done.
Carpathia’s absolute do-or-die, the-engines-can’t-take-this-forever top speed was fourteen knots. Dodging icebergs, in the dark and the cold, surrounded by mist, she sustained a speed of almost seventeen and a half.
No one would have asked this of them. It wasn’t expected. They were almost sixty miles away, with icebergs in their path. They had a respondibility to respond; they did not have a responsibility to do the impossible and do it well. No one would have faulted them for taking more time to confirm the severity of the issue. No one would have blamed them for a slow and cautious approach. No one but themselves.
They damn near broke the laws of physics, galloping north headlong into the dark in the desperate hope that if they could shave an hour, half an hour, five minutes off their arrival time, maybe for one more person those five minutes would make the difference. I say: three people had died by the time they were lifted from the lifeboats. For all we know, in another hour it might have been more. I say they made all the difference in the world.
This ship and her crew received a message from a location they could not hope to reach in under four hours. Just barely over three hours later, they arrived at Titanic’s last known coordinates. Half an hour after that, at 4am, they would finally find the first of the lifeboats. it would take until 8:30 in the morning for the last survivor to be brought onboard. Passengers from Carpathia universally gave up their berths, staterooms, and clothing to the survivors, assisting the crew at every turn and sitting with the sobbing rescuees to offer whatever comfort they could.
In total, 705 people of Titanic’s original 2208 were brought onto Carpathia alive. No other ship would find survivors.
At 12:20am April 15th, 1912, there was a miracle on the North Atlantic. And it happened because a group of humans, some of them strangers, many of them only passengers on a small and unimpressive steam liner, looked at each other and decided: I cannot live with myself if I do anything less.
I think the least we can do is remember them for it.
…I want this movie now.
These two were supposedly based on a real couple, who said they wouldn’t board a life boat as long as there were younger people still aboard the ship. They both went below deck, presumably to their room, and that’s the last time they were seen.
Isador & Ida Straus
The couple had been married for 41 years at the time of the disaster. They raised six children together, and were almost inseparable. On the rare occasion that they were apart, they wrote each other every day. They even celebrated their birthdays on the same day, although they were well apart from one another. During the sinking, Titanic’s officers pleaded with the 63 year old Ida to board a lifeboat and escape the disaster, but she repeatedly refused to leave her husband. Instead, she placed her maid in a lifeboat, taking her fur coat off and handing it to the maid while saying, “I won’t need this anymore”. At one point, she was convinced to enter one of the last two lifeboats, but jumped out as her husband walked away to rejoin him.
When last seen by witnesses, they were standing on deck, holding each other in a tight embrace. Their funeral drew some 6,000 mourners at Carnegie Hall.
A monument to them still stands in a Bronx cemetery, it’s inscription reads: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.”
why wasn’t the movie about them
why wasn’t the movie about them
Another few bits of trivia:
Both were Jewish, and Isidor was one of the co-owners of Macy’s.
The maid, Ellen Bird, went to their family to return the fur coat, specifically to their eldest daughter, Sara Straus Hess. She was gently refused, with Sara telling Ellen that Ida had given her the coat and she should keep it.
When her husband urged her to get into a boat, Ida told him “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.”Her words were witnessed by those already in Lifeboat No. 8 as well as many others who were on the boat deck at the time. Eyewitnesses described the scene as a “most remarkable exhibition of love and devotion.”
Long story short, there should absolutely be a movie about them.
When I was a little kid I was SUPER into the Titanic story, and I learned a lot about the people who lived and died. The movie came out when I was in high school, but I never saw it, and a friend asked why and I said, “Because it isn’t about the Strauses.”
I wasn’t necessarily mad it wasn’t about them specifically, but there are DOZENS of stories like the Straus story, all of which are more compelling for being real. They could have told any one of them, or several of them intertwined, and I’m still kinda angry about it.
The one thing this blog has taught me is that people have always been sarcastic with a dark sense of humor
We certainly have! Just look at this joke, 9 days after the sinking of the Titanic..
The Topeka Daily Capital, Kansas, April 24, 1912
February is Black History Month and, although I myself am not Black, I believe there is importance in knowing history.
The tweet above is, in my opinion, a prime example of why Black History Month is important and why Black History matters, especially Black History that is rarely discussed. In a world where mainstream history tends to overlook the stories of Black individuals it is easy to make assumptions that People of Color were not there to witness events such as the sinking of the Titanic, and due to the ignored presence of said individuals, it is easy to dismiss tragedies that seemingly did not affect one’s own people. Despite Hollywood depictions of centuries past, Black people are everywhere. From the eruption of Vesuvius to Elizabethan England, Black people have been present in history. (On a side note, in the 2015 movie ‘Pompeii’, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje portrays the role of a slave/gladiator but I remember while watching a documentary on the eruption of Vesuvius, a historian pointed out that there is evidence that one of the wealthiest families in Herculaneum, Pompeii’s often overlooked and much more interesting neighbor, was a Black family. Why couldn’t we get a movie about them instead?)
The finely dressed gentleman above is Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche (b. May 26, 1886, d. April 15, 1912) along with his french wife Juliette (1889-1980) and their two daughters, Simonne (1909-1973) and Louise (1910-1998).
Joseph was born in Haiti and had traveled to France at the age of fifteen to study engineering, while in France he met Juliette Lafargue and they were married in March of 1908.
After Louise’s birth, the couple decided to move their growing family to Haiti in order to escape discrimination and provide for their children, especially Louise who had been born prematurely and needed constant care.
In 1912, Juliette discovered she was pregnant once more and the couple decided to bring forward their journey by a year. Joseph’s mother purchased first-class tickets on Le France for them but because of the ship’s strict policies regarding children (they were to be kept separate from their parents, in the nursery, even during dinner), they transferred their tickets for second-class accommodations on board RMS Titanic.
The family boarded RMS Titanic through the Nomadic in Cherbourg on the evening of April 10.
It is believed that Joseph and his family kept to themselves throughout the voyage, he was no doubt a loving father and most likely spent his final days enjoying the company of his wife and two daughters. Any other information about their time on board has been lost to history; due to uninterested historians, no doubt.
On the evening of April 14, the RMS Titanic sideswiped an iceberg approximately 400 miles from shore, and after two hours and forty minutes, sank beneath the surface of the North Atlantic, descending, in pieces, two and a half miles to the ocean floor.
As the lifeboats were being lowered, Joseph made sure his family were safely taken off the ship before dying a heroic death.
When the Carpathia arrived on the scene early the next morning, Simonne and Louise were raised onto the ship in burlap sacks for they were too small to climb the swinging rope ladder that was lowered on the side of the ship.
Upon arriving in New York, alone and with no one to meet her at the dock, Juliette decided to take her daughters back to France. On December 17, 1912, she gave birth to a boy whom she named Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche, Jr.
Years later, in 1918, Juliette successfully sued the White Star Line for 150,000 francs and used the money to set up a business in order to provide for her three children.
In March of 1995, Louise Laroche, now an old woman, stepped on board the Nomadic; the last place where her father Joseph had been before boarding Titanic; for the first time in eighty-five years. She was also present in the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the passengers that departed from Cherbourg.
History is important, especially history that is not regularly discussed or covered by mainstream media, and in this month it is especially important to remember the many Individuals of Color that, without proper research, we would not know about. Black Lives Matter and Black History Matters. It is everywhere yet it is usually, unfortunately, overlooked. I believe we should all look for the obscure and hidden stories in Black History, especially in this time (not just because its February), and share these stories with others and celebrate the heroic People of Color that are no longer with us.
Titanic (film) trivia: The shooting star was a motif originally meant to be seen a few times throughout the film but ended being omitted in the final cut. Shooting stars became associated with death during a deleted scene as Jack mentions they symbolize a soul going to heaven. A shooting star was meant to be seen later in the film as Rose is lying on the wooden panel looking at the constellation, indicating Jack had passed away and his soul was crossing over.
Sarah’s month of icons: Romances
Credit if you want (it’s nice!), comment if you want, don’t hotlink, more stuff at Starlit Blue. :)
Screencaps are from _jems_ and eclecticwave and xcaptura
Featured: Atonement, Moulin Rouge, Titanic
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