Twenty-four-year-old Violet Jessop, the daughter of Irish immigrants who lived in Argentina when she was born in 1887, worked as a steward on board RMS Olympic, the largest civilian luxury liner of its day, when it collided with the British war ship HMS Hawke on September 20, 1911. The ship returned to its port at Southampton in England without sinking and with no fatalities. Seven months later Jessop was hired to work aboard the RMS Titanic which set sail on April 10, 1912 and famously sank four days later after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Violet escaped via lifeboat in that historic accident which took the lives of more than 1,500 people.
Despite surviving two dangerous threats to her life at sea, Violet became a stewardess for the British Red Cross during WWI on a hospital ship HMHS Britannic that had been converted from a commercial liner. On November 21, 1916 the Britannic sank in the Aegean Sea and took 30 lives out of the thousand on board. Again, Violet Jessop survived – this time by jumping from a lifeboat threatened by the ship’s propellers.
the unsinkable Violet Jessop
(1887 – 1971)
What drew me to the Wikipedia stories and the piece by Katie Serena in History Science News that were my sources today was the concept of women who survive…whatever life throws at us. Most won’t be on a huge ship about to sink in the Atlantic Ocean like Violet was when she was such a young woman; but all of us face difficulties throughout our lives that threaten to drown, overwhelm, instill fear, panic, the desire to escape. Sometimes our lifeboats hang by ropes of uncertainty amid the shipwrecks that interrupt smooth sailing.
And yet, the poet Garth Brooks reminds us not to “sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied…choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance that tide.” – The River
Violet Jessop dared to dance the tide.