To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, we’re taking a look at the feminist ties to RMS Titanic.
From a dedicated suffragette to the world famous efforts of Molly Brown, Titanic had its fair share of brave ladies on board.
So join us as we take a step back in time and celebrate the lasting legacy of Edwardian women who were certainly ahead of their time.
Feminists on Board RMS Titanic
The “Unsinkable” Molly Brown
Arguably today’s most famous of Titanic’s ladies, Margaret “Maggie” Brown was an American socialite and philanthropist. Posthumously given the title “the unsinkable Molly Brown”, she is best remembered for her brave efforts to return to the sunken ship’s debris in search for survivors.
Prior to embarking on Titanic’s fateful voyage, Brown ran for office in the US Senate, eight years before women had even been given the right to vote. Notably, she was one of the first women in the United States to run for office.
Following the Titanic disaster, Molly made the most of her international platform, promoting her belief in the rights of women, workers, education, historic preservation and the commemoration of the bravery displayed by men aboard the Titanic.
Helen Churchill Candee
Sitting in the same lifeboat as Molly Brown, you would have found journalist Helen Churchill Candee. Reported to have manned the oars alongside Brown, Candee was a self sufficient hard worker. After her abusive husband abandoned the family, Candee was left to support herself and her children as a writer. Her talent for the written word led her to work for for popular magazines Schibner’s and The Ladies’ Home Journal.
Eventually, Helen’s writing branched out into areas such as child care, women’s rights and education. Her best-selling book, How Women May Earn a Living made it apparent that she was a feminist.
During Titanic’s sinking, Candee fell and fractured her ankle while climbing into lifeboat 6. The injury left her unable to walk without the assistance of a cane for almost a year. But in March 1913, the resilient writer was ready to take action, joining feminist equestriennes in the “Votes for Women” parade in Washington D.C.
Elsie Bowerman was a British lawyer and dedicated suffragette. Bowerman acted as assistant to leader of the British suffragette movement, Emmeline Pankhurst. She is also remembered as one of Titanic’s survivors.
Before boarding Titanic, Elsie Bowerman had joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Committed to the movement, Bowerman wore her badge proudly at University. She wrote, “I always wear my bage in as conspicuous a position as possible in lectures.”
Bowerman was rescued by Carpathia from lifeboat 6, alongside Molly Brown and Helen Churchill Candee. Only 22 years of age when the ship sank, Elsie went on to live an extraordinary life, grasping each opportunity that arose along the way.
In 1919 the Sex Disqualification Act meant women could train to enter professions including law and accounting. Elsie trained to become a lawyer and in 1924 she was admitted to the bar. Notably, she was the first female barrister to practice her profession at London’s Old Bailey.
Elsie is also remembered for her work for the war effort, working with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service during World War II and the Ministry of Information. She also served as a liaison officer for the North American Service of the BBC from 1941 to 1945.
It’s particularly poignant to think that ill-fated passengers missed out on the chance to vote, forge a career path and showcase their talents in the way that Elsie Bowerman went on to do.
So this International Women’s Day, we’re remembering Titanic’s inspiring women who survived and those who sadly didn’t.
If you’d like to find out more, why not take a read of last year’s International Women’s Day blog?.
We hope you’ve enjoyed taking a step back in time to pay tribute to such fantastic ladies.