After running a nursing home in England for 20 years, Lucy Ridsdale looked forward to moving to her sister’s house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a stop in Marietta, Georgia to see another sister. She packed everything she owned, including several family heirlooms and other items that had been gifts from friends, paid all the necessary excess baggage fees, and sent everything to be loaded aboard the Titanic for her journey to America.
Replica of Titanic cargo hold
Single at 58, Lucy occupied a second class cabin with 28-year-old Mary Davis, who was emigrating to New York where her siblings lived. Lucy had a club foot, and on the night of the sinking, Mary helped Lucy to the Boat Deck where they boarded Lifeboat 13.
In my pre-published novel, the main character, passenger Ruth Becker, meets Lucy in the lifeboat after it moves away from the sinking ship. As Lifeboat 13 was lowered to the ocean’s surface, a heavy stream from a condenser sprayed the boat and pushed it ahead, right underneath another lifeboat as it descended. The frightened passengers could almost reach up and touch the other boat, until someone cut Boat 13’s ropes, still attached to the davits up on deck. Finally free of Titanic, the boat's 64 occupants rowed about until morning. Passengers agreed if the sea had not been calm, many of the lifeboats could not have made it through the night.
After rescue, Lucy was first listed among the missing, until she sent a telegram to her sister in Marietta. Not long after the disaster, she made a detailed claim for her belongings, for a total value of $3,146.00. She had saved a claim ticket given to her as she boarded, which she presented with other documents. Today, these original records are housed in the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. Here is a part of her list of lost items:
She states in a letter to the White Star Line, “This list includes household and personal effects which the two ladies I am inclosing addresses from England know I possessed...This lady has known me for 20 years and can testify as to my having had a nursing home of my own at Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. I brought everything expecting to make my home here with my sisters in Marietta and Milwaukee…”
The White Star Line made every effort to pay passengers who filed claims for loss of property, although there is no record if Lucy herself received anything. She is listed as residing at a Chicago hotel in the 1920 census, and a resident in an Old People’s Home in 1930. Lucy Ridsdale died at age 91 in Chicago.
Photo credits: National Archives and Howard Digital