The Unstoppable Edwina Troutt

Her father, a cabinet maker, set wood aside to build her coffin soon after she was born. But the sickly baby defied her doctors and survived. And at the age of 27, Edwina Troutt survived the sinking of the Titanic. She later said, 'I felt I was saved for something.'

young edwina

young edwina

Edwina Troutt

Edwina Celia Troutt was born June 8, 1884 in Bath, England. She endured a chronic lung condition and developed pneumonia as a teenager, which left her with only one functioning lung. Still in her youth, failing eyesight and inflamed joints added to her troubles, but she refused to let anything keep her from living her life to the fullest. She became a pre-school teacher and worked in her brother-in-law's shop, then crossed the Atlantic for the first time at age 23 on a dare from friends. She planned to stay five years in New England, working in New Jersey and then in Massachusetts. But the cold New England winters were too much for her compromised respiratory system, and she returned to Bath six months early. However, her sister Elise, also living in Massachusetts by then, was about to give birth and asked Edwina (Winnie) to return, so she booked a second class cabin aboard the Titanic for the voyage back to New York.

Winnie roomed with two other single women and made more friends on board, playing cards and exchanging stories with them. On Sunday, April 14th, she prepared for bed but didn't completely undress. When the ship struck the iceberg and the engines were stopped, Winnie hurried to investigate. She returned to the cabin to help her roommates to the Boat Deck. At first, Winnie stood back and watched the loading of the lifeboats and thought it sad that so many newly-married couples were being separated. Then, third class passenger Charles Thomas from Lebanon approached, holding a baby. He'd been separated from his sister-in-law, the baby's mother, and was imploring anyone within earshot to take the baby aboard a lifeboat.

Winnie immediately took the baby and boarded the next lifeboat. Later, she wrote, 'I felt I was saved for something, so I vowed never to quarrel and always be kind to the sick and elderly.' Four years later, she moved to California and met her first husband, Alfred Peterson.

edwina-troutt and peterson

edwina-troutt and peterson

Alfred and Edwina Peterson in 1923

He died in 1944, and Winnie married twice more. She became a US citizen and worked for several civic organizations. She participated in the reunions of Titanic survivors, and is remembered for her outrageous sense of humor and pleasant personality. She traveled the world to speak about the Titanic, crossing the Atlantic at least ten more times by ship.



Edwina Troutt Peterson Corrigan Mackenzie died in California in 1984, at the age of 100.

Photo credits:,

Titanic's Haitian Passenger

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic departed Southampton, England and made its first stop in Cherbourg, France at 6:30 pm. Two tenders carried 281 passengers to the ship, representing 26 nationalities. Among those boarding in Cherbourg was Joseph Laroche, his wife Juliette, and their daughters, three-year-old Simonne and 21-month-old Louise. Joseph was the only black passenger to board the ship. The Laroche family were bound for Haiti, where Joseph, 25, had been born.



Joseph Laroche and family

During the 17th century, a French nobleman named Laroche had arrived in Haiti and married a native girl. The family had prospered, and years later, Joseph’s uncle became Haiti’s president. At age 15, Joseph left Haiti to study engineering in France, under the supervision of the Bishop of Haiti. He completed his studies, obtained an engineering position with the Paris underground, and studied English. He met his English teacher’s sister, Juliette Lafargue, and the two were married in 1908. Simonne was born the following year.

Due to racial discrimination, Joseph had difficulty finding a well-paying engineering position in France. When Juliette became pregnant with their third child in 1912, Joseph decided to move his family back to Haiti, where his uncle, the president, had arranged a job for him as a math teacher.

Joseph LaRoche

Joseph LaRoche

Joseph Laroche

Joseph’s mother was overjoyed to have her son and his family moving home. She paid for their first class accommodations on the liner SS France. But when Joseph and Juliette learned the ship did not allow children to dine with their parents, they cancelled their reservations and booked second class tickets on the Titanic instead.



Passenger boarding area in Cherbourg in 1912

On the night of Titanic's sinking, Joseph put his wife and daughters into a lifeboat. They were rescued and taken aboard the Carpathia, but Joseph perished. His body was not recovered.

Juliette and other grief-stricken young mothers on the Carpathia soon needed diapers for their children. They hid their dinner napkins by sitting on them, and put them to use as diapers.



Envelope used to hold Titanic boarding passes, saved by Juliette Laroche

Juliette and her daughters were taken in temporarily by a charity in New York. She decided not to continue on to Haiti, but returned to France with the girls, where she could again be near her aging father, a widower. One month later, her son was born. She named him Joseph, after his late father.

Juliette never discussed the Titanic with anyone. Many years later in 1994, her daughter Louise met with a founding member of the Association Francaise du Titanic.“We had all been terribly affected. My mother had great difficulty talking about the disaster and she kept those atrocious images with her the rest of her life. We also received no compensation until 1918 and so ran into extreme financial difficulty.”

With the money she received six years after the disaster, Juliette opened a small fabric-dying business, which helped support her family. The girls stayed close to their mother and never married, but Juliette's son Joseph married and had three children.

In 1995, Louise helped unveil a stone marker in Cherbourg to commemorate the passengers who boarded the Titanic there 83 years earlier.



Louise Laroche

In 2003, a three-act opera based on the life of Joseph Laroche premiered at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.

Photo credits:,

A Survivor's Heartache

At 20, Charlotte Tate left her home in Surrey, England and went to work as a cook and housekeeper for the Vicar in a nearby town. She is believed to have met Harvey Collyer there, who was the church sexton and verger, or clerk. Charlotte and Harvey were married, and soon had one daughter, named Marjorie. When the Vicar moved to another church in Hampshire, the Tates followed. Harvey continued as verger, served on the church council, and as bell ringer. He also ran the town grocery store.

collyer family

collyer family

The Collyer Family

Friends of the family had moved to Payette, Idaho, where they had started a successful fruit farm. They wrote of the beauty of the land and climate, urging Harvey and Charlotte to join them. They didn’t take their friends’ suggestion seriously, at first. But Charlotte had developed tuberculosis, and found it increasingly harder to breathe. Finally, for Charlotte's sake, they decided to move to Idaho, and booked passage on the Titanic.

“I had never been on an ocean voyage,” Charlotte later said, “and I was afraid of the sea. But I listened to the people who said, ‘Take the new Titanic. She cannot come to any harm. New inventions have made her safe; and then, the officers will be extra careful on her first trip.’”

titanic advertisement

titanic advertisement

Harvey sold the grocery store and most of the family’s possessions. He took $5,000 in cash, against the advice of a bank teller, who suggested he take a draft note. The church members gave a long surprise sendoff for the family by ringing all the bells for an hour. Charlotte later said, “It was almost too much of a farewell ceremony.”

Like so many others aboard Titanic after the ship struck the iceberg, the family didn’t realize the extent of the danger until well after the first lifeboats were loaded. Charlotte and Marjorie were put into Lifeboat 14. Harvey’s body, if recovered, was not identified. Charlotte wrote to her mother from New York, a few days after arrival on the Carpathia:

My dear Mother and all, I don't know how to write to you or what to say, I feel I shall go mad sometimes but dear as much as my heart aches it aches for you too for he is your son and the best that ever lived. I had not given up hope till today that he might be found but I'm told all boats are accounted for. Oh mother how can I live without him. I wish I'd gone with him if they had not wrenched Madge from me I should have stayed and gone with him. But they threw her into the boat and pulled me in too but he was so calm and I know he would rather I lived for her little sake otherwise she would have been an orphan. The agony of that night can never be told. Poor mite was frozen. I have been ill but have been taken care of by a rich New York doctor and feel better now. They are giving us every comfort and have collected quite a few pounds for us and loaded us with clothes and a gentleman on Monday is taking us to the White Star office and also to another office to get us some money from the funds that is being raised here. Oh mother there are some good hearts in New York, some want me to go back to England but I can't, I could never at least not yet go over the ground where my all is sleeping. Sometimes I feel we lived too much for each other that is why I've lost him. But mother we shall meet him in heaven. When that band played 'Nearer My God to Thee' I know he thought of you and me for we both loved that hymn and I feel that if I go to Payette I'm doing what he would wish me to, so I hope to do this at the end of next week where I shall have friends and work and I will work for his darling as long as she needs me. Oh she is a comfort but she don'trealise yet that her daddy is in heaven. There are some dear children here who have loaded her with lovely toys but it's when I'm alone with her she will miss him. Oh mother I haven't a thing in the world that was his only his rings. Everything we had went down. Will you, dear mother, sendme on a last photo of us, get it copied I will pay you later on. Mrs Hallets brother from Chicago is doing al he can for us in fact the night we landed in New York (in our nightgowns) he had engaged a room at a big hotel with food and every comfort waiting for us. He has been a father to us. I will send his address on a card… perhaps you might like to write to him some time. God Bless you dear mother and help and comfort you in this awful sorrow. Your loving child Lot.



Charlotte and Marjorie following the Titanic disaster

Charlotte and Marjorie were destitute, but with donations from the American Red Cross and other funds, they went on to Idaho as they planned. But Harvey’s loss was too much to bear. Charlotte sold her story to a newspaper for $300, and after friends in New York raised additional funds, she and Marjorie returned to England.

Charlotte remarried, but died of tuberculosis at age 35. Marjorie went to live with an uncle until she was married. The couple had one child who died in infancy. Her husband died at age 41, and she remained a widow, working as a doctor’s receptionist. She was moved to a nursing home in the 1960s due to ill health, and died of a stroke at the age of 61.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica,,

Titanic's hardworking steward

When John Hardy signed on as Titanic’s Chief Second Class Steward, he brought with him fourteen years’ experience at sea. In my yet-to-be-published novel, Ruth Becker meets Hardy just after Titanic has departed Southampton, and is thrilled to learn he has a pram for her to push her little brother on deck.

john hardy

John Hardy

Hardy had worked for the White Star Line for twelve years, serving aboard four ships. In between his duties, he’d married his landlady’s daughter, Etta, in Liverpool, and had two children, Ronald in 1903 and Norah in 1905. The family moved to Southampton, and were living there at the time of Titanic’s sailing in 1912.

John, 36, was already on board as Titanic made her way from the Harland and Wollf shipyards in Belfast on April 2nd, arriving in Southampton on April 4th. The next day, Good Friday, the ship was decorated with colorful flags and pennants as a salute to Southampton. But before she could begin her maiden voyage on April 10th, most of the crew would be hired, thousands of tons of coal would be loaded, and supplies for the voyage would be brought aboard, including enough food for a small city. Also, any cargo, including crates of goods purchased abroad by American customers, was loaded into the cargo hold.

John Hardy was responsible for overseeing 162 second class cabins. On the night of the sinking, he turned off all unnecessary lights in the second class areas, went to bed around 11:30 pm, then felt a slight shock. Checking the passageway, he found nothing amiss and returned to bed. Then the Chief First Class Steward woke him with the news of what happened. John proceeded to rouse the stewardesses and assist passengers to the lifeboats. He worked on deck until the last lifeboat was launched, followed by the collapsible boats. He managed to board the last one, carrying 25 passengers, just 15 minutes before the ship sank. Later, they tied the boat up together with six other boats and took on ten more passengers.

collapsible lifeboat folded away

Example of a collapsible lifeboat with its sides folded away


Titanic crewmembers following rescue

John Hardy continued to work for the White Star Line, then aboard hospital ships and troop transports during the First World War. Twins were born to John and Etta in 1919, and the family moved to New Jersey, where John continued for twenty years as Chief Steward for various ships in the United States Line.

John Hardy died at his son’s home at the age of 82.

hardy tombstone

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica and New York Times

The Heroine of Lifeboat 12

Nineteen-year-old Lillian Bentham of New York had spent a year touring Europe with her godfather, other relatives, and friends. For the return trip to the US, the group boarded Titanic at Southampton. Lillian occupied a second-class cabin with Emily Rugg, age 22, from Guernsey, England. Emily was on her way to live in Wilmington, Delaware, where a relative owned a store. Emily was awakened by the collision and woke Lillian. The women made their way to the upper decks and were put into Lifeboat 12, along with 40 other women and children. When no other women or children were immediately available, a crowd of men from second and third class tried to board. The officers in charge refused to let the men on. As it was being lowered, a man leapt aboard as it passed B Deck. Later, No. 12 picked up passengers from the overturned collapsible boat B.


Lillian Bentham in the 1950s

Lillian gave several interviews in her later years about her experience in the lifeboat. “The greatest horror of the experience was the eight hours we spent floating about until we were picked up by the Carpathia…At first, the sea was smooth as glass but it was literally dotted with human forms swimming, clinging to wreckage, fighting to climb into the lifeboats…I began to realize that I had lost nothing compared to others, who had been compelled to see their relatives and friends go down with the Titanic.”

Toward morning, No. 12 came upon collapsible B, slowly sinking with 20 men aboard. Lillian said, “I helped the seaman pull those 20 men into our boat…We had to pile them in like so many sacks of flour, because they were unable to do anything to help themselves…I took off my coat and gave it to one man. I had two coats and could spare one.”

Seven of the men they pulled aboard died of exposure. The man who received Lillian’s coat was Cecil Fitzpatrick, an Irish crewman from the Titanic. In gratitude, he later gave Lillian the whistle he’d blown all night in the hope of calling another boat to help.

Lillian described the moment when, at last, she spotted the Carpathia. “Far off in the distance, we saw smoke, thin and indistinct at first, but gradually coming nearer…To me, and I guess to all of the others in that boat, that was the most wonderful ship in the world.”

bentham card

Lillian's Custom Card given to her aboard the Carpathia

None of the men in Lillian’s traveling party survived, including her godfather. His widow met Lillian in New York City and helped her get to her parents’ home in Rochester, New York. She lived with them until she married, five years later. The couple remained in Rochester and did not have children. Lillian died in 1977 at age 85.


Lillian's headstone bears her Titanic story and the names of her traveling companions.

Their Last Meal

In the past few weeks, we’ve explored the way passengers in each class boarded Titanic, checked out the accommodations in each class, and looked at typical first class apparel onboard the luxury liner. Today, let’s see what the passengers ate for dinner on April 14, 1912. No one knew, of course, it would be the last meal served on the Titanic.


In third class, all meals for the day were printed on one card. Dinner was the largest meal and was served mid-day.


Second class passengers were served a smaller version of the first class menu but with fewer courses.

1st class menu

Each course in first class was served with a selected wine. Following the last course, fruits and cheeses were available, as well as port.

Accomodations Aboard the Titanic

In First Class When first class passengers boarded Titanic, they were met by the chief steward and his staff, who escorted them to their staterooms. Men were each given a flower for their buttonholes. Most of their cabins were on the upper decks, away from the noise of the engines and near the dining room, Grand Staircase, and Promenade.

Thirty-nine first class suites were decorated in different period styles. The suites included bedrooms, bathrooms, lounges, and extra rooms for servants. A few had private promenades. Smaller first class cabins consisted of only one large room and a bathroom. A few shared a bathroom with another cabin.


A typical first class cabin

 In Second Class

Second class passengers boarded the ship through a separate gangway on C-Deck, and were given directions to their cabins. Each large cabin was equipped with beds, a desk, dresser with mirror, sofa, and a washbasin with cold water. Passengers could ask their stewards to bring hot water if they wished. Bathrooms were located down the hall and were shared by several passengers.

A separate section of the Boat Deck was set aside for second class passengers to enjoy a stroll in the open air.


Second class Titanic cabin

In Third Class

Passengers in third class were greeted by a medical officer who inspected them for lice or signs of trachoma (an eye disease) or other health problems. Any infectious disease would prevent them from being able to enter the United States. Their tickets were then stamped with a section number and the passengers boarded the ship on E-Deck. Stewards helped direct them to their cabins, but many of the non-English speaking passengers were frustrated with the maze of halls and stairways.

Third class cabins varied in size, but most were fitted with bunk beds, a mirror, and a washbasin. They were below water level so they did not have portholes. There were only two bathtubs in the shared bathrooms for over 700 passengers. Most found their accommodations to be clean, comfortable, and adequate for their needs.


A third class cabin aboard Titanic, showing washbasin between bunk beds

Most stewards’ cabins were on the same deck as the passengers they served. First class stewards could be summoned at any time with the touch of a button in the cabins.

No daily maid service as we know it today was available.

No cabin aboard the ship was given the number 13.

When Time Stood Still - Titanic Honeymoons Part XI

John Chapman had worked alongside his father, a tenant farmer, for as long as he could. By age 31, he still hadn’t been able to save enough money to buy a small farm of his own and marry his sweetheart, Lizzie Lawry. Fed up with the fickle climate of Cornwall and frequent arguments with his father, John headed to Canada in 1906, hoping to earn a living and come back for Lizzie.

lizzie lawry's extended family

Lizzie Lawry (bottom right) with her extended family

After four years in Canada, John moved to the state of Washington and worked as a grave digger. Finally, in 1911, he returned to Cornwall, where he and Lizzie were married. She was 28, and John was 36. The couple decided to emigrate to Wisconsin where Lizzie’s brother had moved, so John booked two second class tickets on Titanic.

On board, the Chapmans met other families from Cornwall. After dinner on April 14, they participated in hymn singing in the dining room and had coffee and cookies, brought around by the stewards. Later, as they talked in bed, they felt a jolt. John checked with others in the corridor. When a steward instructed them to come on deck with their lifejackets, he stuffed Lizzie’s purse with their marriage certificate, baggage receipt, baggage insurance form, and all their money.

They reached the port side, where “Women and children only,” was the order given by Second Officer Charles Lightoller. Lizzie boarded a lifeboat, but when she realized John was not able to join her, she immediately climbed out, refusing to be separated from him. John held tight to Lizzie’s purse, and they were last seen clinging to railings as Titanic’s bow dipped below the icy waters of the north Atlantic.

The recovery ship, Mackay-Bennett, picked up John’s body, still clutching Lizzie’s purse. In his pocket was his watch, which had stopped at 1:45 am, approximately 35 minutes before the ship completely sank.  Lizzie’s body was never found.

john chapman marker

John Chapman's grave marker, Halifax, Nova Scotia

John’s pocket watch and other personal effects were given to his father, who passed them on to his nephew. The watch is now on display in the Maritime Museum, Cornwall.