Miss Unsinkable: The Survivor of 3 Major Shipwrecks

By Anya Geiling

You’ve heard of the Titanic, but did you know it had two other sister ships, and that all three unbelievably sank? This is the untold story of Violet Jessop, the survivor of three major shipwrecks. 

Violet was born on October 2, 1887, in Bahía Blanca, Argentina. She was the eldest of nine children, only six of which survived to adulthood. Her parents were Irish immigrants, and Violet spent most of her childhood looking after her younger siblings. At a young age, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and despite what doctors presumed to be a fatal outcome, she survived. When she was sixteen, her father died from issues during surgery. She and her family moved to England where she transferred to attend a convent school. Her mother was a stewardess, and after she fell ill, Violet left school to pursue the same job. Her first position was on the Orinoco in 1908 at just 21 years old.   

Jessop in uniform.

In 1911, Jessop worked as a stewardess for the RMS Olympic. This luxury ship was the largest civilian boat at the time and sister ship to the RMS Titanic. The Olympic left Southampton on September 20, 1911, which then collided with the British warship HMS Hawke. Luckily, there were no fatalities, and despite major damage, the ship made it back to port. 

After that incident, one would think to reconsider their position within the stewardess business. Jessop, however, was a trooper and stayed within the world of the sea. 

Now, the Titanic. At age 24, Jessop boarded this ship as a stewardess on April 10, 1912. The ship notoriously struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic ocean, only four days later, and sank in about two hours and forty minutes. After Violet helped people off the ship, she was ordered into lifeboat 16. One of Titanic’s captains then gave her a baby to look after as the lifeboat was being lowered. Records now identify that baby as Assad Thomas, who was later reunited with her mother. The next day, RMS Carpathia saved Jessop’s lifeboat. 

The Titanic, one of history’s most known shipwrecks, was a serious catastrophe. The fact that Violet survived this devastation and no one knows about her shows how the media ignores and censors people. Is it because she was a woman? Many children who were saved from the Titanic are given more recognition than Violet, who was saving those children. This just comes to show how in human culture, it isn’t the process by which something great happens, rather the end result that appeases or displeases the public eye. Jessop, a wondrous woman, continued to work even after her shocking experiences on the Titanic. 

Violet worked as a stewardess for the British Red Cross throughout WW1. She boarded the HMHS Britannic on November 21, 1916, sister ship to the Titanic, which was converted to a hospital ship. It then sank in the Aegean Sea after an incomprehensible explosion. During a large diving expedition in 2016, they discovered that the ship had been blown up by a deep-sea mine. Britannic sank within an hour, killing 30 people out of the 1,066 onboard. While the ship was sinking, however, Jessop and other passengers were almost severely hurt due to the ship’s propellers. The propellers drew the lifeboats in; Violet had to jump out of her raft, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. Miraculously, she survived that impact as well. Despite these awful experiences, Jessop went back to work for the White Star Line in 1920. 

Now known as “Miss Unsinkable”, Violet inevitably died from congestive heart failure at the age of 83. She wrote a memoir about her experiences, called Titanic Survivor. It’s interesting to see how she needed to name her book after just one of the shipwrecks she was in. Her story is important because she truly evaded death on multiple accounts, where life might as well have been left at sea. Violet stayed within one profession her whole life, never let down by the experiences she had to face.

This should be a lesson for young minds today; when something seems tough, there is always a way to work out of it.