This is the story of Violet Jessop, an Irish woman who survived not one, not two, but THREE of the most catastrophic ship disasters of the 20th century.
After suffering through a childhood plagued with a serious illness, the ever-lucky Violet went on to survive the crash and near-sinking of RMS Olympic in 1911, the sinking of the Britannic in 1916… oh, and I almost forgot to mention, the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.
Death Waits For No Man, But It Waited For This Woman…
Born in 1887 in Argentina, Violet Constance Jessop came out the womb beating the odds.
Violet was one of six surviving children born to her Irish immigrant parents, out of a total of nine. The icy hand of death came for Jessop at an early age, inflicting her with a case of tuberculosis that was supposed to kill her, but fate had other plans.
Other plans included being involved in the most famous ship disaster of all time. And also two more ship disasters…
Come out to the Coast, We’ll Get Together, Have a Few Laughs
At the ripe age of 23, Violet Jessop decided to follow in her mother’s sea-legged footsteps and become a stewardess with the famed White Star Line.1
In 1910, Jessop got a job aboard the RMS Olympic. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly until the Olympic crashed into the HMS Hawke, a British warship. Neither ship sank, and both were able to make it back to port before having to get their afts smacked with towels in Davy Jones’ Locker, but it was still a harrowing experience that would put anyone off working aboard a big ship ever again, right?
When the RMS Titanic (“The Ship of Dreams,” “The Unsinkable Ship,” “The Ship That Ten-Thousand Irishmen Built,” The Ship That Served as the Backdrop for All Leonardo DiCaprio-Based Fantasies in 1997”) needed a stewardess, Violet Jessop said, “Yes please, sign me up.”*
We’re sure she thought she couldn’t possibly have to worry about another crash…
Her Heart Really Did Go On and On…
On April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and plunged into the icy depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
Thanks to that sweet “women and children first” rule, Violet Jessop was loaded into a lifeboat, lucky lifeboat number 16, and a stranger’s baby was thrust into her arms.2 Thankfully, Jessop and CO. were rescued by The Carpathia before they had to make the decision of whom to eat to stay alive, because I think we can all agree that “stranger’s baby” would have been first on the list. While on board The Carpathia, a woman (probably) (hopefully) the baby’s mother, retrieved her baby (or just a baby) from Jessop.
And that baby was Abraham Lincoln.
Loose Lips Aren’t the Only Thing That Sinks Ships
After surviving the near-sinking of one ship and the very full-sinking of another, Violet Jessop took a job on board yet another, the HMHS Britannic.
And if one of her friends didn’t say, “I’ve got a sinking feeling about this,” when Jessop told them the news, well then, they were no friend at all!
The HMHS Britannic was a White Star liner that had been converted into a hospital ship during WWI. The poor ship didn’t last more than 55 minutes until an unexplained explosion (or the curse of Violet Jessop) sank the ship killing 30 out of the 1,066 passengers.
Violet Jessop, obviously, survived. She was 29 years old.
After a very eventful first 6 years, Violet Jessop went on to work on large ships for another 34 years, retiring at 63. If workman’s comp had been a thing, she would’ve been set at 23.
Was the Very Unsinkable Violet Jessop the luckiest ship stewardess in the world, or the least lucky?
Or was she just the lost missing mermaid daughter Poseidon desperately tried to get back, no matter the cost?
The world may never know. But we do know this: if you’re ever on a ship with a woman named Violet Jessop, bring a life jacket.
*Or some early 20th Century, Irish-accented version of that.
*But it’d be a lot cooler if it was.