Violet C. Jessop
Violet Jessop in her V.A.D uniform
Violet C. Jessop was born in Argentina on October 2,1887.Her parents (William and Kelly Jessop) had immigrated there from Ireland in the mid-1880's.She passed the first years of her life in the pampas where her father worked as a sheep farmer. Soon William Jessop decided to try his luck elsewhere and went to Bahia Blanca to work as a railway station master. It was a bad period for Violet and her health deteriorated. When her father was transferred to Buenos Aires she contracted typhoid fever which caused lung congestion. She recovered,but shortly after things got worse. Violet contracted tubercolosis and the doctors at the British Hospital gave her only three months to live. Doctors advised her father to take her to the mountains. William Jessop was transferred to Mendoza, in the foothills of the Andes. There Violet managed to overcome the disease, against all odds. It was the first demonstration of the extraordinary courage of this remarkable woman.
Except fighting against her disease, Violet had to stay by her mother's side during many hard times and this difficult situation caused the failure to obtain a scholarship despite her hard work. Illness continued to plague the family. Violet's two younger brothers had a close call when they contracted diphtheria. One year later, William Jessop died and Kelly Jessop decided to return back to England with her kids. On May 1903,16-year old Violet crossed the Atlantic for the first time aboard the cargo ship Burgundy.
Kelly Jessop found a job as a stewardess for the Royal Mail Line and later for the White Star Line, leaving young Violet attending convent school and looking after her younger brothers. When her mother's health deteriorated from the continuous voyages, Violet gave up school and became a stewardess too. Like her mother, she worked first for the Royal Mail Line. Her first trip was on October 28,1908 aboard the Orinoco, bound for West Indies. After 7 voyages with the Royal Mail Line she joined the White Star Line. Her first trip with the new company was on September 28,1910 aboard the Majestic. Violet was working 17 hours a day and for a monthly salary of £2.10.It was soon evident that she was a good stewardess and it was no surprise when she got selected to serve on the prestigious Olympic. Violet liked the Olympic and she was very reluctant when her friends advised her to transfer on the Titanic. After some thought she got persuaded and signed for Titanic's maiden voyage.
On April 15,1912,Violet left the sinking Titaniconboard lifeboat 16.While the boat was getting lowered to the sea someone cried: "Here Miss Jessop. Look after this baby" and threw an unknown baby to her. After 8 hours the survivors were rescued by the Carpathia. Later, on deck, a woman approached and took the baby from Violet's hands without even thanking her. After the tragedy, Violet continued to work on the Olympicuntil March 1914 when she decided to join V.A.D (Voluntary Aid Detachment) for training as a nurse. However, her first assignment was again as a stewardess, this time on the Britannicbound to Eastern Mediterranean for her sixth -and final- voyage .She was onboard one of the lifeboats which were sucked by the ship's propellers killing 30 people. Violet made a narrow escape but she suffered a skull fracture and a deep cut to her leg.
She was repatriated on June 1,1917 and worked for a bank until 1920. Then she signed again with the White Star Line and made many more voyages on the Olympic. Since 1923 she worked on the new Majestic (ex Bismark) who had been handed over to the White Star as a war prize. Violet made her final voyage with the White Star on October 1925. In 1926 he joined the Red Star Line and in 1935 returned to the Royal Mail Line. During the second World War remained ashore. She closed her long career on the Andes(on December 21,1950) at the age of 63 after 44 years at sea and more of 200 voyages. In her late 30's she had a brief marriage and had no children.
Violet retired in a beautiful cottage in the Suffolk village of Great Ashfield. In a stormy night of 1970 she received a phone call. A woman asked her name and then if Violet had been a stewardess on Titanicand had saved a baby during the sinking. Violet replied positively. The woman laughed and said that she was that baby, before hanging up. She never called back. Less than a year later Violet fell in her house and was transferred to a hospital where she died of congestive heart failure on May of 1971.
In 1997 her memoirs were edited and published by famous historian John Maxtone-Graham. Thanks to them we learned more details about Britannic's final moments, but above all we learned about a woman who lived a life less ordinary.
Researched by Michail Michailakis. No unauthorized usage allowed.
- Titanic Survivor - The Memoirs of Violet Jessop,Stewardess" [Edited by John Maxtone-Graham]
- Encyclopedia Titanica website