Daughter of Frank and Mary A. Hays, she was 24 years old when she boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France. She was accompanied by two friends, Olive Earnshaw and her daughter Lily Potter. Earnshaw and Hays occupied first class cabin C-54. Gilbert Tucker, a young man Hays had met in Europe, cut his visit short to join her on the Titanic. He occupied cabin C-53.
When the ship hit an iceberg on April 14th, 1912, Hays and Earnshaw were in their cabin. When the engines stopped they went to Potter's room, and then to inquire about the situation. When they returned to Potter's room they told her: "We have hit an iceberg but the steward told us we should not worry and should go back to bed." Although Hays was not concerned, Potter was scared. They dressed and wrapped Hays' Pomeranian dog in blankets. They headed to C Deck, where Tucker helped them collect life jackets.
Hays, Potter, Earnshaw and Tucker boarded Lifeboat 7, which was the first boat prepared. The occupants of boat 7 were rescued early on April 15 by the RMS Carpathia. Also on the Carpathia were two young boys who spoke only French. Margaret spoke French fluently and she was concerned that they would be separated from one another. She volunteered to take the children into her care until their family could be located. The boys played with Hays' dog, Lady, while they were on the boat.
The identities of the children were initially unknown, but it was determined that they were Edmond and Michel Navratil. Their father, Michel Sr. , who died in the accident, had boarded the Titanic under an assumed name. He had taken the children from his estranged wife and was removing them to the United States. Upon her return to New York, Margaret cared for the children, who became known as the "Titanic Orphans." She had the help of the Children's Aid Society in caring for the boys until their mother, Marcelle Navratil, came from Nice, France, to claim them.
Hays married a Rhode Island physician, Charles Daniel Easton, in 1913 and they had two daughters. She was widowed on October 4th, 1934. She died on August 21st, 1956 of a heart attack while on vacation with one of her daughters in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is buried at St. Mary's Churchyard, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
Margaret Bechstein Hays was not, as has sometimes been claimed, related to victim Charles Melville Hays, an American railroad executive traveling first class on the Titanic with his wife Clara and their adult daughter Orian (both of whom survived) and son-in-law (who perished). Mr. Hays' party was in a different group of cabins on B Deck.