Violet Jessop was a stewardess and nurse on the Titanic. She had worked on all three Olympic-class ships, and she survived all three major incidents with each of them: The collision of the RMS Olympic with the HMS Hawke, the sinking of the Titanic, and the sinking of the HMHS Britannic.
She was the first child of Irish emigrants William and Katherine (Kelly) Jessop. Her father was a sheep farmer and she had five younger brothers and sisters. As a child Violet contracted Tuberculosis, Doctors gave her only months to live but she managed to overcome the disease.
When her father died in Mendoza the family returned to Britain, her mother found a job as a stewardess for the Royal Mail Line while Violet attended convent school. When her mother's health deteriorated Violet gave up school to became a stewardess herself, first with the Royal Mail Line, then later with White Star.
White Star Line & Olympic
Violet didn't want to work for White Star because she didn't like the idea of sailing the North Atlantic run due to the weather conditions, and she had heard stories about the demanding passengers on that run.
Nevertheless Violet, who had grey-blue eyes, auburn hair and spoke with an Irish accent became a stewardess for the White Star Line working 17 hours a day, and being paid £2 10s. per month. She served on board the Olympic before joining the Titanic and was aboard the Olympic when she was in collision with HMS Hawke in 1911. Violet was happy on the Olympic and didn't really want to join the Titanic but was persuaded by her friends who thought it would be a 'wonderful experience'. So Violet, 'dressed in a new ankle-length brown suit' set out in a horse-drawn cab to join the brand new ship at her berth in Southampton.
Among the people she mentioned in her memoirs was Thomas Andrews and, like all other crew members it seems, she greatly admired him. Mr Andrews was the only person who seemed to heed the requests of the crew for improvements in the crew's quarters. The stewards and stewardesses were quite pleased with their quarters on Titanic. "Often during our rounds we came upon our beloved designer going about unobtrusively with a tired face but a satisfied air. He never failed to stop for a cheerful word, his only regret that we were 'getting further from home.' We all knew the love he had for that Irish home of his and suspected that he longed to get back to the peace of its atmosphere for a much needed rest and to forget ship designing for awhile." Violet claims to have been friends with Scottish violinist Jock Hume, one of the few people working on the ship whom she identifies by his real name.
She said that it was her habit to take in the fresh air on deck before retiring for the night, and that "If the sun did fail to shine so brightly on the fourth day out, and if the little cold nip crept into the air as evening set in, it only served to emphasize the warmth and luxuriousness within."
In her memoirs she says that on Titanic's maiden voyage she brought a copy of a translated Hebrew prayer that an old Irish woman had given her. Upon settling down in her bunk she found that prayer and read it, then made her roommate read it. (Presumable, according to editor John Maxtone- Graham, her roommate was stewardess Elizabeth Leather.) It was a strangely worded prayer that Violet says was supposed to protect her against fire and water. Violet was a devout Catholic who carried a rosary in her apron and believed strongly in the power of prayer.
Sinking of the Titanic
Violet wrote that she was "comfortably drowsy" in her bunk, but not quite asleep when the collision occurred.
When the Titanic was sinking, Violet was ordered on deck to 'function as an example of how to behave for the non-English speakers who could not follow the instructions given to them'. In other words: she had to show non-English people what they had to do because they didn't understand the English instructions they were given.
She watched as the crew loaded the lifeboats.
She was later ordered into lifeboat 16, and, as the boat was being lowered, one of the Titanic's officers gave her a baby to look after. The next morning, Violet and the rest of the survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia. According to Violet, while on board the Carpathia, a woman grabbed the baby she was holding and ran off with it without saying a word, whom was probably the mother.
Phone call of 'the baby'
Years after her retirement in 1950, Violet claimed to have received a telephone call, on a stormy night, from a woman who asked Violet if she saved a baby on the night that the Titanic sank. "Yes," Violet replied. The voice then said "I was that baby," laughed, and hung up. Her friend, and biographer John Maxtone-Graham said it was most likely some children in the village playing a joke on her. She replied, "No, John, I had never told that story to anyone before I told you now." Records indicate that the only baby on boat 16 was Assad Thomas, who was handed to Edwinda Troutt, and later reunited with his mother on the Carpathia.Violet died of congestive heart failure in 1971 at the age of 83.