Ada Murdoch


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Lynda Franklin

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I am still trying to find it too I jumped the gun.I found something similiar but wasn't even close .So I am doublely embarrassed today.
 
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sharon rutman

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I just finished reading Murdoch's biography on the Dalbeattie website and found myself fascinated by the unconventional marriage of Ada and William Murdoch. For one thing William Murdoch married a much more mature woman who was fairly well established with a career of her own. Once a woman was past 30 back in the early 1900's the prospects of her ever being married were slim to none. Usually, an older woman past her 30th birthday was doomed to a lonely life of wretched spinsterhood.

Even more unusual was William Murdoch was most understanding and considerate over the fact that for whatever the reason, he and Ada were not going to have any children. That, too, defied the normal conventions of the time--after marriage, a woman surrendered her identity and dutifully produced one baby after another. According to the website, Ada continued working as a teacher for quite some time.

Wow, the Murdochs were way ahead of their time! Their relationship was actually quite a FEMINIST ONE (uh-oh, I've uttered a dirty word there) Well good for William and Ada Murdoch--they dared to be different without even knowing it.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I don't know if I'd call it so much "feminist" as I would call it progressive. Sounds to me like they just went ahead and did their own thing and let convention attend to itself. For them, it worked and that's all that matters.
 
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sharon rutman

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It's a shame they weren't married very long--their marriage lasted about 4 1/2 years from 1907 to 1912.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>It's a shame they weren't married very long<<

All the more so since it was a genuine love match. While that sort of thing was far from unknown in that day, it wasn't anywhere near as common as it is today.
 
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sharon rutman

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Remember, even William and Ada's courtship was even all the more touching because alot of it was done through snail mail. Communications were painfully slow and the phrase "you've got mail" took on special meaning because it could take a couple of months for letters to arrive. Any sort of letter back then was very precious since parties had to wait so long for them.
 
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Andrew Williams

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One doesn't get the chance or time anymore -- in fact there's hardly enough hours in the day for me.

I have never seen this thread until now. So all I can say Inger is I am sorry that I didn't come to your rescue beforehand.

Getting back to Inger's message of the 6th of Nov 2006.

Off the top of my head Ada Murdock did receive a large amount from the Relief Fund as her last settlement before she returned back to her homeland and spent the rest of her years with her immediate family. I know the Mansion House directive does survive and can be viewed at Southampton Archives.

The finical figure was exceptionally high, to such a degree I was knock sideways at how much she agreed as her final and last payment from the National Disasters Relief Fund. I am almost sure the amount reached into many hundred's if not a few thousand quid.

Ing -- I am planning to call down at Southampton Archives the week before the Christmas holidays commence. Once I've found the Mansion House document then I can give you the actual amount involved.

Otherwise I can find no fault with your accurate report of her payments from the Relief Fund.

A.W.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Andrew - good to see you again, and to read about your continued work in the area of the relief funds. I believe you're correct - she was initially given an allowance of 2 pound a week. Stormer has written that in 1927 the Relief Fund reviewed her payments, and although they decided on that occasion not to stop the payments this decision was reversed in 1929.

Ada does indeed seem to have been an independent, intelligent woman - she may have been a first wave feminist, although there is not enough data extant on her political or philosophical beliefs to draw such conclusions, and we can only deduce certain possibilities. She came from one of the more progressive political milieus for woman at that time - New Zealand lead the world in granting women's suffrage in 1893. I find it interesting that she seems to have had a rapport with William's sister, Margaret ("Peg"). Peg was rather a bluestocking - she was a comparatively early graduate of Edinburgh University, which had started admitting female students in 1892.

We do need to keep in mind that there is a paucity of direct evidence regarding William and Ada - there is a terrible temptation to fill the gaps with inference, and while speculation as to their characters and relationship is interesting, we do need to keep in mind that some of the speculation is rather tenuous.

Take, for instance, the idea that Murdoch was unusually progressive in having a wife who continued to work after their marriage. If she did indeed do so, it would possibly be an interesting insight into their characters. Even as late as the 20s, when more career options were open to women, it was often considered unusual for women to keep working after marriage. Grace Lager, for example, uses the example of her grandmother having to conceal her marriage so she could continue to teach in her feminist study Posing a Threat: Flappers, Chorus Girls, and Other Brazen Performers of the American 1920s (the gig was up when she became pregnant with their first child).

However, it has not yet been established whether Ada Murdoch did continue to teach - this seems to be a rather vague oral tradition. The last I heard, Murdoch researchers were still attempting to establish whether there was any record of her teaching during her marriage - so far, they had found no documentary evidence to collaborate the story. Hopefully something has turned up recently, but I haven't heard of that happening.
 
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sharon rutman

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Well I'll take at face value the information on Dalbeattie's website that Ada Murdoch pursued her teaching career after her marriage and let it go at that. (www.dalbeattie.com)
 

Inger Sheil

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You may want to do some more research, Sharon - it's not a good idea to take a secondary source at face value.

Here's what the website says:
quote:

Ada was remarkable in that there are reports that she may have defied convention by continuing to work for a time as a teacher.
Note that Richard says there were "reports" - he does not present the information as an objective fact, but rather makes a comment that reflects the actual situation - that there is an oral tradition to that effect.

This is, as yet, unconfirmed by official documentation (as far as I know - there may have been more recent progress made). Although there have been efforts made by some very fine Murdoch researchers to find a record of Ada teaching during her marriage, this evidence has thus far proved elusive.

We may yet have answers - perhaps these posts will prompt someone to check more local sources, or perhaps we'll find out more when the 1911 Census is released. Until independent verification can be found, however, it's best to keep in mind that this is unsubstantiated rumour.​
 
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sharon rutman

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Ok Inger i defer to you--recommend some books for me. Here in the States we can't get a hold of the necessary Titanic related research materials and I'm not going to risk having this thread shut down--it's too important.
 

Inger Sheil

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See if you can get ahold of Susanne Stormer's works, Sharon - they're very hagiographical, but they represent much of what is known about William and Ada (be wary of the inferences she draws, though - she has filled in many of the gaps caused by lack of evidence with speculation). Elizabeth Gibbons also wrote an excellent ms that has never been published in full, although the research has now been superseded in some parts - its almost impossible to get ahold of, but it is beautifully, elegantly written.

Good researchers to contact would include UK-based Jenni Atkinson, who is also a member of this board (although she may not have logged in for a while) - while a warm admirer of Murdoch, she is also an very objective and talented researcher who has conducted her own work on Murdoch for over 30 years. She is very familiar with seafaring, an experienced square rig sailor (she wrote a very well-received book about one of her voyages many years ago) and has a wonderful collection of material, much of which has never been published.
 
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sharon rutman

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I tried that on Ebay and Amazon but I had no luck. This is where I think we have so much trouble--research material that's readily available in one place may be impossible elsewhere. Sometimes you have to take whatever you can get even if it is at face value.
 

Inger Sheil

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Unfortunately not every source is easily available, Sharon - these books are self-published, and out of print, so are not readily available anywhere. The Gibbons ms was never published in full and is extremely rare. In addition, some researchers who have the most data - acquiried through their original work - have not published all their material.

This discussion illustrates some of the problems facing researchers today, with so much information available on the net, but not all of it with cites that enable verification of data. I know Richard, the author of the Dalbeattie site, quite well - I've even met him in person when visiting Dalbeattie and I've had the opportunity to discuss the website with him. He is a charming individual who is keenly interested in history, and who has a strong desire to tell Murdoch's story. I also know his sources - he has consulted Jenni Atkinson, for example, as well as Stormer's first book Goodbye, Good Luck, Elizabeth Gibbons' ms, some of Diana Bristow's published material, and other researchers...in particular a local man who has a tremendous store of knowledge about the Solway Firth and its mariners.

The site is, in many ways, a work in progress (although I know that Richard is very busy and I think hasn't had a chance to complete all the updates and corrections he wished to make). It is also a secondary source - without the cite of a primary source, taking a statement and building conjecture upon it must be done with caveats. Richard himself does not present the idea that Ada continued to work as objective fact - he refers to "reports".

Secondary sources on the internet, like elsewhere, should be a starting point - not the end point. That is why many academic institutions do not allow cites from Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia, for that matter), but they do encourage students to follow up on the primary sources cited by Wiki. Richard's site is one of the better Titanic sites around, although it has generated its share of controversy, but with so many other dodgy sites that make thoroughly innacurate, unsubstantiated statements about figures involved in the disaster, it pays for any serious researcher to be cautious. Taking unreferenced statements to a discussion forum like this and seeking input is a good start to analysing them - in this case, for example, I happen to know that Murdoch researchers have attempted to verify the schoolteaching story, and have been unable to do so to date.
 
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>>I tried that on Ebay and Amazon but I had no luck.<<

Sharon, you may want to have a crack at ABEBooks or some of the other used book networks. With self-published books that are out of print, it might be the only realistic possibility of getting some of this material.

I have a copy of Susanne Stormer's work and it's a cracking good read. You do need to be careful with it for the reasons that Inger stated, but short of getting your hands on some primary sources, it's going to be tough to find much of anything else out there.

More's the pity since Will Murdoch deserves better then to end up as a footnote in the Titanic saga.
 
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sharon rutman

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Would a google search help? That's how I found that Dalbeattie web site-I was actually surprised to find out Murdoch's hometown was online. It's actually very good--the usual things to see and do, town history, and of course, a biography of the hometown hero William Murdoch. Yes Murdoch does deserve better--that's why I started that thread about the shabby, negative images of him on stage and screen.
 
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>>Would a google search help?<<

Maybe.

I'm not offering any gaurantees on that. If it doesn't get you the book, it may offer the names of services such as bookfinder, ABEbooks, and Alibris which specialize in that sort of thing. I'd try the used book services first, but if there's an online listing somewhere, Google may very well dig it up for you and save you some legwork.
 

Tracy Smith

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Getting back to the issue of the Murdochs not having children, it could also be possible that they decided not to have any or to put it off, thinking they had time in the future to have kids? Maybe, like Stanley Lord, he wanted to put off starting a family until he'd gotten his own command?

For as little as he got to see her during their short marriage, it would seem as if condoms would have been adequate birth control for them.
 

Inger Sheil

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You're right, Tracy - there could be a number of reasons that they did not have children. Ada was getting to an age where conception and childbirth would be more difficult, but some women did continue to have children into their 30s. With a lack of real evidence (e.g. letters) all we can do is speculate. There is a hearsay tradition that Ada did state in later life that her only regret about her marriage to William was that they had no children, but there could be a number of interpretations as to why that came about.

Wilde was rather the exception among WSL officers in that he married quite young and had a large family while he was still working his way up the career ladder. Boxhall, Pitman and Lowe were all thirty or more when they married.

Be warned - if you do find a copy of one of the books mentioned in this thread, you may find it very expensive...I've seen them go for astronomical prices on eBay (although hopefully we'll see the market drop a bit now).

Personally, the book I'd like to see published is the one by the Dalbeattie researcher I referred to above. His work has been the basis for a lot of the research on Murdoch, but he has not always been fully acknowledged. He was the first to really pull together a list of Murdoch's ships, for example. Richard acknowledges him on the Dalbeattie site.

Lovely part of the world, Dalbeattie - the Solway Firth is quite beautiful in all its moods, and there are local landmarks like the Sweetheart Abbey.
 
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sharon rutman

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Remember that Ada married William Murdoch when she was past 30 which was the exception rather than the rule. Women in the early 1900's were expected to marry and have children while they were very very young. Once they hit a certain age, a woman was usually doomed to a wretched life of spinsterhood. Ada broke the mold in another way--she was also a career woman as a teacher and she was blessed with a very understanding spouse.
 

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