Age boys were considered "men"

Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Member
As a woman with a young son, something I've always taken very hard is imagining my son, age 8, who looks 12, would be denied a spot on a lifeboat in that situation. I believe it was mostly age 15+, but imo 15 is still a child. I know it was a different time. I was wondering if the officers filling the boats had a specific age to let on or if it was more discretionary
 
Rob Lawes

Rob Lawes

Member
Around this time, in England and Wales the earliest age at which children could leave school was 12 years old. The compulsory education age wasn't raised to 14 years until 1918. Most industrial sites would, have had apprentices working from the age of 12 onwards. Certainly by the age of 14 almost all working class boys would be in employment. Obviously first class children would more likely still be in full time private education.

So to answer your question, culturally, I would say the distinction would be made at around 14 years.
 
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Aaron_2016

Guest
Mrs Ryerson said her 13 year old son was not allowed to get in the lifeboat and his father had to persuade the officer to let him go.

"Jack, was with me. An officer at the window said, "That boy can't go." My husband stepped forward and said, "Of course, that boy goes with his mother. He is only 13." So they let him pass. They also said, "No more boys."

This policy to allow "No more boys" must have been upheld towards the end as William Carter junior was only 11 years old. He was not allowed in the lifeboat because he was a boy. His mother put a girl's hat on him and successfully passed him off as a girl. Although newspaper reports say it was J.J Astor who put the girl's hat on the boy and saved him.


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Alex Kiehl

Member
Wasn't 15 considered adulthood in those days, like Andrea suggested? ET has the children listed as being 0-14.
 
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Aaron_2016

Guest
Probably depends on height and weight as well. e.g. A friend brought her son into work. He was only 12 years old but almost 6 feet tall. A tall kid wearing a waistcoat with an overcoat and bowler hat, with a life jacket might appear to be an adult in the eyes of the officer or steward in charge of loading the boats. Children went to work and by their early teens they may have appeared as men. Young teenagers also served in the First World War by pretending to be older. I think one of the primary goals for boys was to step into their father's shoes. There must have been quite a few on the Titanic who did not approach the lifeboats because they believed they were men and did not want to be treated as a child, not realizing how serious the situation was, as few were told the ship was sinking. Wonder how many boys refused to leave their fathers and brothers, and now many were persuaded by their fathers to get into the lifeboat to look after their mother and sisters. The boy naturally wants to stay with his father, but if neither are aware the ship is actually going to sink, then the father will not persuade their children to leave the ship.


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Adam Went

Member
I agree, I think it probably had more to do with appearance than actual age. I mean this was in a time when identification was a lot more lax, look at he number of underage boys who went off to fight during World War I for instance. So a 12 year old who looked big and mature for his age would probably be more likely to be considered a man's age rather than a 14 year old who looked small and scared.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
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Bob Godfrey

Member
In answer to some of the questions posed here, I'm providing a cut & paste from a posting I made in an earlier thread several years ago. Hopefully it will still be of interest:

In most countries today the age of majority, at which people assume full adult control and responsibility for every aspect of their own lives, is 18. In 1912 it was generally 21. I can't speak of the situation in every country, but that was the case in England and Wales. It was the age at which a man could vote, for instance, and a couple could marry without their parents' consent. Anybody under the age of 21 was regarded in law not necessarily as a child but always as a 'minor'. Within that period of life, the 'age of license' was variable for different activities and situations. The British Board of Trade regarded all aged 12 and above as adults. They are so designated on passenger lists, and all were charged adult fares.

All were obliged to attend school until the age of 12, could not enter licensed premises before the age of 14, and could not buy tobacco before the age of 16. The age of consent for sex outside the bounds of marriage was 16. The age of consent for marriage without need for parental approval was 21, but a 12 year old girl and a 14 year old boy could be legally married with their parent's consent. Most people, however, would have regarded a girl as unready for motherhood before the age of 15 or 16.

Minors up to the age of 15 were referred to in Law as 'children and young people', for whom the Law provided special protection from exploitation. The age at which a child became, in the eyes of society, a 'young person' (roughly equivalent to the later concept of the 'teenager') was open to interpretation, but it was generally 12 or 13, the point at which they left school and entered the adult world of working for a living. In employment records of the time, male employees up to the age of 15 were listed as boys, those 16 and over as men. Certainly a boy generally regarded himself as a man at the age of 16, at which point he was still a minor but no longer regarded as a vulnerable 'young person', so most legal restrictions on his bevaviour had been lifted.

So, on the boat deck of the Titanic, there were three age groupings - those who were adult by any definition; the children under 12; and those who were minors in the eyes of the law but no longer children. Among the male passengers, it's that last group, or rather the lower end of it (the 'young people' aged 12-15), who are often now considered to have been harshly treated on the boat deck. But in 1912 the boats were being loaded by men who had begun their own working lives at sea at the age of 12 or 13 and had no reason to grant much leeway to others who had the look of being at least as old as that, like the 13 year old Ryerson boy. So the steward (not Lightoller) who wanted to exclude him was acting in a way that most would have expected. It was, however, a matter of personal judgement in each case. Winnie Coutts had trouble persuading the crew to allow her 9-year old son into a boat, but Frank Goldsmith told how an officer seemed willing to allow Alfred Rush (just turned 16) through to the boat deck. It was Alfred himself who was determined to stay behind because he considered himself to be a man.
 
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Talira Greycrest

Guest
I've heard that Third Class passenger Rhonda Abbott was offered a seat in a lifeboat but refused it after her teenage sons, aged 13 and 16, were denied access because they were considered to be "men". Rhonda survived the sinking, but her sons weren't so lucky. Only the body of Rossmore Abbott was recovered and positively identified. To my knowledge, the body of Eugene Abbott was never found. If it was, the body was never identified.
 
N Alison

N Alison

Member
So when Lightoller said "no more boys" how young were we talking here? I know he tried to keep 13 year old Jack Ryerson out of a boat but how young would this apply? Rhoda Abbott could not leave the ship with her son's Rossmore, aged 16 and Eugene, aged 13. Did boys younger than this get denied places in lifeboats too or was it just teenagers?
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
I think it probably had more to do with appearance than actual age. So a 12 year old who looked big and mature for his age would probably be more likely to be considered a man's age rather than a 14 year old who looked small and scared.
I agree. I recall reading that Jack Ryerson, 13, belonged to the latter category and might have been the reason why Lightoller relented after his intial protests. I have no idea what 11-year old William Carter Jr looked like but his mother mght have used the girl's hat as a precaution.

I believe that the Asplund survivors got on board Lifeboat #4, but quite late in its loading. Selma Asplund got in with Lilian and Edvin Felix but Carl Sr remained behind with Filip (13). Clarence (9) and Carl Jr (5). Whether Lightoller actually stopped Filip from entering is not known but his father might have thought so after seeing the loading policy. IMO, the younger boys were just too scared to go and Lightoller, who would have allowed them if they had tried to board Lifeboat #4, simply did not wait for them. But he would never have allowed Filip Asplund to get into the boat.

Rhoda Abbott could not leave the ship with her son's Rossmore, aged 16 and Eugene, aged 13
True, but not because the boys were actually stopped from entering any lifeboat. The Abbots got to the starboard side of the boat deck where Murdoch was allowing even men when there was room. The following excerpt from an article about Rhoda Abbott by Robert L Bracken gives the impression that someone stopped Eugene and Rossmore Abbott from entering Collapsible C, but IMO that conjecture is misleading.
They finally reached one of Titanic’s last lifeboats, Collapsible C, just as it was being loaded. Only women and children were being allowed through a group of crewmen responsible for loading this boat
AFAIK, although there was some chaos around Collapsible C, there was no 'cordon of crewmen' around the lifeboat like there was on the port side around Collapsible D a few minutes later. The Abbots arrived late into the sinking, probably in company with Amy Stanley, who occupied the cabin next to theirs. Amy Stanley herself shared a cabin with Virginia Martin & Elizabeth Dowdell and left with them on the way to boat deck; the reason that they got separated might have been because Stanley went forward (and towards Collapsible C) with the Abbots while the other two went aft, but all of them remained on the starboard side.

According to Amy Stanley, Rhoda Abbott was put off by the noisy crowd around Collapsible C and so remained on the deck with her sons, probably some distance away. Bruce Ismay testified that he checked to see that there were no women or children around before entering Collapsible C himself at the last moment. Later, the Abbotts remained in the vicinity while the crew were making an effort to free and launch Collapsible A. That was unsuccessful and when the 'wave' hit, lifeboat floated free. Rhoda and her sons jumped into the water to try and get to it (as did several others) but only she came up to the surface; Eugene and Rossmore were lost in that icy melee.

We must also look at it from Rhoda Abbott's perspective. Here was woman who was running away from an abusive husband with their teenage children, only to lose them both under traumatic circumstances while barely surviving herself. If she thought that Ismay or anyone else were indirectly responsible for her sons' death by not allowing them into Collapsible C, she would definitely have said so afterwards. AFAIK she did not, which suggests that the Abbotts either arrived a trifle too late on the boat deck or Rhoda did not follow Amy Stanley though the crowd into the boat because of her own anxiety.
 
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