Constance Willard


Mar 20, 2007
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It appears that Florence Mackey (nee Day) was the sister of Constance Willard's mother, Cora. From the scanty sources available on-line, I gather that they originally hailed from Minneapolis and, at one point, Mr Day employed his son-in-law David, Constance's father, in his lumber business. Evidently, this was a highly lucrative enterprise, since Florence was eventually married off to the millionaire Frank Mackey of Chicago and thereby launched into a glittering social milieu.

Mr Mackey played polo at the most fashionable grounds with sundry Phippses, Whitneys, Vanderbilts and Belmonts and, during the frantic summer season of 1907, his wife entertained the likes of Lord and Lady Kilmorey, Lord and Lady Craven, Lady Amherst, Mrs Bradley Martin, Mrs Ronalds and Mrs Ian Malcolm (Lillie Langtry's illegitimate daughter by Prince Louis of Battenberg) at a splendid dinner dance in London, to which she wore a silver gown and a crown of diamonds and turquoise. There are also references to her dining at the Ritz with Lady Paget, attending a royal garden party at Windsor Castle and mingling with some exceedingly illustrious personages at Mrs Whitelaw Reid's ball at Dorchester House.

Evidently, she was quite the right sort of aunt to have!
 
Mar 20, 2007
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...quite the right sort of aunt indeed. By chance, I've just come across what I take to be a tantalising reference to Constance Willard in the Society columns of 'The New York Times' for March, 1912. It seems that Mrs Frank Mackey organised a 'brilliant' dinner and dance for 'her niece' (who SURELY must be Constance?) at the house she was renting in London from Princess Dolgourouki and those taking part in the cotillion included Mrs Hwfa Williams, Lady Cunard and - interestingly - Ava Astor, the Colonel's first wife.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I've finally nailed a definite reference to Constance Willard in the Society columns of the 'New York Times' during the spring of 1912. Pretty much as I suspected, she was indeed the niece of the very well-connected Mrs Frank Mackey and it was she who was the guest-of-honour at a grand cotillion her aunt had organised at the house she had rented in Mayfair and which was extensively reported in the press on 24 March. The cream of that year's debutantes, chaperoned by their mothers, were in attendance and Constance would have been introduced to some very well-bred gels indeed - Ladies Marjorie and Diana Manners, with the Duchess of Rutland; Monica Grenfell, with Lady Desborough; Violet De Trafford, with Lady De Trafford; Lady Cunard; Lady Paget; and so on. The cotillion favours were purchased from Lady Sackville's Working Girl's Association and included small framed pictures, fans and opera glasses.

What is interesting is that, even at this glittering event, it was observed by Mrs Mackey's guests that 'she did not seem to be in a normal condition of health' and, the very next day, she became gravely ill with what was described as a 'brain fever'. Mr Mackey was then in the States and, although he was cabled directly, he arrived in England to find that the situation had deteriorated alarmingly. Temporarily rallying from her first complaint, Mrs Mackey ultimately died from pneumonia in a nursing home on 16 May. What strikes me as odd is that, during such a crisis, Constance did not remain with her aunt in London - instead leaving town just a fortnight later for her journey home on the 'Titanic'. One can only imagine that (wrongly, as it turned out), Mrs Mackey's symptoms were deemed to have improved sufficiently for Constance's services and company to be no longer required. Perhaps the original intention had been that Mrs Mackey would accompany her niece across the Atlantic herself but, because of her condition, she decided to entrust her to the Carters instead?

(On a wholly separate note - is there a moderator lurking who might read this and be able to transfer this thread to the 'Biographical - 1st Class' section where it perhaps more rightfully belongs? It seems a pity to leave poor Constance sitting here, all on her own!)

[Moderator's Note: This thread, originally posted in another subtopic, has been moved to here. JDT]
 

Bob Godfrey

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Can't remember the source. I don't think Ms Willard is on the Cave list (The Cave List) but her cabin number could have been mentioned in one of the interviews she gave to newspaper reporters after the event.
 

Bob Godfrey

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I'd like to know the identities of all the babes in arms who were, according to personal accounts, 'rescued' by women survivors. There are rather a lot of such stories, but very few babies or toddlers among the survivors who were not accompanied into a boat by a parent, other family member or nursemaid and didn't need to be rescued by a complete stanger. I suspect that most of these incidents amount to nothing more than taking hold of a baby for the few moments needed for its mother to climb into a boat, then passing it back.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Yes, a teenaged girl without companions and still on the ship at a fairly late stage of the sinking would most likely be 3rd Class. CW mentioned only that she looked 'about 15' but that could mean anything from maybe 12 to late teens. And that she was 'English', which suggests that she spoke the language clealry with no strong accent and certainly not an American accent. It's clear that CW didn't know who she was, but her account does state that she and the girl were helped into the same boat. Unfortunately there seems to be no general agreement about which boat that was. No 8 has been suggested, and No 4. Maybe others too. Of the known occupants of those two boats, none fits the description of this girl.

If you're keen to follow this up, check out lists of survivors in each lifeboat. Look for a girl who is aged in the range several years either side of 15, is unaccompanied in the boat by other family members, and who is from a country (other than the USA) where English is the native tongue. Ireland perhaps would be most likely.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Well, you've got the age right but that's just one factor and there are others to consider which would rule her out. You need to find a girl who would have looked and sounded English, and who could have been wandering about alone. The Lebanese are a dark-skinned Mediterranean people and few could speak English at all unless they'd already spent time in the US. Sileni certainly couldn't speak a word of it. Besides that, the Yasbecks were together right up to the time when they both boarded a lifeboat, after which Antoni (Sileni's husband) was ordered out at gunpoint.
 

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