Deaths of Second Class Women


Dennis Foley

I've always wondered why so many women in 2nd class were lost, especially those not traveling with their husbands. I have a theory (nothing more than that!), however, about Mesdames Corbett, Corey and Karnes. Here goes: Somewhere along the line I read that Mrs. Corey was very pregnant(7-9 months) when she sailed on Titanic. It is widely surmised that she had befriended Mrs. Karnes, per Lawrence Beesley's observations in second-class library. Now Mrs. Corbett, according to her bio, had been studying nursing while in England. Though I don't know of any connection between her and the other two, it could be surmised that the 3 of them, given that they were all 3 Americans by birth (?), became acquainted. It seems likely to me that Mrs. Corey would have wanted to avoid any crowd scene, including pushing and elbowing that must have been going on, given her pregnancy (indeed, didn't one of the surviving crewmen manning the second-class boats state in the Enquiry that he heard women say something to the effect of "I'm not going near that boat"?). Also, given the false early impressions given by the crew that everything was OK, it would have made sound sense for her to avoid all crowds. Mrs. Karnes, her friend, and Mrs. Corbett, a trained nurse and possibly an acquaintance by now, may have decided to stay with her to at least calm her down. Any thoughts? Thanks and Happy New Year all. Dennis
An opinion expressed by a mate of mine is that because these unaccompanied women had no-one to tell them what to do they didn't do anything to try to save themselves, that they were so used to having their movements dictated they hesitated. I don't necessarily prescribe to this theory but it's an idea.



Renae Barrett Salisbury

I don't know anything about Mrs. Corey or Mrs. Karnes, but I have researched Irene Colvin Corbett and interviewed her grandson Don; consequently, I have some insights about the Bos' and Dennis' theories. First of all, Mrs. Corbett was not the sort of woman who would have waited for a man to tell her what to do. Her personality was quite the opposite. Although in her early 30s and the mother of three children, she sought training at the Lying In hospital in London to further her interests in obstetrics. A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons), she acted against the wishes of her husband and the counsel of her religious leaders who thought she ought to seek training in an Eastern Institution.
Her parents, however, supported her decision, even mortgaging their home to help pay for her passage and her education. The Colvins also cared for Irene's three children while she studied abroad.
While in London she sent in writings to the Provo Harold which reflected her suffragette views as she remarked upon the differences between American and English women. According to Irene, the latter enjoyed more freedoms.
I subscribe to Dennis' theory that she busied herself helping the pregnant Mrs. Corey or others in need. I know that Irene was anxious to return to her family as she sent word that she was joyfully coming home sooner than expected because she had booked passage aboard the Titanic. I cannot see her passing up any opportunity to reunite with her children without a good reason. Helping others in such a tragedy reflects her personality as well as her training. That theory was also shared in the Salt Lake Tribune's story reporting her death.
Hope this is helpful. Renae

Michael Friedman

Mr. Foley,

Your theory is quite similar to one I have been working on for some time, to explain the loss of second class women who had access to the boats, were traveling unaccompanied by men, but were lost nonetheless.

Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Chapman, Mrs. Howard, Mrs. Lahtinen and Mrs. Turpin apparently would not leave their husbands. Apparently Mlle Yrois also chose to remain with Mr. Harbeck. That leaves six unaccompanied women who were lost: Miss Hiltunen reportedly came on deck late and got delayed by handling Mrs. Hamalainen's suitcase? Mrs. Mack may be the elderly woman at Boat 9 who lost her nerve and returned below. There was a report that Miss Funk gave up her seat to a woman trying to join her children in a boat (if true, perhaps that was Mrs. Becker at Boat 11?)

But what about the others?

We know Mrs. Karnes and Mrs. Corey were traveling together, and that Mrs. Corey was eight months pregnant. Coming from India, they may likely have fallen in company with Miss Funk, as well as Mrs. Corbett, who may have offered her services as a nurse.

If they had all become acquainted, of course Mrs. Karnes would be looking after her friend. Knowing Mrs. Corey's "delicate condition", Mrs. Corbett and Miss Funk, if already acquainted with her, may very likely have looked in on the two ladies to offer their assistance. Likely, so would their stewardess. Of the two second class stewardesses, Mrs. Snape was reported to have said farewell to her passengers. Was anything reported of Miss Walsh after the accident?

Now, here's the new twist I'm suggesting to the plot: Roused in the middle of the night, with noise and confusion in the corridors, and being eight months pregnant, might Mrs. Corey perhaps have gone into premature labour (or, alternately, false labour)?

This definitely would have complicated things. My next question: how long did the second class lift continue to operate, or were the second class passengers on their own to climb the staircases?

Here's my theory in its final form(for now): Mrs. Corey went into premature or false labour; Mrs. Karnes sent for the stewardess (perhaps Miss Walsh) and/or for the nurse (Mrs. Corbett). Miss Funk, if she had become acquainted with them, might also have joined them.

With the ongoing medical emergency, not knowing the seriousness of the nautical emergency, and perhaps with the lift being out of operation, the ladies may have risked staying in Mrs. Corey's cabin to assist in the delivery.

Mrs. Karnes (and possibly also Miss Funk) would not have left her friend, Mrs. Corbett would not have left her patient, and the stewardess (Miss Walsh?) would not have left her passengers.

Well, there it is. Of course, there's no way we can know for sure, but does it seem plausible? What do you think? I would welcome your response.

If it happened that way, it would certainly be a case of several more unknown Titanic heroines, in the spirit of the words of Jesus, "Greater love hath no man than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends" (John 15:13), which would have matched well what we know about the faith and professions of those ladies.

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to set things out clearly, based on what information we do have.

Best regards,


Michael Friedman

Just another thought: a discovery such as "the Cave List" for second class would probably shed some light on cases such as the ladies under discussion.



Dennis Foley

Very interesting Mike. I never thought of this scenario. Thx for your thoughts. Regards, Dennis
Regarding Miss Hilttunen - Mrs Hämäläinen got into boat No 4 with her baby, expecting Miss Hilttunen to follow, but she just did not get into the boat, much to Mrs Hämäläinen's surprise. Mrs Chapman also seems to have been near this boat and said that she would not go without her husband. There were at least two women near boat No 4 who did not enter it. I believe that Miss Evans also was there - Mrs Brown's story matches boat No 4 better that boat D, which leaves us with three women (and possibly more) who did not enter No 4.

After reading through many Titanic books, i noticed there seemed to be a rather high number of second class women fatalitys, why was this so? i mean it is so often stated that second class on titanic was like first class on many other liners of the time and that second class passengers were treated not unlike first class in some respects. Were they given a tour of first class before she sailed??
If i am right, i just wondered why the second class women were lost when they had ample access to the lifeboats.
Gary - one reason could be that more third class passengers left from boats in second class space than first class space, so there was more of a crush in second class.

This could account for why more solitary women - like Mrs. Karnes, Mrs. Mack, Miss Funk and Miss Yrois - didn't make it into boats. Other women - like Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Chapman - deliberately remained aboard to stay with their husbands.

Just a thought,
Brian A.

And, yes, second class passengers were allowed to tour first class before sailing.
Thanks Brian!
It just seems odd that many of the women from Second Class did not survive compared to First Class, but your idea does sound as if that might have been the case.
Ive only come across this fact recently, apart from books and popular names from Second Class, you dont hear or see much about it on TV or the Cinema.


There have been posts on this. See under Passenger Research: Biographical - 2nd Class: Mesdames Corbett, Corey, Karnes, second-class. There may be other posts under the main sub-heading.
The "unattached" 2nd Class women: Corbett, Corey, Karnes, and Funk have had extensive disucssion on their circumstances in other threads.

The other two in this categoray are: Ms. Yvois, who was traveling clandestinely with William Harbeck in an extra-marital affair. A reluctance to draw attention to themselves may have been a factor in her not making it to a boat.

The other unattached female was the twice widowed Mary Mack. While not a young woman, she wasn't elderly either. However, upon a new check of her biography, it shows that 16-year-old Thomas Mudd shared the same ticket number with her. I don't see any information on what relation these two passengers had, but if Mrs. Mack was looking out for the youth on behalf of his family, she may have opted to not leave him alone if he was forbidden access to a boat.

Does anyone know the connection between Mack and Mudd and if that played a role in Mary not being saved?
Hello Arthur,

Mrs Mack and Thomas Mudd were not travelling on the same ticket. This is an error on the part of whoever typed the numbers onto this web-site and complicated by the lack of letters that often formed a part of the ticket numbers. The numbers were identical "3" and the letters were close enough to cause confusion. Both Mrs Mack and Thomas Mudd paid £10.10s.
Originally in the High Detail Passenger Lists on this web-site Mrs Mack's ticket number showed as S.O./P.P 3. That was in fact Mudd's ticket number. Listed immediately above him on the CTL [that is the Contract Ticket List], Mrs Mack's ticket was S.O./C. 3.

Ah, that makes sense. The ticket number system was quite confusing.

Then I will stick with the supposition that, similar to Edith Evans, Mary Mack was convinced it was safer on the ship until it was too late.

I forgot one other unattached 2nd Class woman, Marta Hiltunen. The accounts of her activities that night have been particularly cryptic especially the story of her not boarding a boat because she insisted on staying with the Hammalanens' luggage. Would people agree that a reasonable theory would be a scenario similar to that of Elin Ester Braf, who despite Mrs. Johnson's entreaties, was too frightened to traverse the space into a lifeboat and remained on the ship?

Especially considering the Hammalanen party were in unfamiliar 1st Class territory, Mrs. Hammalanen, already occupied with her infant, might have been unable to convince Marta to overcome her fear. Or they got separated and only mother and child reached boat 4.
Dear Arthur,

Mrs. Hämäläinen was devastated when she realised that Martta Hiltunen hadn't followed her into boat 4. In her interviews, she thought Martta was right behind her in the boat, but alas.