First class women lives before 1912


Sally Sorour

What were the activities, hobbies, interests of the following women before sailing on the titanic in 1912?
1. Mahala Dutton
2. Mrs. Ryerson
3. Mrs. Widener
4. Edith Evans

Brian Ahern

Sally - the comings and goings of these women would probably have been documented somewhat by their local society pages. If I were you, I'd check archives of their hometown newspapers.

This would obviously be no small undertaking but I think you're going to have to do your own research here. It's an interesting topic, but one that there doesn't seem to be a wealth of information on. There are several Titanic scholars who would have more information then is thus far in print on the subject, but several seem to have books in the works and are sitting on their info, which is fair play.

I've been devouring every scrap of passenger info I can get my hands on for many years now and I can only guess at these women's lives pre-disaster. Mahala Douglas is known to have been something of an amateur poet in the years after the sinking, and I assume this was an interest she had always held. Mrs Ryerson and Mrs Widener were both very active society ladies and both had large broods of children. So these two things must have played an enormous part in their daily lives. And I BELIEVE that Eleanor Widener had a passion for antiques. It is often said that Edith Evans was quite close to her French cousins, which makes me wonder if she was something of a francophile, though this is purely conjecture.

All of this is just off the top of my head but it's the most help I can offer.If you decide to strike out on your own and research these women yourself, I wish you luck and hope that you will be generous with whatever you discover!

Brian Ahern

Randy Bryan Bigham


What Brian Ahern has said and suggested above is very wise.

Of the ladies you mention, I have only come across references in my own research to Eleanor Widener, easily the best known of the group. These references deal with charitable causes of varying types in which she was involved or with public events she attended. In particular, she attended many of the entertainments hosted by the Palm Beach set during the "Southern" social season. There was in fact a film in 1916 in which a number of society celebrities took part, including Eleanor. I'll have to get out my notes later to make sure, but I think it was called "The Isle of Happiness" and featured the actress Billie Burke. The picture was, as they used to say then, "got up for charity," and so wasn't a commercial release. I believe this is all discussed in more detail on another ET thread called "Mrs. Widener's Pearls."

As to Edith Evans, the only other lady on your list whom I know anything about, I can tell you from visual evidence - courtesy of Phillip Gowan - that she was slim, attractive and very fashionable. Though in her mid-30s, she looked considerably younger. She had a fresh, neat, wholesome appearance suggesting that she was a cultured, intelligent woman. It's difficult to tell what her personality might have been but, from the way this brave lady died, we at least know she was generous of heart and a friend anyone would have been proud to have.

Caroline Brown, whose life Edith saved by quick, selfless thinking, certainly paid her young companion the most fitting tribute in her eulogy by speaking so beautifully of the sacrifice that was made in those agonizing seconds as the last lifeboat was lowered away from Titanic. It's doubtful Edith knew she was making the supreme sacrifice in that fateful moment but she made it just the same: "You go first. You have children waiting at home."

As in the case of the Strauses, an almost Biblical resonance has been attached to her bravery, and justifiably so. It is one of the simplest, yet greatest, acts of human goodness that took place that night.