Miss Ann Elizabeth Isham

Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
There is an excellently researched article by Randy Bigham on ET about the possible fate of Ann Isham. It is well worth a read. What happened to Lizzy?

Ann Elizabeth "Lizzy" Isham was a single, middle-aged woman from Chicago and one of the only 4 adult women First Class passengers who died in the disaster. As the previous posts show, her exact fate is bit of a mystery. The various hypothesis include that she slept through the whole disaster till it was too late, was unable to get out of her room because the door jammed or she was accidentally locked-in by a steward, simply refused to believe that the ship was in danger till it was too late, refused to board a lifeboat without her pet Great Dane and even that she was actually rescued by decided not to identify herself and lived out an obscure life.

In his article Mr Bigham explores all possibilities based on what little evidence is available. The following relevant points emerged from his article.

  • Although known to be quite socially active both in her native America and in Paris where she lived for some years, not many people on board the Titanic recall interacting with Ann Isham, including the inquisitive Colonel Archibald Gracie, who occupied the cabin next to hers.
  • Ann Isham occupied First Class cabin C-49; there were quite a few survivors from that part of the ship including Gracie (Cabin C-51, Collapsible B), Pierre Marechal (C-47, Lifeboat #7), Gilbert Tucker (C-53, Lifeboat #7), Carolina Endres, Mrs Astor's maid (C-45, Lifeboat #4) and Eloise Smith (C-31, Lifeboat #6). None of them recalled seeing her on that Sunday, before or after the collision.
  • Mr Bigham reckons that Ann Isham's cabin C-49 was serviced by either Charles Cullen or William Faulkner; IMO Cullen is more likely because he looked after Gracie's cabin C-51 next door. Though both bedroom stewards survived, neither was called in to testify and either inquiry. AFAIK, neither man alluded to anything that might refer to Ann Isham, unless one of them was the man that spoke to reporter May Birkhead on board the Carpathia after the disaster(see below).
  • Although her neighbours did not recall much of Ann Isham during the voyage or sinking, a few other passengers did. Sisters Kornelia Andrews and Ann Hogeboom as well as their niece Gretchen Longley were acquainted with Ann Isham, probably as her dining table companions. All those 3 other women were rescued on Lifeboat #10 and not seeing Ann Isham in it, reportedly searched for her in vain on board the Carpathia.
  • The article mentions another very interesting potential witness, Antoinette Flegelheim, who remembered a "charming lady in her forties and travelling alone" who sat next to her table at dinner. The two exchanged some conversation and later Mrs Flegelheim reportedly looked for the other woman on board the Carpathia but could not find her; therefore Mrs Flegelheim presumed that she had died in the sinking. Since Ida Staus, Bess Allison and Edith Evans are accounted for adult women victims from First Class, the woman Mrs Flegelheim referred to must have been Ann Isham.
  • On board the Carpathia, one of that ship's passengers, a young journalist named May Birkhead was interviewing survivors. She was reportedly told by a "steward" that when he went to the room of a lady passenger in First Class to instruct her to dress warmly, put on her life vest and go to the boat deck, she laughed it off, dismissed the possibility of any danger to the ship and told the steward that she was going right back to bed. Seems suggestive, but some Titanic writers like Don Lynch have apparently felt that the Birkhead story was too imprecise and inexplicit to be believed. Nevertheless, it appeared on New York Herald dated April 20th 1912.
  • The Birkhead story has some possible indirect support; survivor Helen Bishop told a reporter that a woman occupying a cabin 'near' her own refused to get out of bed despite the stewards' persuasion, went back to sleep and sank with the ship. To me, this seems unlikely to be related to Ann Isham, who was in Cabin C-49 whereas Helen Bishop shared Cabin B-49, a deck higher, with her husband Dickinson Bishop.
So, what could have happened to Ann Isham? Let us consider all possibilities:
  1. She slept through the collision and the increasing activity around till it was too late. This is highly unlikely considering that others in cabins nearby felt the collision quite significantly. Gracie next door was awakened by a sudden jolt and noise forward on the starboard side. Pierre Marechal in C-47 was reportedly playing a game of whist with 4 companions and they all felt the shock of impact. That suggests that even a heavy sleeper would have been jolted awake and would have wanted to check what was going on.
  2. Was locked-in her cabin by a jammed door or bedroom steward locking the door without checking. This has sometimes been considered as a possibility but IMO even less likely. None of other passenger survivors in the vicinity of C-49 mentioned jammed doors. Her cabin was fairly small and others passing would have definitely heard any frantic door-banging etc, especially considering (by their individual accounts) that the survivors in cabins around Ann Isham's C-49 left theirs at different times, not to mention stewards etc. Also, AFAIK, neither Cullen not Faulkner said that they locked any cabin doors.
  3. Refused steward's instructions to wear life jacket & go to boat deck, but went back to bed. This is possible. Many passengers and even some crew felt that the Titanic was quite safe even after over an hour had elapsed after the collision. Getting out of a comfortable and warm bed, dress and go outside on a cold night can seem like a hateful task especially of one did not think that there was any danger. If Ann Isham was one of those who felt that way, it might have been too late by the time the awful truth dawned. Although unsubstantiated, that newspaper article by May Birkhead (see above) must be considered as a remote possibility and if true, Ann Isham would be the most likely passenger involved. Considering that C-49 was fairly forward cabin alongside the No 5 & 6 Boiler Casing, about WHEN would it have been "too late" for someone still inside to get out to the relative safety of the boat deck?
  4. Backed out of a lifeboat when the crew refused to allow her pet Great Dane in with her. Although there was a Great Dane on board the Titanic, it did not belong to Ann Isham. Mr Bigham's reserach has shown that she boarded the ship strictly alone and did NOT bring any dog or other pet with her.
  5. Got on to the boat deck too late and could not get a place in any lifeboat. This is certainly possible and under the circumstances the most likely reason Ann Isham did not survive. Even if she was reluctant to get out of bed and go upstairs initially, she would have realized her predicament at some stage. If she dressed and went upstairs at that time, a certain amount of disorientation could have set-in on the crowded decks and with everyone tense and busy, it might have taken her some time to go to the right spot where a still loading lifeboat was available. Travelling alone and with no familiar face to discuss the situation, Ann Isham might have hesitated long enough to be caught out. She might even have been one of the women who Steward Brown saw struggling in the water near Collapsible A just as he helped to cut the falls.
  6. Actually survived but chose to remain obscure for the rest of her life. Less said about this silly speculation the better. Although single, she had siblings, other relatives, many friends and social acquaintances. It was also thought that she had more than enough liquid assets and property to lead a comfortable life.
 
Last edited:
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
There was discussion of someone overhearing 'a girl' state to a steward that she was going back to bed, after beeing woken and told to evacuate. and there was speculation whether that could have been miss Isham, the inference on the word 'girl' got people talking however and that it wouldn't have been used to describe a 50 year old women.

In a fictional parallel narrative or history-that-never-was.... this could be the fate of that 'girl'? if I was a researcher for scripting I might pick up on that as a nice little side narrative to bulk out a good yarn!
As you can see from my post above, that report about a steward telling someone about a female passenger to dress warmly and go above which she refused, started with May Birkhead, a journalist on board the Carpathia, who claimed to have spoken to the aforementioned steward. If true, the steward was probably Charles Cullen and the report said that he referred to her as a "lady passenger" and not as "girl". Such reports often get embellished over time and so it is hard to say where the truth - if there is any truth in it - lies. Furthermore, since Cullen was a First Class steward and there were only 4 First Class adult women lost in the sinking, the conjecture (and no more) is that if the Birkhead story is true, the passenger involved was Ann Isham.
 
Last edited:
H

Harry Peach

Member
She slept through the collision and the increasing activity around till it was too late. This is highly unlikely considering that others in cabins nearby felt the collision quite significantly. Gracie next door was awakened by a sudden jolt and noise forward on the starboard side. Pierre Marechal in C-47 was reportedly playing a game of whist with 4 companions and they all felt the shock of impact. That suggests that even a heavy sleeper would have been jolted awake and would have wanted to check what was going on.

Just a note on this - I think you underestimate some heavy sleepers, there ARE people who sleep thorough ANYTHING or are able to drop off again within seconds of being jolted asleep. And I say this as somewhat who slept through a fire drill in a hotel.... like through the alarm!! I also have terrible waking apathy... i.e. it takes me a while to 'come too' and face the day, and there's often nothing I want more than to sleep again, id probably even risk my life when in that state i.e. by not evacuating when told because of such crushing exhastion and apathy 'I don't care' etc.
I have a sleep disorder you see and back in 1912 sleep disorders would be little known about! Being middle aged too Ann might very well have been a heavy sleeper, she might even have had hearing issues, and not even heard much as much as others. she might have only woke when she noticed a pronounced tilt to her cabin, which would have been hindered getting dressed and escaping!

Also we focus in on Ann being a women, but I wonder if any single travelling men met their end in a similar manner, and weren't accounted for throughout the night!
 
Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member
Moderator
Member
but I wonder if any single travelling men met their end in a similar manner, and weren't accounted for throughout the night!
George Wright who was traveling by himself, was supposedly a heavy sleeper. It has been speculated that he went to sleep on April 14 and simply never woke up.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
I think you underestimate some heavy sleepers, there ARE people who sleep thorough ANYTHING or are able to drop off again within seconds of being jolted asleep
Yes, I know that some people can be very heavy sleepers and extremely difficult to wake-up (I am a retired doctor). Mildred Brown, the young cook in the Allison entourage, was reportedly one such and her colleague George Swane (who sadly was lost himself) and roommate Selina Cook had great difficulty in persuading her to wake-up and get dressed. But they succeeded and Mildred made it to Lifeboat #11 and survived.

With regard to sleeping though the entire Titanic sinking, that would be almost impossible for a sober person - and while I don't know about George Wright, I doubt if Ann Isham was inebriated. The gradual tilt of her cabin floor caused by the progressive sinking of the Titanic's bow would have woken Ann Isham at some stage, even if she had not been the one whom Cullen alerted earlier. This is an excerpt from an article about the vestibular system, which controls the position and movement of the head at all times, including in sleep.
The vestibular system encodes linear and angular head motion supporting numerous functions from gaze stabilization and postural control, to high-level cortical functions involving spatial cognition, including self-body perception, verticality perception, orientation, navigation and spatial memory.

Therefore, it is very likely that even if she was a heavy sleeper, she would have woken up in the first hour of the sinking when the Titanic sank about 4 degrees at the bow, along with a gradual starboard list.

Also, the speculation that Ann Isham and George Wright might have slept through the sinking until too late is based entirely on the fact that no survivor reported seeing either on deck during the sinking. But remember that twice as many people died as survived and it is theoretically possible that several of those who were eventually lost themselves did see one or both of them but did not live to report it afterwards. Also, both were travelling alone and could have easily been missed being seen by those who knew them during the latter stages of the sinking when the boat deck became increasingly crowded and those who did survive would have had a lot in their minds.

Ann Isham was known to be a very socially active person in Paris and so she might have been using the Titanic voyage to get some rest and quality time by herself. She was going to see her brother and his family after many years and there would have been a lot to think about. Also, I suspect that the fact that she was berthed right next to Archibald Gracie (C49 to his C51) had something to do with her skillfully avoiding him and his garrulous "coterie". Independently minded women like Ann Isham and Edith Evans (who too kept her contact with Gracie to a minimum despite being introduced) could very well have found the overbearing, patronizing attitude of the "old world gentleman" more than a bit annoying.
 
C

Cath01

Member
All,

The fate of this mysterious lady has intrigued everybody. What happened to her? A member of a prominent family, 50-year-old Ann Isham, nicknamed "Lizzie," probably knew others in first class aboard Titanic but no one - at least no one who survived - remembered meeting or seeing her. Even old Col. Gracie (bless his snoopy heart) whose cabin was next to hers, never noticed her coming and going from her room.

According to Col. Gracie, Ann "Lizzie" Isham:

"...is the only one of whom no survivor, so far as I can learn, is able to give any information whatsoever as to where she was or what she did on that fateful Sunday night..."

Don Lynch, in contact with her family some years ago, reported that no correspondence connected with Lizzie's death had been preserved by her loved ones. Very odd, in my opinion.

With such a dearth of information, one's imagination is permitted to run riot. Did she really board the Titanic at Cherbourg? Her ticket was used but do we know if it was really Lizzie who used it?

Did she come to some harm early in the voyage - perhaps dying in her cabin - but was never discovered by her steward/stewardess?

Did she really survive but chose to remain anonymous a la Rose "Dawson"? (Cameron detractors will hate me for that one!)

Or was Lizzie Isham just a shy person who didn't socialize much and so was never noticed by anyone, even on the night of April 14-15? Still, where WAS she while the lifeboats were going away? Was she just lost in the crowd on deck, one face among many, or did she remain in her room asleep till it was too late?

What do you all think?

Randy

View attachment 39721

PS) Her photographs (reproduced in the THS journal, Spring '91), reveal a who seems quiet, even bashful. I might also say, from examining the picture of her with her family (circa 1905), that she looks to be significantly overweight. This surely would have posed health problems if in the next 6 or 7 years she gained still more weight.

This is only speculation as to why she was seldom seen during the voyage. First, she was traveling alone…almost. She had her beloved dog, a Great Dane. Dogs were not allowed in first class staterooms. He would not have been easy to smuggle into her room. All dogs were kept in very comfortable kennel onboard in the first class area as the wealthy often traveled with their pets. She probably spent most of her time with her dog. First class passengers were gossipy, and I’m thinking they would have been prying into her business. If I was in her shoes, I would be up hanging out with my dog. I read one unverified account that she and the dog came up to a life boat and were turned away. She decided to stay with her dog. I mean, she took a Great Dane on the trip with her instead of leaving with a friend. This was her best friend. She didn’t want to leave him behind. I get it.

Excerpt from that article:
There is one story, however, that is both true and heartbreaking. One passenger, Ann Elizabeth Isham, boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg with her Great Dane. She refused to leave the ship without her dog, which was too big to go on a lifeboat. Ms. Isham was one of four first-class female passengers who died on the Titanic. There are accounts, although unsubstantiated, that her body, with her arms wrapped around the dog, was later found by a recovery ship. Here’s the link that talks about it…
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
First, she was traveling alone…almost. She had her beloved dog, a Great Dane
No, Ann Isham did NOT board the Titanic with a dog or any other pet. There was a Great Dane among the dogs on board but it did not belong to her, nor are there any witnesses to suggest that she spent time with it or any other dog.

She decided to stay with her dog. I mean, she took a Great Dane on the trip with her instead of leaving with a friend. This was her best friend. She didn’t want to leave him behind
As above. Mr Bigham and other researchers have long said that Ann Isham boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg strictly alone. She did not even own a dog.
There was a couple from Vermont, Mr & Mrs Canfield, who had been visiting Paris earlier and had met Lizzy Isham. Unsubstantiated reports say that the Canfields planned to join Ann Isham on the Titanic' s maiden voyage to New York but for whatever reason, they did not do so.

One passenger, Ann Elizabeth Isham, boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg with her Great Dane. She refused to leave the ship without her dog, which was too big to go on a lifeboat.
That is a myth that originated soon after the disaster and has no factual basis whatsoever. Reportedly, a few passengers on SS Bremen on a westbound voyage to New York noticed the frozen body of a dead woman hugging onto the body of a Great Dane when their ship passed through the floating debris field left by the Titanic on 20th April 1912. For reasons best known to themselves, some of the onlookers assumed that it was the body of Ann Isham, the only First Class lady whose fate was not accounted for, and her dog....and of course the yellow press took it from there and had a field day. How this identification could have been done from the deck of another ship more than 5 days after the disaster is left to one's imagination. Remember, many bodies that were recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and other ships could not be identified from close quarters and in cases where a positive identification was made was almost always due to clothes and other personal belongings with the victim.

There are a few reasons why not many people recalled.....or seemed not to recall Ann Isham during the Titanic's ill-fated voyage.
  • She was socially active woman in Paris and on board the ship might have wanted some quality time by herself. She was meeting her brother and his family after many years and so there would have been things to think about.
  • She was berthed in Cabin C-49, next to the one used by Colonel Archibald Gracie. Ann Isham might have found his patronizing attitude a tad overbearing and so skilfully avoided him.
  • Some of the people she met on board could have died themselves and so unable to report interacting with her. Those who survived might not have been questioned by any third party about her.
  • One other possibility is that Ann Isham might have had reasons to avoid running into the Ryerson family. Arthur Ryerson was a partner in Ann's father's firm and there might have been issues that she not want brought up.
 
Last edited:
Thomas Krom

Thomas Krom

Member
For all the first class passengers who brought dogs and other animals with them, here follows a detailed list made by a friend of mine:
1653912360993
 
Mike Stevens

Mike Stevens

Member
There is another aspect to the possibility of over sleeping that has not been discussed - sleeping pills. Sleeping pills at the turn of the century were stronger than they are today, and the strength varied from pill to pill. Nothing was computerized and as uniform and accurate as today. Sleeping pills of the past often contained morphine along with a barbiturate to alleviate aches and pains. Overdoses were common. There is the possibility that she had taken a sleeping pill earlier that night. Many people who normally do not take them, will use them because they have trouble sleeping in unfamiliar circumstances. The pitching and rolling of a ship, the vibration of the engines may be too much for a person who is not used to life at sea. I've seen people pass out on aircraft on long overnight flights because they had taken one - they are twice as effective at cruise altitude as they are at sea level. On some occasions, they had to be wheeled out by the crew in a wheelchair to the boarding lounge and let the gate agents deal with it.

Whether or not this is case, it is a possibility. Other Edwardian "sleep tonics" were bottles of laudanum, paregoric, and other opioids. All will put a person into a drugged out stupor and not in control of their faculties.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
There is another aspect to the possibility of over sleeping that has not been discussed - sleeping pills. Sleeping pills at the turn of the century were stronger than they are today
You are correct. Many sleeping pills of the day contained things like chloral hydrate, paraldehyde and even traces of opium. Barbiturates were known but still quite new and being studied and so it is unlikely that they were given out to patients. But those others that I mentioned, either singly or in combination, were very strong and yes, theoretically could have 'zonked' someone out enough not to be woken by the sinking for almost 2 hours. By the time they did wake-up, it could have been too late. The effect would have been not dissimilar to someone inebriated with alcohol.

If a person had a glass of table wine with dinner and then took sleeping pills, the effects would have been augmented.

There is the possibility that she had taken a sleeping pill earlier that night. Many people who normally do not take them, will use them because they have trouble sleeping in unfamiliar circumstances. The pitching and rolling of a ship, the vibration of the engines may be too much for a person who is not used to life at sea.
But I am not quite certain that Ann Isham herself had taken any sleeping pills. My mind keeps going back to that claim by May Birkhead, a young journalist on board the Carpathia, about a surviving First Class steward who reported that when he tried to instruct one of his charges, a solo lady passenger, to get-up, dress warmly and go to the boat deck, she laughed it off. Even when the steward told her that those were the Captain's orders, the woman reportedly felt that the bump she felt could not have been serious and her own orders to herself would be to go back to bed. Since only 4 First Class women died in the sinking, that story, if true, fits only Ann Isham and her steward Charles Cullen. It would also suggest that Ann Isham was quite awake and alert when Cullen went to warn her. Cullen was not called in to testify at either Inquiry.

If it was indeed Ann Isham who refused to get-up, with hindsight it might sound foolhardy for someone who was educated and intelligent, but we must consider the circumstances. When one is tucked-up in a warm and comfortable bed, getting up, dressing and going out on to the cold air of an open deck can seem unbearably hateful, especially if they thought that there was no danger. Although unsubstantiated, Birkhead's story as a ring of truth in it IMO.
 
Last edited:
Mike Stevens

Mike Stevens

Member
Has anybody guessed a time when flooding would have made her escape from the room impossible? I assume that stewards would have started knocking on doors telling people to get up and get dressed and put their life jackets on shortly after midnight. Perhaps as the ship sank, enough warping was present to jam the door to her cabin after everyone had left that area before that area was flooded. Its my understanding the walls were wood along with the cabin doors. Poor woman...
 
Mike Stevens

Mike Stevens

Member
There is one other possibility, although if the May Birkhead interview is correct, then that would rule it out. And that was the possibility that the woman was already dead in the cabin before the collision. I tend to believe the Birkhead interview, as there would be no reason for the steward to lie about his verbal exchange with "the woman". If anything, it might have put him in legal jeopardy because he did not alert staff to forcibly evict the woman from the cabin and put her into a boat. Knowing that there was a woman down there, and that the ship was sinking, is tantamount to criminal negligence, per US law. So he had nothing to gain from telling this story, and everything to (possibly) lose by telling it. Witnesses like that are usually truthful.

My own best guess is that she was told, ignored it, and went to bed. Then either she awoke when the water was in the cabin, or if before, got trapped in the cabin by a jammed door, and by that time there was nobody around to hear her beating on it. She was probably dead by 2 AM either way.

As per the unknown woman seen floating grabbing onto a large dog, anyone that is drowning or thinks they are drowning will grab onto anything in reach to try to keep from going under. The dog just happened to be the closest thing to her.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
I tend to believe the Birkhead interview, as there would be no reason for the steward to lie about his verbal exchange with "the woman". If anything, it might have put him in legal jeopardy because he did not alert staff to forcibly evict the woman from the cabin and put her into a boat
I also believe that the Birkhead story could be true and that the steward was Charles Cullen. At that time, they would not have known how many lived or died with any degree of accuracy nor the status the Titanic tragedy was going to get in the future. It follows therefore that neither had any reason to make-up that story at the time.

I doubt if Cullen would have been in any trouble even if he had beed called to testify and had mentioned the encounter, even identifying the passenger. He had done his duty by warning her firmly and had other passengers and duties to attend. Also, depending on the time that encounter took place, Cullen himself might not have been convinced that the ship was really going to sink; he was merely passing on the Captain's orders. He was rescued on Lifboat #11 that was lowered around 01:32 am and so it was probably around 12:45 am or even earlier when he went to warn the passenger.

My own best guess is that she was told, ignored it, and went to bed. Then either she awoke when the water was in the cabin, or if before, got trapped in the cabin by a jammed door, and by that time there was nobody around to hear her beating on it. She was probably dead by 2 AM either way.
I agree with the first part - Ann Isham igonored the warning intially and went back to bed, likely dropping off to sleep. She would have woken at some stage though, probably because of the sloping deck. IMO she dressed herself and went to the boat deck but by the time she orientated and decided to herself what to do, it was probably too late.

I neither believe that she slept through the sinking not got trapped by a jammed door. There were several survivors from the cabins in the vicinity and none of them, including Gracie right next door, reported door jams. Furthermore, they left their cabins at different times and if Ann Isham had been banging on her door, someone woud definitely have heard it.
 
Top