Mrs Helen Churchill Candee


Dave Hudson

Hello All,
I was reading the bio on ET on Mrs. Candee, and it stated that she was married and had one daughter. I had always been under the impression that she was widowed. If she was married, why was she unnaccompanied? Why did she accept the "protection" of 6 men? Also, Walter Lord states in both books that she had a son, who was injured in a plane wreck (of all things) and that she was "rushing to his bedside". Also, the bio said that she was in her 50's. Now, I don't mean to be agist, but if that's true, than she must have been one hot 53 year old. Also, I read in Col. Gracie's bio that he too was married. Where was Mrs. Gracie during the crossing? I was under the impression that everyone of "our coterie" was single. Thanks for your help,
If I'm not mistaken, she was divorced, but don't quote me on that one.

And I don't really think there was any type of hanky-panky going on amongst "our coterie".
Thank you. I didn't mean to suggest that anything elicit was going on. I just thought it would have been somewhat scandalous for a group of married men to be paying so much attention to an attractive woman (single or not) in 1912 Edwardian Society.
Thanks again,
Hi David,
Mrs. Candee was divorced from her husband but maybe it was an embarrassment to her as she continued claiming thru the rest of her life that she was a widow. Edward Willis Candee died in New York a few years prior to Titanic but the divorce had taken place earlier and I'm under the impression that it was granted in the Eufaula Indian Territory of Oklahoma though I haven't tried to obtain a copy of the decree.

She did have a daughter and a son. Harold Churchill Candee (born May 7, 1886) was the son and he accompanied his mother on quite a few trips but, fortunately for him, not on the Titanic. He predeceased his mother and left no family.

Her daughter, Edith Candee Mathews was the older child and--like her mother--lived to be in her 90's and left a large family.

Helen Candee was born in 1858 although I have a number of documents in which she claimed to be as much as 11 years younger than that. The family Bible gives her birth as October 5, 1858.

I hope this answers most of your questions.

P.S. re: your question on Mrs. Gracie. After her daughter was killed in an elevator accident in Paris in 1904, she stopped traveling, making only one other trip abroad--and that was many years after Archibald died. She died December 12, 1937 in Washington, DC at the age of 66.


Re: the attention Mrs. Candee got from the various gentlemen on Titanic. As Walter Lord points out, I think, it was customary for men on shipboard in those days to offer to escort ladies who were unaccompanied.

This would have had none of the modern connotation of sex, though I have no doubt you are right that her attractiveness was the reason she was so popular. There are lots of hot 53 year olds today - thanks to fitness trainers (and plastic surgeons!). In 1912 however it must have been harder to be "hot" at 53.

So we can be reasonably sure Mrs. Candee owed much to Mother Nature or else to a very good corsetiere! Probably a little of both went a long way in the Edwardian beauty department.

I doubt many men of the time put thinness or youth at the top of their list when judging women on attractiveness. The twin cults of youth and thinness didn't really hit the mainstream until Coco Chanel came to prominence in the 1930's.

At any rate, a woman of Mrs. Candee's age and class would have few of the wrinkles and blemishes women of her age would have today. Most skin aging isn't actually caused by aging, but by long-term exposure to cigarette smoke and UV light (from suntanning). Victorian and Edwardian women did their best to avoid both sun and smoke (again, women didn't smoke or suntan until Coco Chanel came along), and consequently didn't look like prunes at 50.
Actually I have to defer to Randy in all things FASHION but it seems to me thin, flat-chested ideals of beauty came on in the Roaring 20's with the flapper profile- stick thin and flat as a board. Ladies even bound their bosom to achieve a boyish look-not to mention bobbing their crowning glory into "Price Valiant" coiffures. Rouged-knees, rolled stockings, skirts riding high, sleeveless dresses and all-too-daring! Poo-poopdedoo! And those gals did smoke like bad chimneys-long cigarette holders and all- cocaine, hipflask gin and the works. I blame it all on World War I! Skirts went above the ankle in 1912 and never quit climbing! I loved the Maxi skirt revival in 1968 though and now we have a choice. My fashion advice- if it isn't young lamb-COVER IT UP! But they did have the right idea on the sun. Mrs. Candee had BONES- and if you've got that- well... nice window-dressing, a little powder and paint and the fellers WILL fall over their feet to get you in a lifeboat at any age!

50 but "UNPRUNED"
I agree with Charlene.

Avoiding smoking and suntanning are most definitely keys to avoiding the early appearance of wrinkles. Women then also did not wear much makeup which tends to clog pores and speed the appearance of wrinkles. Not being obsessive about thinness helped, too. A reasonable bit of fat keeps skin smooth and young looking. Lastly, avoidance of excessive alcohol is also beneficial for the skin.

It's worked for me; I'll be 43 in a week or two and I have yet to see the appearance of crow's feet around my eyes or any lines around my mouth.

Maturity was prized in a woman during Edwardian days, that is true, but they were not expected, nor would they have wanted, to look mature. To look or at least seem youthful has been and will always be an ideal. It has never NOT been desirable to appear young.

As for the trend toward slimness, this would predate the 1930s considerably and Chanel's influence would therefore have been close to nil. She, by the way, rose to prominence in the early 20s rather than the 30s, when her popularity was ousted a bit by Schiaparelli, Molyneux, and Vionnet.

It must be remembered that the rather voluptuous "high Edwardian" female figure of full bust, tiny waist, and rounded hips, had given way to a sleeker, more streamlined silhouette by 1910, thanks to the craze for all things Oriental as espoused by Bakst in his costumes for the Ballets Russe which swept Europe at this time. Fortuny, Poiret, and our own Lucile were other leading tastemakers of this era. Chanel was not yet the fashion force with which to reckon.

As to the effects of aging. There are other factors to consider, apart from sun rays and smoke. Namely genes and diet.

Regarding women smoking cigarettes. Fashionable European women smoked well before the 20s and 30s. Chanel again had nothing to do with the trend. Lillie Langtry had smoked in Victoran times. In 1908 New York had attempted to outlaw women smoking but this failed, especially as so many foreign women visiting the city practiced the habit, most memorably Mrs. Patrick Campbell who refused to put out her cigarette while dining at the Ritz-Carlton when a maitre 'd complained that other diners were offended, and the wife of the Russian Ambassador who lit up at a White House dinner.

In fact all during the late Edwardian and World War I period, photographs, illustrations, and screen images of women smoking were common, though Americans considered it risque until the film culture of Hollywood legitimized it in the 1920s.

Re: Suntanning, this became chic in the latter 20s among the chic set frolicking on the Riviera. Chanel was a prime exponent of this set so it is quite possible that her own dark good looks had major impact in determining the vogue for sun-kissed skin.

This goes off on another tangent, but skirts usually get shorter in wartime. Something about the military confiscating all the materials and leaving little to work with for the rest of us. Look at the mini skirts during Viet Nam. After the war, midis and maxis came back.

I do believe there may be something to that. In this century skirts shortened for the first time over the ankles in 1914, the year WWI began. Hems continued to rise, reaching to the knees in about 1925. The hemline dropped again in 1929 and remained below the knees till 1939, the beginning of WWII. Skirts did not lengthen again till 1947, two years after the war.

The "mini" came out in 1964-65, in the early years of the Viet Nam conflict, though it was at first only an inch or two past the knee. The really short minis were seen by 1967-68.

The midi and maxi came out in 1969, still during Viet Nam, but didn't catch on till about 1975, after the war.

So there is something to it. It is weird though, huh?

But back to Helen Candee. From the pictures I've seen of her, she was not especially plump, not for those days. But I have seen only what I think are pre-1912 images so I wonder how she looked in the fashions of that year. As a decorator/ consultant she moved in chi-chi circles so I imagine she was quite chic.

Having been in Paris during the time of the Spring couture openings, I would bet she bought some lovely new clothes. Her losing her balance as she boarded boat 6 on April 14 and twisting her ankle has in fact always made me wonder if she was one of the several ladies on Titanic who ill-advisedly wore hobble skirts that night.

Have always thought the skirt length climbed during the wars to give the men a little morale-booster. The micro-mini must have truly cheered those poor Vietnam-bound boys! More than a well-turned ankle. I was working as a catalogue model for Sears and Montgomery Wards in 1963 and modeled the first mini-skirt on the runway (red tartan)in the Baltimore area- pantyhose HAD to be invented! The garters and hosetops would have been seen everytime you breathed! Ah, those were the days....Tracy, the crows feet will just magically appear overnight at age 45, bifocals by 47 and those dreadful brown age spots by 48-can hardly wait to see what creases or falls off THIS year!

You are right about the first short skirts (over the knee) coming in in about '63.

I have a picture of my Mom in college taken that year and her skirt is just over the knee-cap. I had read that Courreges didn't show his mini-skirt collection till '64, which is true, so I was perplexed and asked mom if she was mistaken about the year. Of course you can imagine her response. "No dear I think I remember the year quite well. It was '63."

So I asked her about the short length and she said that before the big designers were showing them, teenagers and young girls were wearing them as part of the "beat" thing going on at the time. The trend from what I have been able to determine started in London's Carnaby Street and was probably introduced by burgeoning retail designer Mary Quant in or around 1962. Still the "official" high-fashion debut of the mini on the runways of Paris was '64.

It's a comment on the development of fashion, isn't it, that though Paris was (and is) supposed to be the world's leader in style, young girls like yourself and my mom here in the US and England were already well ahead of the top designers!

I have a couple of photos of Helen (and one of her son) taken quite a few years after Titanic and she was never a large woman though she doesn't look as good in later years as in the pre-Titanic photos we've all seen. Harold doesn't look like her at all--is actually kinda nerdy looking with glasses. I've never seen a photo of Edith Candee Mathews.