Mrs Anna Abelson was born as Anna Nantes Jacobson in Odessa, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) on 14 September 1883.1
Few details about Mrs Abelson's early background are certain or even known; she is acknowledged to have had at least two siblings, a brother and sister, and may have been living in Paris for much of her adult life up until 1912.
Anna, an "expert dressmaker", was married to Samuel Abelson (b. circa 1882), a Russian-born bookkeeper. They had no children.
The Abelsons purchased ticket number P/PP 3381 which cost £24. Their destination was New York, where a brother of Mr Abelson's lived. On their way to America they stayed at Paris, where a brother of Mrs Abelson lived in Rue Marcadet 68.They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as second class passengers.
Mrs Abelson survived the sinking, some placing her in lifeboat 10; her husband was among the lost.
After her rescue, as the Carpathia steamed to New York, Mrs Abelson attempted to send a Marconigram to the address of her brother in Paris. The message, however was never transmitted as the operators could not cope with the number of telegrams:
Jacobson rue Marcadet 68 Paris
Sauvé - Carpathia (Saved - Carpathia)
After arrival in New York Mrs Abelson was helped by the Hebrew Shelter and Emigrant Aid Society at 229 East Broadway in New York, as the Red Cross noted:
Husband drowned, wife rescued. There are no children. He was a bookkeeper, 30 years of age. His wife, 28 years of age, is an expert dressmaker. She is living with her husband's brother in New York City. The wife suffered temporary disability due to exposure, but is now able to support herself by her trade. The property loss was more than 4,000 dollars. She received from relief sources other than the Red Cross, 1,928.69 dollars (250 dollars)
In later years, like many Titanic survivors, Mrs Abelson gave a dramatic, if undeniably embellished version of the events. In a 1962 interview for the Herald Statesman (2 May 1962) Mrs Abelson (then Mrs Edward D. Bolton) related that she had been seasick for most of the voyage, despite the calm waters. On the night of the disaster she had been in bed and answered a knock on her cabin door; stood outside was a steward who advised her of the situation. She, dressed only with shoes, a nightgown and a robe, left the cabin with her husband, carrying with her a steamer rug. Once on deck Mrs Abelson stated that, with the call for women and children first, she jumped into the icy waters and was later picked up by a passing lifeboat. It is more likely she escaped in one of the aft boats, stepping safely from deck to lifeboat without getting herself wet. However, she did recall using the steamer rug she had liberated from her cabin to wrap around two children who sat shivering in her lifeboat.
Describing being brought aboard the Carpathia, Mrs Abelson stated that she was so prostrated that she felt ill and was unable to eat. She also described how Carpathia's kindly passengers and crew fashioned skirts from blankets for some of the more scantily clad survivors. Arriving in New York, unable to speak a word of English, she was met by some of her father's friends and was cared for in St Luke's Hospital, New York where she was treated for the effects of shock, exposure and exhaustion.
Not long after the sinking Mrs Abelson found herself taken to Coudert Bros., a New York law firm that was handling several Titanic-related claims. It was whilst here that her path crossed with Edward Douglas Bolton (b. 27 July 1887), a New York-born lawyer who was employed at the firm. They began a friendship that eventually blossomed into a romance.
Mrs Abelson made her home in Manhattan but later braved the ocean again within only a few years in June 1914 and returned to Paris for a visit. She re-entered the USA on 3 August 1914, having departed from Boulogne aboard the Rotterdam. Still described as a housewife, she gave her point of contact as a sister, A. Jacobson at an address in Paris, her previous visit to New York as in 1912, place of birth as Odessa and her destination address as her home at 720 West 181st Street, New York City. She would later make further visits to Paris in the 1920s and late 1930s.2 Mrs Abelson claimed that on these ocean voyages she took her famous Titanic steamer rug on all occasions, spending nights on deck wrapped in it and tended to by stewards who brought her coffee and sandwiches. Each morning she would return to her cabin to bathe and then sleep. Mrs Abelson also claimed that the same steamer rug accompanied her brother-in-law to Europe during WWI.
Anna in 1962
(Herald Statesman, 2 May 1962)
Following obtaining a marriage certificate on 6 July 1920, widow Anna was remarried to Edward Douglas Bolton who was by then a veteran of WWI. The couple, who remained childless, lived for many years at different spots in New York; their 1925 address was in the Bronx and by 1940 they were residing in Greenburgh, Westchester. By 1962 the couple were residing in Scarsdale where, in 1962, Anna gave an interview to the Herald Statesman (2 May 1962)3 by which time she still had a steamer rug which she kept in her car. A few years previous she had been a special guest at a screening of A Night to Remember in Manhattan where she described being feted as if she had been royalty. She was, however, unable to watch to entire film and left before any sinking scenes.
Anna and her husband retired to Florida in the late 1960s, eventually settling in New Smyrna Beach at 85 Linda Road. In July 1970, for the couple's golden wedding anniversary, the Orlando Sentinel tracked them down; Mrs Bolton found the memories of the Titanic disaster too painful to discuss although did manage to perhaps over-egg her couture past and state she was a leading New York dressmaker in 1912.
Anna Bolton died on 18 January 1972 and was buried in Daytona Memorial Park, Florida. Her widower did not survive long past her and he died on 7 December 1972.