Miss Ann "Annie" Louise McGowan was born in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania on 5 July 1894 1.
She was the eldest child of Irish Roman Catholic immigrants John McGowan (b. 9 June 1867), an illiterate farmer, and Maria Heneghan (b. circa 1867) who both hailed from the Addergoole district of Co Mayo and who had married around 1893.
One of seven children, Annie's siblings were: Anthony (b. 17 December 1895), Maria (b. 12 December 1896), Margaret (b. 2 January 1899), Thomas Henry (b. 16 August 1900), John (b. 14 August 1902) and Bridget (b. 5 August 1906).
Her parents had emigrated to the USA, settling in Scranton where she and her brother Anthony were born but the stay in America was a short one and they returned to Co Mayo around 1896 where Annie's remaining siblings were born.
Annie and her family first appear on the 1901 Irish census living at house 2 in Massbrook, Addergoole, Co Mayo, the home of her widowed grandfather Anthony McGowan, a farmer. Her grandfather passed away on 18 September 1908 and by the time of the 1911 census the remaining family were living in the same locale in Addergoole and when Annie described as a scholar; she had been a pupil Massbrook School within her parish.
With a desire to return to America Annie had written to her paternal aunt Catherine McGowan, her father's younger unmarried sister who was a boarding house keeper in Chicago, expressing interests of migrating back to the USA.
Catherine McGowan returned home to Ireland from Chicago for a visit and with the intent of chaperoning her niece across the Atlantic and they were part of a group of over a dozen steerage passengers from their locale making the same journey aboard Titanic. Annie and her aunt boarded Titanic at Queenstown on 11 April 1912 (ticket number 330923 which cost £7, 15s, 7d) and her destination was to the home of another aunt, Mrs Thomas (Mary) McDermott in Chicago.
Interviewed in 1984 Annie recalled that on the night of Sunday 14 April she and her aunt were attending a party in third class; the number of drunks made her aunt Catherine uncomfortable and she attempted to bring her away from the proceedings.
Annie could not recollect any crash or even the slightest of bumps but what she did recall was the sudden appearance of crew members rushing around and she related that one crewman told her that the ship had no chance of survival.
Annie McGowan survived the sinking (possibly in lifeboat 13), being unceremoniously bundled into a lifeboat wearing just a dress and shoes. In later years she recalled the bitter cold of the open Atlantic whilst in the lifeboat, the screams of those left behind and how the ship "just busted in half" whilst sinking. She never saw her aunt Catherine again, the pair having become separated during the confusion.
Coming off the Carpathia in New York Annie was described as an unmarried 17-year-old with no stated profession and her destination address was listed as 3241 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, the home of her aunt. She later related that upon landing a sailor said to her "Look! You can see the Statue of Liberty! Take a good look at the other side, because you will never go back there..." She responded that she never would, never wanting to set foot on another boat as long as she lived, which she never did.
Annie was hospitalised in New York following her ordeal, alongside her friend from Mayo Annie Kelly, being treated for shock and exposure before later completing her journey to Chicago where her aunt awaited her. The American Red Cross assisted in her education by sending her to a business school, following which she worked to support herself. Two years after the disaster she was joined in America by her brother Anthony and in 1919 on 4 January she lost her mother due to a heart condition.
Anna was married in 1920 to Raymond Albert Straube (b. 7 August 1898), a plumber and a Chicago native of German descent, son of Leopold and Frances Straube. The couple set up home in Chicago and had three daughters: Frances Audrey (1921-1960, later Mrs Arthur Kopp), Jacqueline (1923-2002, later Mrs Peter Komay) and Mary (b. 1936, later Kapolnek) and appear on the 1930 and 1940 censuses as residents of Seminary Avenue and Racine Street, respectively.
Annie in 1984 aged 89
Although described by family as a strong lady and a fighter, Annie never cared to speak about the Titanic and was only drawn to on seldom occasions for her grandchildren when they were doing school projects or for a very rare newspaper article in 1984 for the Daily Herald during which she reportedly became tearful. Despite her adversity to discussing the Titanic she kept a collection of newspaper articles for many years regarding the disaster.
Upon discovery of the Titanic in 1985 Annie was critical of any notion that items should be retrieved from the wreck and felt that Titanic should not be plundered and be left in peace.
Annie as depicted in her obituary
Annie had been widowed on 2 July 1965 and continued to make her home in Chicago, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She died on 30 January 1990 at the ripe age of 95 and was later buried in All Saints Cemetery, Des Plaines, Illinois. Her death left only one remaining Titanic survivor from an Irish background, Cork-native Ellen Shine Callaghan of Long Island, New York who died three years later.