Miss Ann "Annie" Louise McGowan was born in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania on 5 July 1894 1.
She was the daughter of Irish Roman Catholic immigrants John McGowan (b. 1867), an illiterate farmer, and Maria Heneghan (b. 1867) who both hailed from the Addergoole district of Co Mayo and who had married in 1893. They shortly emigrated to the USA, settling in Scranton where Annie and her brother Anthony (b. 1895) were born. The stay in America was a short one and they returned to Co Mayo around 1896 where a further five children were born: Maria (b. 1897), Margaret (b. 1899), Thomas Henry (b. 1901), John (b. 1904) and Bridget (b. 1906).
Annie first appears 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 had passed away by the time of the 1911 census when the family were living in the same locale in Addergoole, Annie described as a scholar.
In late 1911 Annie's aunt Catherine McGowan, her father's younger unmarried sister, had returned home to Ireland from Chicago, Illinois with the intent on 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 boarded Titanic at Queenstown on 11 April 1912 (ticket number330923 which cost £7, 15s, 7d) and her destination was to the home of another aunt, Mrs Thomas McDermott of 3241 North Ashland Avenue, Chicago.
Annie McGowan survived the sinking (possibly in lifeboat 13). 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.
Annie McGowan 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 and it was not until 1920 that she was married. Her husband was Raymond Albert Straube (b. 7 August 1898), a plumber and a Chicago native of German descent and 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).
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. She was widowed in 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 of Irish background, Ellen Shine Callaghan of Long Island, New York.
- Her social security application and death record give her birth date as 5 July 1897. The 1901 and 1911 census records confirm her age as 17 going on 18.
Chicago Daily Tribune (Illinois), 26 April 1912
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55).
Noel Ray (1999) List of Passengers who Boarded RMS Titanic at Queenstown, April 11, 1912. The Irish Titanic Historical Society