Miss Edwina Celia Troutt was born in Bath, Somerset, England on 8 July 1884.
She was the daughter of Edwin Charles Troutt (1847-1915 1), and Elizabeth Ellen Gay (1847-1930 2), both natives of Bath who had married in Bath in 1867.
She had nine known siblings, from a reported number of eleven children born to her parents (as per the 1911 census): Ellen Cephilia (1868-1870), William Edwin Charles (1870-1873), Louisa Cephilia (1872-1887), Emmaline (1874-1946, later Mrs John Michael Collins), Edgar Harry (1876-1911), Herbert William (1879-1882), Ellin Evelyn (1881-1966), Elsie Marie (1886-1963) and Edwin Clement (23 June 1889-1952).
Her father Edwin, who initially garnered a trade as a carpenter, later began working as a brewhouse keeper sometime in the 1870s; by the 1880s the family lived at 40 Lyncombe Brewery in Bath, appearing there on the 1881 and 1891 census records. By the time of the 1901 census the family lived at 13 Newark Street in Bath but Edwina was not listed at that address.
Reportedly a sickly child and not expected to see out her infancy, Edwina survived into adolescence and again into adulthood, albeit plagued with health problems, including feeble eyesight and arthritic joints; a spell of pneumonia permanently affected her respiratory system. Despite these ailments, Edwina rallied and went on to garner work as a primary school teacher before working in a tobacconist shop owned by a brother-in-law.
On 16 November 1907 Edwina first set foot on American soil, the first of her brood of siblings to do so; described as an un married shop assistant aged 23, standing at 5’ 3½” and with brown eyes, brown hair and dark complexion, she had travelled as a second class passenger aboard the Arabic, bound for the home of her aunt, a Mrs William Phillips of 9 Vroom Street, Jersey City. By 1910 she was working as a domestic servant to the WIlliam Wynn family in Mill St., Queens, New York.
Edwina's younger sister Elsie also made the crossing, working as a servant to the Willard Hoyt family of Williamstown, Massachusetts; Elsie was married in October 1910 to Alfred Scholz (b. 1888), a mail carrier of German parentage. The couple had two children, Emil (b. March 1912) and Winifred (b. 1914).
Her brother Edwin, a small man at only 5’ tall, had numerous run-ins with the authorities on account of vagrancy and other misdemeanours. He migrated to the USA via Canada in February 1912.
Her brother Edgar, also a troubled young man whose drunken antics often involved him with the police, remained in England and died towards the close of 1911 aged 34. It is possible that this family tragedy compelled Edwina to return to Britain to console her parents who by 1912 still lived at 13 Newark Street in Bath.
After a protracted stay in Bath, Edwina was reportedly coaxed into returning to the USA by her parents as their other daughter Elsie, a resident of Massachusetts, had just become a mother and Edwina would be able to assist her in her early motherhood. Edwina therefore purchased a second class ticket aboard Oceanic but was transferred to Titanic (ticket number 342818 which cost £10, 10s) on account of the ongoing coal strike.
Whilst aboard Edwina shared a cabin with two other women, an older Irishwoman named Nora A. Keane, a Pennsylvania resident but native of Co Limerick, and Susan Webber, an unmarried Cornishwoman en route to relatives in Connecticut. Their shared cabin, Miss Troutt recalled, had two bunks and a couch, the latter of which transformed into a bed which she took at night. Nora Keane, an uptight and superstitious woman, firmly believed that the Titanic would not make it across the Atlantic, whilst Susan Webber, Miss Troutt recalled, was more interested in conversing with friends from her own locality across barriers between second and third class. Miss Troutt, perhaps the more gregarious occupant of her cabin, struck out elsewhere to make new friends.
Throughout the crossing Edwina sat at the same dinner table as Danish engineer Jacob Milling and the young Argentine student Edgar Andrew, among others. A genial young woman, she made numerous other acquaintances.
At the time of the collision Edwina had been in her bunk, half asleep. Feeling the engines stop she was immediately on her feet and left the cabin to investigate. Upon hearing the details of a collision with an iceberg and lifeboats being readied as a result, Edwina returned to her cabin to inform her cabinmates. Susan Webber was still asleep at the time but soon stirred, dressed and left the cabin. Nora Keane, on the other hand, was very nervous and had to be helped to dress. Despite Miss Keane’s nervous disposition with regards to the unfolding events, Edwina recalled that she insisted that she be fastened into her under-corset before leaving their cabin. With Edwina aware of the potential severity of the situation, she snatched the garment from Miss Keane and threw it away, scolding her for caring about such trifles. The two women left their cabin to together, with Miss Keane leaving in a lifeboat, apparently ahead of Edwina.
Edwina Troutt survived the sinking but there is considerable disagreement among Titanic researchers as to which lifeboat she most likely escaped in.
In several accounts she reported carrying a child off the ship and looking after it in the lifeboat.
“I had no difficulty upon reaching the lifeboat, and was very reluctant in going until I heard a frantic cry from a man. ‘Who will take my baby?’ I shouted, ‘I will!’ I was thrown into the boat, and the child placed carefully in my arms. A blanket was also thrown in and it enabled us to keep warm.” - Montclair Times
It was just 1 o’clock when I entered the boat – and 6.45 when we were picked up by the S.S. Carpathia. It was a beautiful starlight night. I saved a little baby & we had to keep singing and shouting, that being the only signal of our peril. — 1912 Letter from Edwina to fellow survivor Susan Webber
In other letters, written to her parents whilst aboard the Carpathia and later published in The Bath Chronicle (4 May 1912) she stated that her lifeboat had departed at 1:15 am and was picked up by Carpathia at 6:15 am; times that correspond approximately to lifeboat 13’s launch time (estimated at 1:15 am) and retrieval (estimated at approximately 6:30 am). In a 1982 interview Edwina stated emphatically that she left the ship in lifeboat 13 whilst some newspaper interviews taken in the late-1970s also have her stating that she left in that lifeboat.
In late May 1912 Edwina gave an interview to the Sunday Herald Boston in which she placed herself in lifeboat 16, describing the Master-at-Arms Henry Joseph Bailey as being among the crew aboard, and also how she shared the boat with 20 women and at least a dozen children, as well as the crew. She identified “Mrs Faunthorpe” as being among the number in the lifeboat.
“In my boat,” she said, “there were 20 women, not less than a dozen babies and five members of the crew in charge of Master-at-Arms Bailey. One of these women was Mrs Harry Faunthorpe, a bride. She was an Englishwoman who had been married in January. With her husband she was making a pleasure trip to California. Her husband bade her good-bye with a smile and a pat of encouragement and placed her in the boat. As she stepped in I called to her husband and asked him to take my seat. But he merely laughed and replied: ‘Remember, I am an Englishman’” — Boston Herald, 26 May, 1912
News media was widespread over “Mrs Faunthorpe’s” case as well as others, including the case of the two French waifs who survived, apparently parentless. In the same interview Edwina described a French father—later identified as Michel Navratil—passing his two children into the lifeboat.
Miss Troutt said that she had not realized the seriousness of the situation on the fated liner at first and was reluctant to enter a boat. A man with several children appealed for some one to care for one of the tots and she volunteered to do so. She was then hustled into a boat. Upon reaching the Carpathia, she said, she had the satisfaction of restoring the baby to its parents. They had escaped with their other children in another boat. It was one of the last to leave the ship into which she was put, Miss Trout declared. The Titanic sank within a half hour. She did not suffer with cold, she explained, for she and the baby in her arms were well wrapped in a blanket....The parents of the baby she carried were steerage passengers from southern Europe. She did not know their names, she concluded.' — Newark Evening News
It has been suggested that the Navratil boys escaped in collapsible lifeboat D (launched initially from the far forward end of the boat deck), one of them was identified by Hugh Woolner who jumped into the boat at the last minute. Some researchers cast doubt on this and place the boys in one of the aft-launched lifeboats in common with most second class survivors arguing that it would have been exceptional for a second class passenger to venture that far forward, and that if one of the boys was seen in collapsible D then Woolner's recollection could refer to a period after some survivors had been transferred between boats.6
Edwina recalled singing as the boat was rowed away from the Titanic:
'As we pulled away from the ship the men in our boat sang 'Pull for the Shore.' At the same time we could hear the strains of the band on the doomed vessel, playing, 'Nearer, My God, to Thee.' — Newark Evening News
In the weeks and months after the disaster Edwina worked as a waitress at a café in Norumbegra Park in Boston; back in Britain her father died on 26 January 1915 and her mother Ellen died on 21 November 1930.
In 1916 Edwina relocated to California for that state’s fairer climate; whilst there she joined the Army Corps and picked apricots for the war effort, for use in gasmask manufacture. She was married on 1 October 1919 to Alfred Thorwald Peterson(3) (b. 12 March 1871), who owned his own bakery; Peterson hailed from Copenhagen, Denmark and had come to the USA in 1900.
Edwina and Alfred remained childless and by the time of the 1930 census were residents of Beverly Hills where they operated their bakery. In 1937 the couple moved to 1021 Sixth Street, Hermosa Beach and by the time of the 1940 censuss had been joined by Edwina’s elder sister Emmaline, who later passed away on 27 November 1946.
After twenty-five years of marriage, Alfred Peterson died on 28 October 1944, leaving Edwina a widow at age 60. She remarried just over ten years later on 23 July 1955 to widower James Corrigan(4) (b. 5 November 1878), a building contractor and native of Aurora, Illinois. That marriage lasted less than two years and Edwina found herself widowed a second time when Corrigan died on 25 May 1957.
Edwina’s third and final marriage was on 30 November 1963 when she shared nuptials with London-born widower James Morell MacKenzie(5) (b. 13 April 1889); she was 79, her groom 74. The marriage between Edwina and James lasted just shy of four years and Mackenzie died on 31 August 1967.
Edwina’s involvement with the Titanic community intensified from the 1950s onwards; she was interviewed relentlessly, related her experiences to school and community groups, attended film premieres, Titanic conventions and became acquainted with other Titanic survivors. She also formed close bonds with numerous Titanic researchers, firm friendships that lasted up until her death.
In 1972 she was being interviewed on NBC's Today Show and retold the story of how a man handed her a baby before she entered a lifeboat. Dave DeCosmo, a manager at a radio station, who had heard the interview, made some enquiries and put Edwina in contact with survivor Thelma Thomas, who had become separated from her infant son As'ad (Assed/Essid) during Titanic’s evacuation. Assed had long since died but Edwina and Mrs Thomas, although they never met each other, did speak on the phone and write each other until Thelma's death in 1974. She later met and became friendly with Mrs Thomas’ daughter Marjorie. However there seems to be no evidence that the brother was the baby in question.
For a number of years since the mid or late 1970s, Edwina was believed to have been the eldest living Titanic survivor, a label she wore with much pride. In the early 1980s it emerged that a New York-based Titanic survivor was actually the holder of that title, Mary Davis Wilburn who was a whole one year and twenty days older than Edwina. Despite the community of Titanic researchers becoming aware of this fact, many of whom had become close friends with Edwina, not one of them had it in their hearts to tell her that she had a verified rival to her claim. Edwina lived on in ignorant bliss of this detail and, indeed, she would be outlived by Mary Davis Wilburn who died at the age of 104.
Edwina MacKenzie, née Troutt, passed away on 3 December 1984 at the age of 100; in life she credited her longevity to keeping active, drinking “plenty of whiskey and keep[ing] late hours.”
By the time of her passing she had survived three husbands and outlived her last-living sibling Ellen by eighteen years. She was the fourth longest-living Titanic survivor, being only a handful of survivors to reach centenarian status, the others being Mary Davis Wilburn (104), Marjorie Newell Robb (103), Ellen Shine Callaghan (101) and Edith Brown Haisman (100).