Mrs Elizabeth Anne Wilkinson was born at 42 Hadfield Street in Newton Heath, Manchester, England on 3 February 1882, later being baptised in St Anne's church on 15 March.
She was the daughter of William Wilkinson (b. 1855), a wheelwright originally from Rochdale, and Mary Anne Jordan (b. 1847) of Bradford who had married in St Barnabas' Church, Miles Platting, Manchester on 30 December 1877. The youngest of two children, Elizabeth's only sibling was her elder brother William (b. 1880).
Lizzie and her family appear on the 1891 census living at 14 Mount Street in Swinton, Manchester, her father having switched his career to that of a paper dealer. By the time of the 1901 census the Wilkinsons were still living in Swinton although now at 2 Clarendon Road and Elizabeth, then aged 19, had no stated profession.
In Salford on 20 May 1907 Elizabeth married Manchester-born Samuel Wilkinson (b. 4 July 1882) who, like her father, was a paper dealer. Samuel was the son of Frederick and Mary Ann Wilkinson and his father, like Lizzie's own father, hailed from Rochdale and there is a possibility that she and her new husband were second cousins.
The marriage between Lizzie and Samuel produced no children and by the time of the 1911 census they lived 47 Oldham Road, Failsworth (between Oldham and Manchester).
At some point Lizzie crossed paths with Lincolnshire-born Harry Bartram Faunthorpe (b. 1880), an unmarried furniture salesman; although the circumstances of their meeting are unknown they became lovers and presumably hatched a clandestine plan to run off and live as a couple.
Lizzie boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger (joint ticket number 2926 which cost £26), posing as the new wife of Harry Faunthorpe; they told fellow passengers they planned to honeymoon in California.
She was asleep, she says, at the time of the collision, but awakened by the shock. When she rushed upon deck she was ordered into a lifeboat, but feared to trust herself in one of the frail craft. While officers with drawn revolvers issued their orders, one of the men, she says, forced her bodily into the second boat...
(The Evening Telegraph, April 26, 1912)
Mrs Wilkinson survived the sinking in lifeboat 16 but Harry Faunthorpe was among the lost; his body was later recovered and among his effects was jewellery valued at $1000.
After arriving in New York Lizzie went to her cousin John M. Devine at 669 Brooklyn Street, Philadelphia where she spent several weeks recuperating from shock.
Failsworth Woman Saved
Elizabeth Ann Wilkinson, wife of Mr Samuel Wilkinson of 47 Oldham Road Failsworth, was a second cabin passenger on the Titanic. She has telegraphed from New York: ‘Am safe. – Lizzie’
[Unidentified Oldham newspaper, 1912]
According to the Red Cross Mr Faunthorpe's body was sent to Lizzie after it was recovered and he was buried at Mount Peace Cemetery, Philadelphia on 11 May; she later received $600 from various American relief funds. In August 1912 the Toronto Daily Star reported that Lizzie launched a lawsuit against the White Star Line, suing for $10,000 for the loss of her "husband."
The American Red Cross report states that Lizzie's lie had been uncovered and that she had a husband back in Manchester who, reportedly, accepted her back. She subsequently returned to England to face her real husband, Samuel.
What became of Lizzie and Samuel's marriage is not clear but there is speculation that they eventually divorced and remarried.