Encyclopedia Titanica

Elizabeth Mary Leather

Elizabeth Mary Leather
Elizabeth Mary Leather

Mrs Elizabeth Leather was born Elizabeth Mary Edwards in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 16 June 1861. 

She was the daughter of Edward Henry Edwards (1836-1893), a newspaper reporter, and Martha Bird (1839-1914). Her father hailed from Cheshire and her mother from Liverpool and they had married in 1857.

Elizabeth had nine known siblings: Henry Leaton (b. 1858), Frank Romney (b. 1859), Annie Makepeace (b. 1867), Caroline (b. 1869), Martha Jane (b. 1872), Nellie Parker (b. 1875), Margaret Loosely (b. 1879), Mabel Romney (b. 1880) and Elsie Leaton (b. 1881).

She first appears on the 1871 census whilst she and her family were living at 88 Aubrey Street, Everton, Liverpool. The 1881 census records the family living at 35 Rufford Road, West Derby.

Only months after the 1881 census was taken Elizabeth was married to Isaiah Leather, better known as Arthur (b. 1858 in Eccles, Lancashire), a veterinary surgeon and Freemason connected to both the Stanley and Royal Victoria Lodges. The couple settled at 98 Great Mersey Street, Liverpool but had no surviving children.

Elizabeth and her husband first appear together on the 1891 census, by then residents of 83 Great Mersey Street, and she was a visitor at an address in Garston, Lancashire on the 1901 census. By the time of the 1911 census Elizabeth was again visiting, this time at her mother's address, 28 Tarler Road, Lower Bebington, Cheshire and she was by then described as a stewardess. 

Exactly how long Mrs Leather worked at sea for is not certain; she first appears on shipping records in 1898 when she was a stewardess aboard the Cuban, giving her home address as 15 Cambridge Road, Liscard. By October 1904 she was stewardess aboard the Cedric and stated her home address as 28 Park Road, Port Sunlight, Liverpool; also serving aboard that particular voyage were Mary Gregson and Sarah Stap.

When she signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 Elizabeth gave her address as 28 Park Road, Port Sunlight, Liverpool. Her previous ship had been the Olympic and as a stewardess, she received monthly wages of £3, 10s. On the day of sailing, 10 April, Mrs Leather recalled having a brief lifeboat muster with other stewardesses. 

At the time of the collision, Elizabeth was asleep in her berth and was awakened by the impact. Not sensing any urgency she lay on in bed and eventually arose between 30 to 45 minutes after the impact. Preparing herself, Mrs Leather went to check on her charges but found they had already vacated their staterooms. She then made her way up to B-deck and saw a number of other stewardesses gathered, all equipped with blankets to wrap around their passengers. 

Mrs Leather returned to her cabin, for reasons she did not explain, and then headed up top again, eventually making her way to A-deck (perhaps she meant the boat deck) where she boarded lifeboat 16. Before the boat was lowered Mrs Leather recalled a call going out for any more women or children; none came forward and the lifeboat was lowered away.

One of only two stewardesses called to testify at the Board of Trade Inquiry into the sinking (the other being Annie Robinson), Mrs Leather gave a brief testimony on Monday 20 May 1912 and received expenses of £12, 15s for her detention. She returned to a life at sea. 

Widowed in 1914, Mrs Leather continued to work and served with the merchant fleet during WWI and spent the early part of the 1920s working aboard Olympic, the last known mention of her doing so being in September 1923 when she was described as standing at 5' 4" and weighing 125 lbs. 

Elizabeth continued to live in Port Sunlight until the early 1920s when she moved to Birkenhead, living at different addresses including Laurel Road and Horatio Street, the latter being her last. She spent the last twelve months of her life in Manor Hill Nursing Home and died there on 29 June 1937 aged 76.

Elizabeth was buried in Bebington Cemetery, Wirral, Cheshire (section C/E M, plot 103) on 2 July 1937.

References and Sources

Antiques Roadshow

Research Articles

Newspaper Articles

Progress : the Journal of Lever Brothers (1912) Port Sunlight
Wiltshire Times (20 April 1912) Good News for Bradfordians

Documents and Certificates

Agreement and Account of Crew, National Archives, London; BT100/259
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. hereward

    Just been watching Antiques Roadshow on BBC 1; a man had a picture of his great aunt, Elizabeth Leather, a female first class steward, one of 21 of 23 that survived. She was in lifeboat 16, she rowed for 2 hours because she wanted to do her bit, and keep warm. He also had a locket that she wore that night it had her initials EML entwined. Also was a 9 carat gold medal with IN MEMORY OF TITANIC on a black background encircling a white star with a pearl in the centre. She died in 1937, he claimed she was 51 (the crew list says 41). The medal was produced by Vaughtons of Birmingham (England).... Read full post

  2. Dave Fredericks

    I know this was some time ago but thank you for posting this. I managed to track down the episode on YouTube. It is series 37 episode 7. I've collated many portraits of the crew over the years but this is the first one of Elizabeth Leather I have seen.

  3. DonnaLP

    Hi Dave, I am researching Elizabeth as I work at Port Sunlight as a learning assistant. Is it possible for you to link a copy of her portrait to this thread? Or I could give you my email address, if that would work better? Thanks

  4. Encyclopedia Titanica

    Here's a very bad screen grab.

  5. sarastro

    If anyone has any further information on Elizabeth Leather’s later life, I would be grateful to know. I have found quite a lot about her early life from before the Titanic which I am currently writing up for use on a blog, but I am interested to know anything about her from 1880 onwards.

  6. sarastro

    Further to my post above, the information about Mrs Leather's early life is available starting ; when she was 18, she ran away from home in a case that made national newspapers in the UK (and even was reported in the New York Times).

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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mrs Elizabeth Mary Leather (née Edwards)
Age: 50 years 9 months and 29 days (Female)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married to Isaiah (Arthur) Leather
Last Residence: at 28 Park Road, Port Sunlight Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Occupation: Stewardess
Last Ship: Olympic
Embarked: Southampton on Saturday 6th April 1912
Rescued (boat 16)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Tuesday 29th June 1937 aged 76 years
Buried: Bebington Cemetery, Birkenhead, Lancashire, England on Friday 2nd July 1937

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