Mrs 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.

 

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Credits

Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK
Rob Ottmers, USA

References and Sources

Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic
Antiques Roadshow
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2019) Elizabeth Mary Leather Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1970, updated 18th November 2019 13:16:45 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/elizabeth-may-leather.html