Miss Hilānah al-B'aqlīnī was born on 12 July 1909 1 in Al Shwayr, Syria, then part of the Ottoman Empire and now part of modern-day Lebanon.
She was the daughter of Sulaymān Dāwūd al-B'aqlīnī (b. 1878), a pharmacist, and Laţīfah al-Haj Qurbān (b. 1888). By April 1912 she had two sisters: Ūwjīnīyā (b. 1908) and Mārīyā (b. 1906).
In late 1908, before she was born, Hilānah's father left their village with a neighbour, Najīb Qiyamah, fleeing potential religious persecution and with the intention of establishing his own pharmacy in New York. Instead, he spent time in San Cristóbal, Venezuela before entering the USA on 7 June 1910. By 1912 he had established a dry goods business and saved enough money to send back to bring his wife and daughters across the Atlantic.
Hilānah was travelling to her father at 217 Washington Street, Brooklyn, New York. Also travelling with them was her teenage neighbour Adāl Najīb Qiyāmah, who her mother was chaperoning to her father Najīb Qiyamah. Their journey started from their village and went to Beirut from where they sailed to Marseille, after which they would journey to Cherbourg. Before boarding at Cherbourg it was discovered that her sister Mārīyā had conjunctivitis, preventing their further travel on grounds of contagion and so their journey was delayed until they could join the next available ship, Titanic. They boarded as third-class passengers with ticket number 2666 which cost £19, 5s, 2d.
On the night of the sinking Mrs Baclini was somehow able to navigate her way, with three young children and Adāl Najīb Qiyāmah in tow, to the upper decks where the five were able to enter a lifeboat and escape. The al-B'aqlīnī family is a rare example of a larger third class family group surviving intact.
In America, Hilānah became Helen Barbara Baclini. When she appeared with her family on the 1930 census living at 2071 66th Street, Brooklyn she was described as an unmarried department store buyer. On 17 November 1935 she was married to Albert Mueller (b. 4 April 1907), a factory worker born in Erlangen, Bavaria, Germany and the couple had a daughter named Carol Helen the following year (b. 25 August 1936).
At the time for her petition to become an American citizen in the latter half of the 1930s Helen and Albert's address was stated as 7101 Bay Parkway in Brooklyn.
Helen's signature from her naturalisation papers
Tragedy was to strike before the close of the 1930s: In 1938 Helene underwent surgery for breast cancer but it proved unsuccessful. She later died at her home, 4611 Kings Highway, Brooklyn on 28 April 1939 aged 29; her widower Albert died on 16 June 1994. They are buried together in Saint John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, New York.
Her daughter Carol, later Mrs John Zaloum, died in New York on 11 March 2004. Her daughter, Helen's granddaughter, is Rosie Foster, a medical and science writer and president of Foster Medical Editorial, Inc.