Maria Mathilda Backström, née Gustafsson (Smeds) was born on 28 July 1878, the daughter of Karl Fredrik (b. 3 October 1847 at Strömfors), and Maria Lovisa Gustafsson (née Gustafsdotter, b. 8 September 1844 at Sarflax, Pernå, Finland).
Her known brothers and sisters were Emilia Sofia, b. 12 May 1870, Mathilda, b. 17 November 1871, Karl Viktor, b. 24 October 1872, Anders Vilhelm, b. 5 April 1875 (fellow victim), Edla Kristina, b. 24 November 1880, Johan Birger, b. 15 June 1883 (fellow victim), Elin Kristina, b. 3 July 1885, and Fredrik Hjalmar, b. 23 June 1892.
Mathilda Backström had made a previous visit to the USA but had returned to Finland and, in 1911, married her childhood friend Karl Alfred Backström. She lived in Kejtala, Strömfors (Ruotsinpyhtää), Finland.
The following year Karl, Mathilda (6 months pregnant) and her brothers Johan Birger Gustafsson and Anders Vilhelm Gustafsson travelled from Hangö to Hull on the Polaris. On 3 April Mathilda wrote a letter home saying that the trip had gone well thus far, one week later the party boarded the Titanic at Southampton.
On the night of the sink she was not keen to enter any lifeboat, but was persuaded by her husband to enter one of the last ones (collapsible D) after he had promised to try to follow in the next one; she was trembling because she only had a nightdress and lifebelt on.
Karl was unable to find another boat and died when the ship went down, Mathilda's brothers also perished.
After her arrival in New York Mathilda was quartered in Union League Home together with Erna Andersson. Mathilda did not want to stay in USA and White Star paid the trip back home. May 9 she returned to Finland on FÅA's Urania. In June she gave born to a daughter, Alfhild Maria. In the New York Evening Journal a photo of "Maria Bickstrom (sic) and her son" was published a few days after the arrival of the Carpathia, a misunderstanding as she had no son.
From the Red Cross files: 028. (Finnish) Husband drowned, while returning from a visit to Finland with his wife and her two brothers. The wife was saved, the two brothers were drowned. The wife was pregnant. She and her husband had lived in this country seven years. The wife returned home in April, 1912, to make her home with her mother. She was given $300 and clothing while in New York and was paid £100 from the English funds. (Referred to the English Red Cross)
She gave birth to Alfhild in June, 1912.
Mrs. Backström returned to live in Kejtala where she died on 30 June 1947. She is buried in Ahvenkosken Hautausmaa, Loviisa, Finland.