Miss Marie Grice Young was born in Washington DC on 5 January 1876.
She was the daughter of Samuel Grice Young, a US customs clerk (b. 1845), and Margaret Brown Wilson (b. 1848), both natives of Washington who were married on 16 January 1873. She had an elder brother, Wilson (b. 25 April 1874). The family were politically well-connected as her paternal aunt Mary Grice Young was the wife of Alexander Robey Shepherd, a former governor of the District of Columbia.
The 1880 census shows the Young family, who were Roman Catholics, as residents of 266 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn, New York. Marie was educated in convent schools and completed instructions in music studies.
Marie’s father Samuel worked in the Treasury Department as a young man before moving to Mexico where he had interests in mining and where he made his fortune. He was a gifted songwriter and baritone vocalist and became prominent in Washington musical circles, often showcasing his talent in solo or group performances in his local community where he was also part of a choral society. That life came to an abrupt end around 1891 when he fell from a streetcar in Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington and sustained head injuries. Those injuries apparently affected his mental health and he was committed to an insane asylum for a short while but later discharged. Soon after his discharge he sank into a depressed and morbid state and started drinking heavily, his behaviour becoming objectionable, in contrast to his former upstanding character. On 8 December 1898 he attempted suicide at his home—1907 N Street northwest—by ingesting laudanum. Although his attempt failed and he survived, his mental health was again called into question and he was declared insane and again committed to the asylum:
DECLARED TO BE INSANE
Verdict of Jury in Case of Samuel G. Young.
Samuel G. Young, who attempted suicide last Thursday evening, was today declared to be insane by a jury sitting at the city hall. Melancholia, with suicidal tendency, was decided on as the specific complaint with which Mr. Young is suffering. He did not appear before the jury, being unable to leave the Emergency Hospital, owing to a cold and a temporary physical disability resulting from the recent attempt to end his life. The witnesses who appeared today were Dr. Henry D. Fry, Dr. J. S. McLain and William P. Young, the latter a brother of the man whose sanity was in question. It was testified, in substance, that Mr. Young’s mental condition is bad. that it is growing worse and that it would be necessary, for proper treatment, to commit him to an asylum. He will be taken to St. Elizabeth’s as soon as his physical condition warrants his removal from the Emergency Hospital. - The Evening Star, 13 December 1898
During his latest institutionalization, Young became a clerk to the institution itself and may have appeared to have been improving, with local media stating that he was again acting as a choirmaster. During a short leave of absence he travelled to Baltimore and signed in as a guest at the Hotel Rennert in that city where, on 19 December 1901, he was found unconscious by hotel staff. He had made a second attempt at suicide, again by drinking laudanum, but this time he was unable to be resuscitated. He was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington.
When Marie appeared on the 1910 census she was a lodger at 3023 Q Street in Washington and was described as an unmarried music teacher. Having inherited her father’s musical talent, Marie was a gifted pianist and taught young and old alike, counting the children of President Theodore Roosevelt among her pupils.
One day, I received a call from Mrs. Roosevelt asking if I would give daily lessons on the piano to her sons, Archie, then 7, and Quentin, 10. I agreed and they came to my home for their lessons for more than two years. Their sister, Ethel, was also one of my pupils. - The Evening Recorder, 12 February 1955
Miss Young recalled how President Roosevelt, like any dutiful father, attended one of the recitals she gave for her classes and how he listened with parental pride as young Archie Roosevelt pounded out "Over the Waves", whilst Ethel read from her music "because she never could memorise.”
Marie remained devoted to her mother Maggie, with whom she lived, and the pair often holidayed together. Maggie died following a long illness on 21 February 1910 and was buried in Washington’s Oak Hill Cemetery. Whilst recuperating in Atlantic City from the loss of her mother, Marie came into the acquaintance of Ella Holmes White, a meeting which she later said that she was sure her guardian angel had arranged.
By 1912 Marie Young had become a long-term companion to Ella Holmes White. Mrs White, a wealthy widow, had a brief and childless marriage and divided her time between her apartment in Briarcliff Manor, New York and at a sumptuous apartment at Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. Marie spent much of her time at both and, essentially, the two women lived together as well as travelling with each other; the pair often hosted joint parties. It has been speculated that the two women were lovers although there is also the suggestion that they were just very close friends or that Mrs White was a surrogate mother. Whatever the nature of their relationship, it is clear that the two women became devoted to one another.
Following an extended winter vacation in Rome, Miss Young and Mrs White decided to travel back to New York in April 1912:
MRS. J. STUART WHITE IS RETURNING HOME
She and Miss Marie Young Will Be Passengers on Board the Titanic.
SPECIAL DESPATCH TO THE HERALD VIA COMMERCIAL CABLE COMPANY'S SYSTEM.
No. 49 AVENUE DE L'OPERA,
Mrs. J. Stuart White and Miss Marie Young, who have been spending the winter in Rome, are returning to America on board the Titanic on April 10 and will go directly to Briarcliff Lodge.
New York Herald, 5 April 1912
The pair boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as first-class passengers (joint ticket number 17760 which cost £135, 12s, 8d), joined by Mrs White’s maid Nellie Bessette and manservant Sante Righini. Whilst in Europe Miss Young and Mrs White had purchased some expensive live poultry and brought the chickens aboard the ship which were stowed with the cargo. Each day Miss Young, accompanied by ship’s carpenter John Hall Hutchinson, went below decks to check on her purchases and as a reward for his service Miss Young tipped Hutchinson with some gold coins to which he exclaimed ''It's such good luck to receive gold on a first voyage''. Also aboard Miss Young was delighted to be joined by some of her acquaintances from Washington however she was compelled to write to President Taft contradicting reports that she knew or conversed with Major Archibald Butt on the Titanic.
May 10, 1912
President William H. Taft
Dear Mr President:
Although a Washingtonian I did not know Major Butt, having been in deep mourning for several years. The alleged "interview" is entirely an invention, by some officious reporter; who thereby brought much distress to many of Major Butt's near relatives and friends... for when they wrote me of what a comfort the story was to them, I had to tell them it was untrue, as no such deception could be carried through.
They wrote me that through Mrs Sloan's kindness, they obtained my address... and I immediately wrote Mrs Sloan that there was no truth in this newspaper story.
When I last saw Major Butt, he was walking on deck, with Mr Clarence Moore, on Sunday afternoon.
With deep regret that I could not be his messenger to you,
Mrs White recalled that after the collision she, Miss Young and her servants went up to A deck of their own volition, waiting inside the lobby to hear of any news. Captain Smith came sweeping down the staircase, ordering the passengers gathered to fetch their lifebelts, which they did, before ascending to the boat deck. Miss Young, Mrs White and her maid Nellie Bessette departed in lifeboat 8, fairly early in the proceedings, although Miss Young stated she was in the last lifeboat to a hungry media. Telling of her experiences shortly after:
"The last person to whom I spoke on board the Titanic was 'Archie’ Butt and his good, brave face smiling at me from the deck of the steamer was the last I could distinguish as the boat I was in pulled away from the steamer's side.
"When he had carefully wrapped me up he stepped upon the gunwale of the boat and, lifting his hat, smiled down at me." 'Good bye, Miss Young,' he said, bravely and smilingly. 'Luck is with you. will you kindly remember me to all the folks back home?'
"Then he stepped to the deck of the steamer and the boat I was in was lowered to the water. It was the last boat to leave the ship; of this I am perfectly certain. And I know that Iwas the last of those who were saved to whom 'Archie" Butt spoke.
"As our boat was lowered and left the side of the steamer, 'Archie’ still was standing at the rail, looking down at me. His hat was raised and the same old, genial, brave smile was on his face. The picture he made as he stood there, hat in hand, brave and smiling was one that will always linger in my memory."
The Buffalo Courier, 20 April 1912
Seemingly situated at the stern of the lifeboat, close to the Countess of Rothes who was at the tiller, they sat close to Mrs Margaret Swift, Mrs Marion Kenyon and Dr Alice Leader. Reportedly with only a coat on over her nightclothes, Miss Young suffered from the cold and years later would comment ruefully:
"You might add," she continued with a chuckle, "that my only costume from Sunday night when the Titanic went down until Wednesday when we arrived in New York was a flimsy negligee." - Evening Recorder, 12 February 1955
After their arrival in New York aboard Carpathia, Miss Young left for Mrs White’s home at Briarcliff to recuperate. She later wrote at account of her experiences that was printed in the National Magazine.
Marie Young and Ella White remained extremely close, living together for many years at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel until 1929 when that building was raised to make way for the Empire State Building. They then moved into an equally luxurious apartment at the Plaza Hotel and where they appeared on the 1940 census. They continued to travel together, both in the USA and further afield, their international destinations including Switzerland, Netherlands, Britain, Italy and France. Marie’s 1922 passport describes her as standing at 5’ 6” and having brown eyes, grey hair, a round face with a large mouth, high forehead and a retroussé (upturned) nose.
Marie Grice Young in her 1922 Passport Photograph and her signature
When Ella White died in 1942, Marie was left her personal possessions and an annuity. Marie remained in an apartment in Manhattan for a few years until the mid-1950s when she moved into the Mount Loretto Convalescent and Rest Home in Amsterdam, New York to be closer to her only surviving family, the descendants of her brother Wilson. Whilst there she spent her time reading, going on drives and playing the piano, although that latter pursuit was curtailed on account of worsening arthritis in her hands and fingers.
Giving the occasional newspaper interview in her final years, Marie remained at the same convalescent home for the rest of her life and from where she continued to enjoy both her pursuits and a relative measure of good health.
Marie Grice Young died aged 83 on 27 July 1959 and was later buried in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester, New York. She was survived by a great niece.