Encyclopedia Titanica

Ruth Dodge

Ruth Dodge
Ruth Dodge

Mrs Ruth Dodge (née Vidaver) was born in New York1 on 27 March 1874.2

Both her parents were immigrants from Warsaw, Poland.3 Her father was Dr Falk Vidaver (1844-1909), a Rabbi, and her mother was the former Anna Taubenhaus (1846-1914), both whom had married in their native Poland around 1867 and had come to the USA in April 1871.

One of seven children, Ruth's siblings were: Nathan (b. 1864), Dora (b. 1872), Maxwell (b. 1875), Miriam (b. 1877), Rose (1880-1936 later Mrs Jack Loria) and Minnie (b. 1883, later Kahn).

As a child Ruth and her family appear to have moved around frequently, spending time in New York, Massachusetts and Indiana before settling in San Francisco, California where her father was Rabbi from 1882 to 1893 at the Congregation Sherith Israel.

Around mid-1897 Ruth travelled to Paris to help cultivate her singing voice; she was married there on 3 September 1898 to P. Henri Fontaine (b. 1853), a wealthy diamond mine owner and with interests in sugar cultivation. Her parents only found out about the marriage after it had taken place. 

Ruth and Fontaine's daughter Vida was born in Paris on 9 March 1899 but what became of Fontaine is presently unknown.4,5

Ruth was remarried in Holy Trinity Church, London on 20 May 1901 to Thomas Henry Browne (b. 1861), a British Army officer originally from Wales. Thomas had first been married in 1880 to Brenda Fanny Welstead (b. 1846), a widower hailing from Ireland who had two surviving children from her first marriage to John Richards Welstead (1837-1873), Edward Leonard (1862-1929) and Julia (b. 1868).6

By 1906 Ruth was living between London and San Francisco, moving about and proving popular in artistic and musical circles in the latter city and claiming widowhood. Her address was 1930 Broadway, San Francisco when she filed for divorce; Thomas Henry Browne was still legally married to Brenda Welstead and Ruth petitioned for annulment or divorce which was granted by the summer of 1907. 

In San Francisco she met divorcee Dr Washington Dodge and their engagement was announced in early 1906 and they were married in New York on 12 April 1906 in a service presided over by her own father; at the time she was still legally married to Thomas Browne.

Ruth and Dodge welcomed their only child Washington Jr on 23 September 1907. She and her family appear on the 1910 census residing at 2129 Laguna Street, San Francisco. 

Ruth DodgeIn 1912 Dr and Mrs Dodge left with Washington Jr. for France to treat Washington Sr's blood disease. After treatment the Dodge family returned on board Titanic; the family boarded at Cherbourg, travelling as first class passengers and occupying cabin A-34 (ticket number 33638 which cost £81, 17s, 2d). On the night of the sinking, Washington helped his wife and son into lifeboat 5 before escaping in lifeboat 13.

The Dodges returned to San Francisco where Washington Dodge was the city assessor. In 1919 Washington Dodge was found shot in the elevator of their apartment building and he died nine days later on 30 June 1919. Ruth went back to New York to live on Park Avenue with her son, Washington Jr. and daughter Vida; she never remarried.

Ruth appears on the 1920 census residing with her two children at West 58th Street in Manhattan; by 1940 she was living alone at 20 East 76th Street, Manhattan where she had lived for several years. She continued to travel to frequently, well into her advanced years, visiting Greece, Italy, Algiers, Portugal, Turkey, Spain and France; her 1921 passport describes her as standing at 5' 4" and with dark hair, blue eyes, an aquiline nose, a round face and broad forehead and fair complexion.

Ruth Dodge Vida Fontaine
Ruth Dodge and Vida (Fontaine) Dodge in 1920

Ruth Dodge died in Manhattan on 27 July 1950 aged 76; she was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, Westchester New York.7

Her daughter Vida was first married in 1922 Stewart Gregory Mackay (1899-1970); her last marriage was in 1931 to Arthur C. Payne. She died in New York on 16 October 1990.


  1. Birthplace often cited as Cleveland, Ohio
  2. Birth year often given as between 1877 and 1880. 
  3. She stated on the 1920 census that both her parents were from Kentucky. In the 1910 census she stated that they were German. 
  4. Vida's father was listed as Washington Dodge on various later documents and she used Doge as a surname after her mother remarried.
  5. On her marriage certificate to Thomas Brown, she is listed as a widow.
  6. On the marriage certificate, he claimed to be a bachelor.
  7. Her ashes are thought now to be interred with those of her husband Dr Washington Dodge at San Francisco Columbarium, San Francisco County, Aquilo (Tier 4, Niche 5)

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mrs Ruth Dodge (née Vidaver)
Age: 38 years and 19 days (Female)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Married to Washington Dodge
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 33638, £81 17s 2d
Cabin No. A34
Rescued (boat 5)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Cause of Death:
Buried: Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York, United States

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References and Sources

Borough of Manhattan Certificate Of Death
England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1916 Ruth Vidaver Brown - Thomas Henry Browne
New York Herald, April 19, 1912
San Francisco Call, 4 September 1898, Miss Ruth Vidaver Married At Paris

Newspaper Articles

San Francisco Call (3 April 1906) Washington Dodge Marriage
San Francisco Call (9 April 1906) Marriage of Dr. Washington Dodge and Mrs. Ruth Brown
The marriage will take place next Thursday in New York
San Francisco Chronicle (16 April 1912) DR. DODGE AND FAMILY MAY HAVE MISSED TITANIC
San Francisco Chronicle (18 April 1912) DR. DODGE AND HIS FAMILY ARE SAFE
San Francisco Bulletin (30 April 1912) DR. DODGE'S WIFE TELLS STORY OF TITANIC WRECK


Ruth and Washington Dodge
Ruth Vidaver Dodge
Ruth Vidaver Dodge
Ruth Vidaver Dodge
Vida Fontaine Dodge (daughter of Ruth and step-daughter of Washington Dodge)
San Francisco Chronicle (1912) Ruth Dodge with daughter Vida c.1905

Documents and Certificates

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912, National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]).
(1950) Ruth Dodge (Death Certificate)


Jeffrey McGinnis San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home
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Comment and discuss

  1. Brian Ahern

    Brian Ahern said:

    Here is a link to a find-a-grave site with a brief but interesting biographical blurb on Ruth Dodge's brother: It includes a photo (Ruth got the looks) and the tidbit that he drove a purple Rolls Royce (egads!). Interestingly, he was born in Boston while Ruth, unless I'm mistaken, was born in Ohio. Perhaps their father's work (he was a rabbi) required him to go where he was posted? He was the second husband of Nellie Ruth Bird, whose genealogy can be found... Read full post

  2. Brian Ahern

    Brian Ahern said:

    Okay - found out a bit more: It seems Ruth's father was actually Rabbi Falk Vidaver, not Rabbi Nathan Vidaver, as is often stated. Her grandfather and brother were both named Nathan. Falk Vidaver was clearly very prominent as a rabbi and writer. He must have been middle-aged when Ruth was born since he was already officiating at marriages as of 1872. Also, all the ET newspaper blurbs on Ruth put her first husband's name as Fontaine, but I wonder if it was actually Browne. This is given as her previous married name in the 1932 San Francisco Social Register and an alumni note from an SF... Read full post

  3. Brian Ahern

    Brian Ahern said:

    Nevermind about Falk being advanced in years when Ruth was born - I see by some of the info I myself posted he was 32 when she was born.

  4. Brian Ahern

    Brian Ahern said:

    Was just looking back over other threads on the Dodges. Too bad Jan C. Nielsen no longer visits ET, since he was obviously the go-to man on this topic. If anyone can shed any light (or wants to have fun speculating) I'd love to know the circumstances of Dr. Dodge's divorce. The brief mentions of it I've come across seem to imply that HE divorced HER, rather than the other way around. I'd also be curious to know the reaction of Rabbi Vidaver to his son and daughter marrying outside the faith. The Dodges are some of the passengers who interest me the most.... Read full post

  5. Mike Poirier

    Mike Poirier said:

    Hi Brian- Great info. I am lucky to have an original of Dodge's May 1912 booklet on the Titanic. I always wondered if his son was raised Jewish or Christian. The son gave an interesting interview in the 1960s or 70s saying he used to drag a toy ox with a bell along the deck and his father scolded him for waking up the people in the deck chairs. One night, the father looked out his A deck port (and I suppose could see the water past the A deck promenade?) and said, 'I guess we will beat the band.' Little Bobo said, 'What band?' Mike

  6. Brian Ahern

    Brian Ahern said:

    Thanks for sharing that, Mike. I bet if Washington was raised in any religion, it was Episcopalian, which is what his father was. Both of Ruth Dodge's children married WASPs (incidentally - little Washington's first wife was a Hubbard of Middletown, CT - a family with a lot of available info on the web). A lot of the passengers who interest me are the ones whose ethnic backgrounds don't fit the Anglo norm, such as Irish Catholics like the Minahans and interfaith marriages like the Cavendishes and the Dodges. In 1912, religion determined a lot about how you experienced the world. As I... Read full post

  7. grass

    grass said:

    did she speak any german?

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Brian Ahern
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