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Mrs 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)


Ruth Dodge with daughter Vida c.1905
San Francisco Chronicle  (1912) 
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)

Articles and Stories

San Francisco Bulletin (1912) 
Washington Times (1912) 
San Francisco Chronicle (1912) 
San Francisco Chronicle (1912) 
San Francisco Call (1906) 
San Francisco Call (1906) 

Comment and discuss

Dr Washington Dodge (63 posts)
In the footsteps of Dr Washington Dodge (6 posts)
Ruth Vidaver Dodge's family (6 posts)
Washington Dodge (5 posts)
Miss Sarah Dodge (4 posts)


Brian Ahern, USA
Gavin Bell, UK
Phillip Gowan, USA
Sam Kostichka
Homer Thiel, USA

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]). Department of Health Borough of Manhattan Certificate Of Death
England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1916
New York Herald, April 19, 1912
San Francisco Call, 4 September 1898, Miss Ruth Vidaver Married At Paris
San Francisco Call, 12 April 1906, marriage announcement
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) Ruth Dodge (ref: #95, last updated: 18th January 2018, accessed 20th January 2021 02:34:22 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/ruth-dodge.html