Violet Jessop was lucky from a young age. She was born in Argentina in 1887 to Irish immigrants. She became ill with what her doctors said was fatal tuberculosis. Somehow, she survived.
After her father passed away, her mother decided to move the family to England, where she started to work as a stewardess at sea. Shortly after, her mother became ill and couldn’t work, so Violet took her place on the boat.
Violet quickly found herself facing a unique problem: she was too young and too attractive. In those days, it was thought that it was better to “avoid problems” by hiring older, married women.
To deal with the problem, Violet started showing up to interviews with old, wrinkled clothes and no makeup. She started to work at White Star Line, one of the biggest shipping companies at that time.
In 1910, she began to work on deck of the Olympic – the biggest and most luxurious boat in the world at that time. Despite the low pay (her wage was 200 pounds a month in today’s terms), she felt in love with the yachting world.
And then, in September of 1911… Boom! The Olympic collided with a British warship. Fortunately, despite the extensive damage to the boat, it was able to return to shore with no fatalities, but with many injured. Violet suffered no injuries from the accident.
Some people might have developed PTSD and searched for another job, but not Violet. She returned to her job shortly after, and at the age of 24 was promoted to a coveted job: a stewardess for the VIP on the new luxury boat, the Titanic.
After the Titanic struck an iceberg, Violet was instructed to stand on deck to make sure that even the passengers who didn’t speak English would know what to do. When passengers refused to get in the lifeboats out of fear, Violet and other stewardesses were asked to serve as an example and enter life boat number 16. And so her life was saved.
Strangely, in interviews, she stated that the thing she missed most after the sinking of the Titanic was her toothbrush that she forgot on deck.
Did Violet then decide to stop working on luxury boats? Did boating companies decide that she’s bad luck? Not at all. And so Violet found herself on board the Brittanic.
Violet in her nurse uniform on board the Britannic during World War I
Violet probably assumed that when the Britannic was designed, it took into account mistakes from the Titanic and corrected them. The boat was concerted into a hospital ship in 1915 as part of England’s war efforts.
The boat sunk on November 21st 1916 when it was bombed by the German navy. The entire boat sunk in 55 minutes. The sinking of the Britannic was considered a success by the German army – it was the largest boat lost during the war, and 30 people were killed. Today, the Britannic is the largest passenger ship on the ocean floor.
Violet jumped into the water as life boats were ripped in the boat engines. This time, she doesn’t come out of it unharmed: she suffered a serious blow to her head and cracked her skull. Astoundingly, she had no clue. She complained of headaches for several years, and a doctor diagnosed her cracked skull.
If you thought that was the end of her boating career, you’d be wrong. After the end of World War II, Violent started working for the competing company, Red Star Line, and then the Royal Mail Line. Fortunately, none of the boats she worked on sunk. On the other hand, this time she remembered her toothbrush.
She retired from sea life at the age of 61, and spent her last years gardening and raising chickens. In 1971, she passed away of congestive heart failure at the age of 81. What an amazing life she had, the woman who was known throughout the the United Kingdom as The Unsinkable.