Violet Constance Jessop may have been one of the luckiest women in the world. In addition to surviving a deadly disease as a child, she survived a total of three ship disasters, including the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic.
As reported by Museum Hack, Jessop was born in 1887 in Argentina to Irish immigrant parents. At a young age, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which was expected to be fatal. However, she overcame the disease and went on to live a long and adventurous life. Although she has eight siblings, Jessop was one of only six who survived to adulthood.
When she was only 16, Jessop’s father died. She, her mother, and siblings were subsequently forced to move to England — where her mother found work as a cruise ship stewardess.
Museum Hack reports Jessop took on the responsibility of caring for her siblings while her mother worked. However, when her mother fell ill and was no longer able to work, Jessop quit school and got a job with the White Star Line. Like her mother, she started out working as a stewardess.
In 1910, Jessop began working on RMS Olympic, which, at the time, was the largest and most luxurious civilian ship in the world.
On September 20, 1911, Olympic set sail from Southampton, England. Approximately 90 minutes into the cruise, Olympic collided with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hawke. All That’s Interesting reports the collision caused extensive damage to Olympic’s hull.
Violet Jessop survived two ship disasters in two years
Despite the fact that RMS Olympic was extensively damaged, the ship made it back to the port safely. As reported by Museum Hack, all of the passengers and crew, including Violet Jessop, survived the incident.
RMS Olympic was repaired and eventually returned to service. Although the crash was frightening and may have prompted some of the crew to seek other employment, Jessop was determined to continue working aboard cruise ships. National Archives reports she served as a stewardess aboard Olympic until she had an opportunity to join the crew of the RMS Titanic in 1912.
Jessop was in bed sleeping when the Titanic struck an iceberg in the evening hours of April 14, 1912. However, she was awoken by the commotion and quickly made her way to the ship’s deck, where she was informed the ship was damaged in a collision and was beginning to sink.
As reported by the National Archives, Jessop assisted with the evacuation of numerous women and children. However, she was evacuated herself when she was given an infant who could not be left on its own. Jessop was assigned to lifeboat 16, where she remained until the following morning when she was rescued by members of Carpathia.
National Archives reports the sinking of the Titanic still did not deter her from working on cruise ships. Following the Titanic disaster, she returned to the Olympic, where she worked until 1914.
Violet Jessop survived yet another ship disaster
As reported by National Archives, Violet Jessop only left Olympia to train as a VAD nurse for the British Red Cross. Immediately upon completion of the training program, she was assigned to the HMHS Britannic hospital ship, which was called the “sister ship” to the Titanic.
In the early morning hours of November 21, 1916, a large explosion, which is believed to have been caused by a mine, rocked the massive ship. History reports the blast caused extensive damage to the ship’s hull and Britannic ultimately sank less than one hour after the explosion.
Although 30 people lost their lives in the disaster and more than 1,000 others, including Jessop, survived. Unfortunately, she sustained a head injury while she was being pulled from the water into a lifeboat. As reported by Gizmodo, Jessop was not aware of how extensive the injury was until years later when she began experiencing headaches and was subsequently diagnosed with a skull fracture. Although it was serious, the injury did not impact her career.
National Archives reports Jessop continued working aboard cruise ships until December 1950, when she retired at the age of 63. At the time of her retirement, Jessop had been working aboard ships for the better part of 40 years.
Gizmodo reports Jessop enjoyed gardening and raising chickens in the years following retirement. She died of congestive heart failure in 1971, at the age of 84.
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