Forget the unsinkable ship; Violet Constance Jessop was the unsinkable woman. She was on board all three of the White Star Line’s sister ships during each of their disasters, and she survived all of them.
In 1910, when she was 22, Violet began working as a stewardess aboard the RMS Olympic. She was on board when it collided with the HMS Hawke in 1911. (The ship was able to be repaired and continue sailing until it was scrapped in 1935.)
In 1912 she was aboard the Titanic, still working as a stewardess, when the ship collided with the iceberg. She made it into lifeboat 16 and was later rescued by the RMS Carpathia.
Violet claimed that just before the lifeboat set sail, an officer handed her a baby and told her to look after it. She said that the day after they were rescued by the Carpathia, a woman took the baby from her arms and ran off. The baby has never been identified. Records show that only one baby was aboard Violet’s lifeboat, and that he was handed to Edwinda Troutt, then later given back to his mother. Because this story is so similar to the one Violet told, and because she never actually told anyone this until the 1970s, some people say that Violet made up the story entirely.
The third sister ship, the Britannic, was planned to be the grandest of the three ships, more lavish than even the Titanic, but because of WWI, it was transformed into a hospital ship and never actually carried passengers.
By 1916 Violet had become a nurse and was working aboard the HMHS Britannic when an explosion occurred on board and caused the ship to sink. It is unknown what caused the explosion, but the two most popular theories are that the ship hit a mine or that it was struck by a torpedo. Violet made it to a lifeboat, but it was sucked into the propellers. She jumped out into the ocean, but hit her head on the bottom of the boat. Fortunately, another lifeboat came around and pulled her out of the water. Before she went to the lifeboat, she made sure to bring her toothbrush; she said that it was the first thing she missed after the Titanic sank.
Violet continued to work for many shipping lines before retiring in 1950.
Years later, Violet received a phone call from a woman claiming to be the baby whom she rescued on the night of the Titanic’s sinking, but the woman hung up before saying anything else.
Violet Constance Jessop died in 1971 of congestive heart failure.