TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic Articles: Biography Of Violet Constance Jessop
BY HARRIET COLLINGHAM
Out of a crew of 885, the White Star Line employed just 23 women to work aboard Titanic. With the exception of the Turkish Bath Attendant, two woman Cashiers from the à la carte restaurant, a masseuse and the Third Class Matron, they were all Stewardesses. With such a ratio of female crew to male, it would perhaps, be natural to assume that as a number of male crew survived the whole compliment of women did. Sadly, this was not so. Three of the women perished, Lucy V. Snape; Stewardess, Katherine Gold; Stewardess and Catherine Jane Wallis; Third Class Matron, perished.
Perhaps the most famous Titanic crew woman was Miss Violet Constance Jessop, a First Class Stewardess. She was on board all three of the Olympic-class ships when accidents befell them. She was a Stewardess on the Olympic during the collision with H.M.S. Hawke in 1911, also a Stewardess on Titanic when she collided with an iceberg and subsequently foundered in 1912, and she was serving as a Nurse (V.A.D) when the Britannic struck a mine and sank in the Aegean in 1916. The last one had the most potential to be fatal; the Captain of the ship had her still going full ahead in an attempt to drive her into shallower water and Violet Constance Jessop's boat was sucked in and she was hit upon the head by one of the propeller blades.
Violet Constance Jessop was born on October 2nd 1887, in the Argentinean Pampas, to Irish parents: William and Katherine Jessop (nee Kelly). She was the first of nine children, of whom six survived; Violet, William, Phillip, Jack, Patrick and Eileen. Upon the death of their father, his widow moved them all to England. Katherine was then engaged as a Stewardess with the Royal Mail Line, (1903) and the four boys were sent to an Orphanage whilst Violet was left to care for Eileen (who was 15 years her junior). After a while, Violet and Eileen moved to a Convent in Kent, where Violet resumed her studies. In 1908 however, any hopes of further education for Violet were dashed by her mother's failing health. She was signed on with the Royal Mail Line and took her mother's place as the family's sole breadwinner.
Violet Constance Jessop devoted her life to stewardship, her career was to last 42 years (spanning from 1908 to 1950) serving with 4 different companies. She married, but it was a failure, with the couple splitting up soon after the event. (The failure would most likely have been due to her grueling work schedule) Sometime around 1930 she began to write her autobiography, under the pseudonym 'Constance Ransom'.
She never had any children of her own, but she had a talent for caring. She was given a baby to hold by an Officer (who is thought to be the Sixth Officer James Paul Moody);
'Before I could do anything, young Mason (Moody) hailed me and held up something, calling out as he prepared to throw it, "Look after this will you?" And I reached out to receive somebody's forgotten baby in my arms.
It started to whimper as I pressed it to me, the hard cork surface of the life belt being anything but a comfort, poor mite."
Her nieces also recall her love of young children and babies. When she retired she moved to a secluded country cottage where she lived out her days keeping chickens. She had survived a lung haemorrhage, Black Scarletina, and so many other ailments during childhood, it is perhaps a wonder she survived to live through two shipwrecks and two world wars, but some how she did, and during her career she cared for hundreds upon hundreds of person and gave so selflessly. She very rarely complained at all about her lot in life, just soldiered on with it. She left behind a memoir rich with anecdotes and details of ships which are so useful, for example she was one of the few Titanic survivors whose published memoirs take note of the conditions around her (like the lights through the portholes). She is also one of the few crew to have their memoirs published, and as a Stewardess has given a window into a totally different world, a long day in day out world of servitude.
And she bore it tolerably well.