Women and children first: How an elusive custom evolved

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Women and children first: How an elusive custom evolved

Postby Andrew Clarkson » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:23 am

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- There were outraged headlines around the world when about 80 women and children were left to die in the freezing North Atlantic off Newfoundland as crew members raced to save themselves.

It was Sept. 27, 1854. The luxury ship Arctic had collided in heavy fog with the steamer Vesta off Cape Race, N.L., killing an estimated 350 people.

Editorial writers and readers were incensed over the blatant violation of what is today considered an increasingly archaic custom -- women and children first. Public anger over the Arctic helped shape that almost mythic tradition of nautical gallantry in the face of death, but it was still an inconsistent practice in the decades that followed.

It is now widely seen as anachronistic, a sort of Victorian throwback with no legal weight, said Roger Marsters, curator of marine history at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

"It's certainly not a rule that has any force in international maritime law," he said in an interview. "At its best, it's a custom. But more realistically I think it's an ideal that's espoused more often that it is observed."

Historically, far more men survived shipwrecks than women, and more women survived than children, he said in an interview.

Read more; http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/women-and- ... -1.3664213
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