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Violet Jessop’s career working on ocean liners was more eventful than most. At age 23, she began work as a stewardess on the White Star Line ship RMS Olympic, the world’s largest civilian luxury liner at the time. In September 1911, the Olympic collided with British warship HMS Hawke, but both vessels were able to make it back to port without sinking.
Undeterred, Jessop joined the staff of the Olympic's sister ship, the RMS Titanic, in April 1912 for its maiden voyage to America. As everyone knows, a collision with an iceberg caused the ship to sink four days into the voyage. Jessop survived in a lifeboat, carrying an unknown infant thrust into her arms at the last minute.
Clearly still unconcerned about sea travel, Jessop accepted a position with the British Red Cross in 1916, working on the HMHS Britannic, which had been converted into a hospital ship during World War I. Disaster struck a third time: The Britannic hit a deep sea mine in the Aegean, and sank within 55 minutes. Thirty people died, but Jessop was among hundreds who survived in lifeboats.
The amazing, lucky life of Violet Jessop:
- Jessop suffered a head injury during the Britannic rescue when she and other passengers in her boat were nearly killed by the ship’s propellers. Jessop hit her head on the ship’s keel, but was scooped up by another lifeboat.
- Jessop also cheated death as a child. Doctors expected her to die when she came down with tuberculosis, but she unexpectedly recovered. She was the oldest of nine children, three of whom died at an early age.
- Often referred to as “Miss Unsinkable,” Jessop continued her career aboard luxury liners until retirement in 1950. She died of congestive heart failure in 1971 at the age of 83.