THERE were five prominent women’s rights campaigners among the passengers on the Titanic.
Margaret (Molly) Brown
An American socialite, Margaret Brown was born poor but came into money when her husband was awarded stock and shares of the mining company where he worked. She volunteered in soup kitchens and helped establish the Colorado chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Travelling first-class on the Titanic, she ushered other women and children into lifeboats, before being persuaded into one herself. During the First World War, she worked with the American Committee for Devastated France to rebuild areas behind the front line.
Helen Churchill Candee
Abandoned by her abusive husband with whom she had two children, Connecticut-born Candee supported herself writing for popular women’s magazines before coming to national prominence as a journalist. Having written How Women May Earn a Living, she moved to Washington DC, where she became an interior designer, gaining commissions from illustrious friends, including The Roosevelts. She broke her ankle boarding the Titanic lifeboat, but survived and was able to join the Votes for Women parade in the city, riding her horse at the head of the procession which culminated at the steps of Capitol Hill, in March, 1913. During the First World War, she worked with the Italian Red Cross, tending to, among others, Ernest Hemingway.
Edith and Elsie Bowerman
Edith and her daughter, Elsie, were active members of the WSPU and fled the Titanic on the same lifeboat as Molly Brown. In 1910, Edith was assaulted by a policeman while protesting at the House of Commons. During the First World War, Elsie, pictured right, witnessed the Russian Revolution first hand while based in St Petersburg. After the war, Elsie studied law, becoming the first woman barrister at the Old Bailey. During the Second World War, she worked with the Women’s Voluntary Services, and, after a spell at the Ministry of Information, spent three years with the Overseas Services of the BBC. In 1947, she went to the United States to help set up the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
William T Stead
William T Stead – a British newspaper reporter who paved the way for tabloid journalism – was a social reformer and ardent advocate of women’s rights. While editor of the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885, he “bought” a 13-year-old girl for £5 in an attempt to expose the scale of child prostitution. Although he was jailed for unlawfully kidnapping a minor, the publicity the case generated led to the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which raised he age of consent from 13 to 16. A friend of suffragette Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Stead was proud of being the first editor to employ women on the same wages as men. After all the lifeboats on the Titanic had been filled, Stead, who had been travelling to a peace conference, is said to have gone to the First Class smoking room where he was last seen sitting in a leather chair reading a book.