Miss Unsinkable – Violet Jessop

May 6, 2021 | 0 comments

In today’s journey to the past, we will explore the incredible life of Violet Jessop, a woman who faced the seas in an era when most ships became legends of naval history, surviving two of the greatest maritime disasters of her time.

Born on October 2, 1887, near Bahía Blanca, Argentina, Violet Constance Jessop was the eldest daughter of Irish immigrants William and Katherine Jessop. Despite facing serious illnesses during her childhood, including tuberculosis, she survived against doctors’ predictions.

At the age of 16, her father passed away, and her family moved to England. There, she attended school while taking care of her younger siblings, as her mother worked as a stewardess on ships. When her mother fell ill, Jessop left school and followed in her mother’s footsteps.

She started working for the White Star Line and the ship Olympic. The same company constructed two other ships of the “Olympic” class. Their names? Titanic and Britannic!



On September 20, 1911, while our heroine worked as a stewardess on the luxurious ship Olympic, it was leaving the port of Southampton when it collided with the British warship HMS Hawke. The collision occurred when the HMS Hawke attempted to cross the path of the Olympic, hitting it on the side and causing significant damage to the lower part of the ship.

Despite the serious damage, the Olympic managed to return to port without sinking. The collision sparked significant discussions about maritime safety and the need for safety standards at sea.

The Olympic (left) and the Titanic in the port of Southampton.


In April 1912, the most famous maritime disaster in history occurred. The Titanic, considered the largest and most luxurious ship of its time, collided with an iceberg in the northeastern part of the Atlantic and sank in less than three hours.

Violet was a member of the Titanic’s crew, and that night, she was on duty. It is said that she played an exceptionally important role in saving several people as she guided non-English-speaking passengers. Later, she was ordered to board lifeboat 16. During the evacuation, she was entrusted with caring for a baby.

Jessop and the other survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia. On the Carpathia, a woman, possibly the mother of the baby Jessop had cared for, took the baby without saying a word.



While the First World War was in full swing, our heroine had been trained as a nurse and served on the last ship of the White Star Line trio.

On the morning of November 21, 1916, the Britannic, now converted into a hospital ship, was sailing off the coast of Greece when it struck a naval mine, possibly placed by German submarines.

Violet Jessop in a nurse’s uniform during her service on HMHS Britannic.


The Britannic sank in less than an hour. Passengers quickly boarded lifeboats but made a critical mistake. They abandoned the ship before the captain gave the order, and as the ship sank with the bow, its giant propellers were partially above the water’s surface. As the ship sank, the propellers created strong currents, destroying lifeboats with survivors attempting to escape.

Jessop found herself on one of the boats shredded by the propellers. To save her life, she abandoned the boat before it was destroyed. Most passengers on that boat were not as fortunate, as the propellers caused the death of many.

Despite suffering a severe blow to her head as she left the boat, Jessop managed to survive and recover from her injury.

Her adventurous life and resilience contributed to making her a remarkable figure in the maritime world. Jessop became known as “Miss Unsinkable,” surviving not only the Titanic disaster but also the Olympic and Britannic accidents.

After years of service at sea, Jessop married John James Lewis, her colleague at the White Star Line. Their marriage took place when Jessop was 36 years old. However, it did not last long, and they divorced about a year after the wedding. Violet Jessop retired in 1950 and lived a quiet life in Great Ashfield, Suffolk.

As she approached her 80s, Violet Jessop received a phone call during a stormy night. On the other end of the line was a woman. The woman asked if Jessop was the one who had saved a baby the night the Titanic sank. When Jessop confirmed the information, the woman simply laughed and mentioned that she was the very baby Jessop had cared for. When she shared the incident with her friend and biographer John Maxtone-Graham, he expressed the opinion that it might be a prank by one of the village children, to which our heroine responded, “Well, you’re the first one hearing this story just now.”

The “unsinkable” Miss Jessop passed away in 1971 at the age of 83 from heart failure.


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