There are few things as riveting as a survival story. That’s why, after some kind of disaster, news reporters never fail to interview one or two people who inevitably stare into the camera and say, “I was there, and I survived.”
But few tales of survival surpass that of Violent Constance Jessop. While surviving one catastrophic, world-changing disaster would be enough for anyone, Violet might be one of the few who could truthfully claim to survive three of them.
That’s right. Three times, Violet Jessop faced near-certain death in a disaster of epic proportions, and all three times, Violet Jessop walked away unscathed. Don’t believe it? Read on…
Born in 1887, Violet Jessop was the daughter of two Irish-immigrant sheep farmers living in Argentina and the oldest of six siblings. It would have taken a psychic of great talent to predict that later in life, she’d be surviving not one, not two, but three disasters.
Sounds unlikely? It was. As a kid, Violet struggled to survive at all. Colds wreaked havoc on her immune system, pneumonia followed soon after, and eventually tuberculosis rattled her lungs. By all counts, she had one foot in the grave for most of her life.
As devout Catholics, the Jessops prayed nightly for the health and safety of their sickly daughter. Their prayers must have worked better than expected because Violet, in later years, would prove that she almost literally could not be killed.
After spending much her young life bedridden, Violet had a lot of living ahead of her. She wanted to stretch her proverbial wings and see the world, but in order to do that, she needed money. She could do it all, she realized, as a ocean-liner stewardess.
If you take Violet’s memoirs for fact, she was almost too beautiful to land a job as a female stewardess, who were typically an older, less-comely bunch. Determined, she made herself look older during interviews, which apparently paid off as she ultimately landed the job…
Violet’s first gig was as a stewardess for the Royal Mail Line once her family moved back to Great Britain following her father’s death. While this particular role wasn’t all that eventful, it did land her a better job at the famed White Star Line shipping organization.
The White Star Line was notorious for transporting spoiled passengers with bad attitudes, and Violet worked 17-hour days making all of them all happy. After a ship transfer, she was placed on the RMS Olympic… and directly into harm’s way.
On September 20, 1911, the RMS Olympic was on its fifth trans-Atlantic voyage when it smashed into the bow of the HMS Hawke. All of the passengers and crew aboard the Olympic—including Violet—needed rescuing as the ship’s hull sustained serious damage.
Violet survived the crash and continued working on the Olympic once the organization completed repairs. She loved life as a stewardess, cranky customers and all. Still, when her friends told her of an exciting opportunity aboard another ship, her ears perked up.
A sister ship to the Olympic, it was the biggest the world had ever seen. With its ability to carry 2,224 passengers from England to New York City, it exuded modern engineering at its finest. So of course, Violet accepted a job aboard.
Can you guess what that ship was called?
That’s right: it was the RMS Titanic. This infamous ship only made one voyage across the Atlantic before it struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912. Onboard was, of course, Violet Jessop, who’d been sitting in her room when the ship started sinking. Again, Violet faced disaster.
Aboard the sinking Titanic, Violet assisted women and children climbing onto lifeboats until, eventually, she too was ordered to board one. Still, she wasn’t out of the woods just yet…
Before her lifeboat was lowered into the icy sea, an officer handed her a baby, to whom she grasped tightly. In the midst of disaster, Violet—the woman later dubbed as “Miss Unsinkable”—held onto life.
That night, 1,503 people died. As the ship disappeared under the sea, rescuers began to arrive. Violet, the baby, and others were picked up by RMS Carpathia. Despite the odds, Violet had survived yet another accident.
Clearly, Violet had learned a lesson. Though she returned to her role, she decided she’d had enough of those cursed White Star Line ships. So she opted for the British Red Cross’s liner, Britannic, which transported wounded soldiers from the Mediterranean to Great Britain during World War I.
Had the liner’s captain been superstitious, he might have kept the ship anchored in port the second Violet boarded it. He didn’t, though, and in 1916, the ship hit a mine and started to sink. Over 1,000 on board faced death in the Aegean Sea.
Luckily, the Britannic stocked the right number of life boats (unlike the Titanic). As passengers filled the boats, Violet was forced to jump overboard. Sucked under the keel, she violently smashed her head into the ship’s body. The blow should have killed her.
Meanwhile, all but 30 passengers on the ship escaped with their lives.
But, it seemed, Violet had become nearly indestructible, and the blow to her head “only” fractured her skull (a fact she didn’t realize until years later after enduring constant headaches). Her seafaring days should have been over…
After World War I, traveling the seas via cruise ship became all the rage. With three near-death experiences under her belt, Violet joined the Red Star Line, going on to work as a stewardess for another 42 years. Thankfully, she never faced another sinking ship again…
Amazingly, after her days at sea were done, Violet received a phone call. The caller? The baby—now an adult—who’d been placed in her arms while fleeing the Titanic. In the end, after surviving three disasters, Violet’s life wasn’t the only one she’d managed to save!
History is full of survivors, but few have put together the resume of Violet Constance Jessop. Talk about some seriously good—or bad—luck!
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