Whether you've gotten your knowledge about the Titanic from the 1997 movie (there's some truth and some fiction in there, of course) or through the numerous documentaries, websites, books, and other media about the fated ship, the lives and deaths of the 2,207 passengers and crew can get lost in the mix. What were they like? Can you relate to them? Where would you have been if you'd boarded the ship? Would you have survived its famous sinking?
When it came to who survived the Titanic and who died that night in April of 1912, social status and gender were staggeringly important. It's well known there weren't enough lifeboats on the Titanic, and the ones that were used could have held more passengers - but would they have been first class ticket-holders? The wealthy elite that traveled in style? Or the second- or third-class passengers - the groups with the largest number of individuals that died on the Titanic?
Looking at the Titanic survivor list, it's clear that women and children were given preference on lifeboats as the ship slowly sank. The 706 names on the Titanic survivor list reveal the circumstances of the men and women of all ages - from babies to the elderly - that survived, as well as those of the over 1,500 that died on the Titanic. Which group would you have been in?
Who You Are: To be a child traveling on the Titanic in first class would have been a treat (at least in the beginning). Passengers in the first class were from the upper echelons of society, and thus able to experience all of the luxuries the ship had to offer. Children ranging from ages two to 17, like Robert Douglas Spedden, age six, and Georgette Alexandra Madill, age 16, traveled with their families and private attendants. William (Billy) Carter II, age 11, had his own manservant to make sure he behaved himself, and brought along his two dogs for the trip.
There was variety in terms of first-class accommodation but, in general, first class passengers were able to use the gym, play squash, sit in reading rooms and parlors, drink at one of the cafes, and even take a trip to the sauna. Children on the Titanic would play games, explore, and even run up and down the Grand First Class staircase. When Billy Carter saw his first class room he "thought [he] was the richest person in the world because of how beautiful of a room [he] was staying in."
Your Chances Of Surviving: 48% of children on the Titanic - boys and girls alike - survived the voyage, but the rates of survival were 100% for first class children. There were six first class children, and all were saved, although one source indicates that there may have been one child from first class who perished. The youngest female survivor was Billy Carter's sister, Lucile, who was 13 at the time. The youngest male survivor from first class was the 11-month old Hudson Trevor Allison.
Who You Are: Children in second class, from 10-month old Alden Gates Caldwell to 13-year old Violet Madeline Mellinger, were from middle-class families and spent their time aboard the Titanic in moderate surroundings. The children of teachers, clergymen, and other working professionals didn't have as much space to run around, but were able to eat three course meals in relative style. Second class passengers were given accommodations that resembled first class standards on other ships, so a youngster in second class didn't have a lot of complaints.
Children in second class demonstrated some of the diversity and social challenges facing the middle class, however. Michel Navratil kidnapped his two children and smuggled them onto the Titanic, while Joseph Laroche (the only black man on board), his two children, and his expectant wife boarded the Titanic after learning he would not be able to dine with his children if they took a different ship.
Your Chances Of Surviving: All of the children in second class on the Titanic, 24 in total, survived. The youngest boy was seven-month-old Viljo Unto Johannes Hämäläinen and the youngest girl was 10-month-old Barbara Joyce West. Both Viljo and Barbara's mothers survived as well, but Barbara's father, Edwy Arthur West, perished on the voyage.
Who You Are: Children in third class - also known as steerage - on the Titanic were from the lower classes of society. Children's tickets were around $15 each, which equates to around $387 in 2018. The berths and other spaces available to children in third class were much less glamorous and far smaller than those in first and second class. Children played below deck with their siblings and, in many instances, there were a lot of siblings to choose from. There were five Andersson children, nine from the Sage family, and six Goodwin children aboard. Others made games out of what they had available to them, like: "Frankie Goldsmith, nine, swung from cranes in the baggage area."
Your Chances Of Surviving: Only 27 out of the 79 children in third class survived the sinking of the Titanic. The youngest survivor of the Titanic disaster was from the third class, however: Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean was only two months old at the time of the sinking.
Who You Are: All of the shiny perks of being a woman in first class aboard the Titanic would have been a bit overwhelming. That said, if you were a woman in first class on the Titanic, you would have been used to such luxurious surroundings. Women from upper class families like Madeleine Talmage (Force) Astor (who had recently married millionaire John Jacob Astor IV,) and model and actress Dorothy Gibson enjoyed 10 to 14 course meals when they weren't spending time in the tea gardens and library available to them.
Most women traveling in first class had attendants with them - nurses for their children, maids, and cooks - which meant a fair number of lower class women traveled with the upper echelon. The fashion in first class really distinguished elite women from the rest of those on the ship. Women donned hats and gloves during the days, and at night they wore the finest evening gowns of the time.
Your Chances Of Surviving: "Women and children first" was true, for the most part, on the Titanic. One of the difficulties in surviving as a member of first class was the inability to get clear information about what was really going on. The crew wanted to keep the first class passengers calm and happy. After the ship struck the iceberg, John Jacob Astor went to see what was going on and, after receiving an update from the crew, assured his wife it was nothing serious. Madeleine Astor did survive the sinking of the Titanic, as did her unborn child, and she was part of the 97% of first class women that did. Only four out of the 144 women in first class on the Titanic perished.