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“I Trust That They Are Better Off”: Rhoda Abbott

"I Trust That They Are Better Off": Rhoda Abbott

Rhoda Abbott had long been an elusive Titanic survivor.

As it turns out, this was because her name, on Titanic's manifest and in contemporary articles, was inaccurately written as Rose or Rosa. Regardless, on her birth, death, and marriage certificates, her name is listed as Rhoda. And with that, a comparative wealth of information has been discovered.

Rhoda about was born in England, and emigrated to Providence, RI, in 1894. There, she met and married a fellow expat named Stanton Abbott, who rose to fame as a middle-weight boxing champion. This fame, however, accelerated the deterioration of their marriage, and in 1911, Rhoda and Stanton separated.

Rhoda returned to England with their two teenaged sons, Rossmore and Eugene, on Titanic's longest-lived sister ship, the RMS Olympic.

They struggled to get by in England. Rhoda worked as a seamstress and Rossmore as a bootmaker, while Gene was still receiving schooling. But Rhoda soon realized that her boys were homesick--she was English, but they were American. So she decided to take them home.

Rhoda Abbott boarded Titanic as a third-class passenger with her two boys. Rossmore was 16 by this point; Gene was 13.

It's been reported that the boys, excited to get stateside and dazzled by Titanic, almost immediately peaced out from their mom to explore the ship. Rhoda spent time conversing at length with fellow English women in adjoining cabins, particularly Amy Stanley and Emily Goldsmith.

As a whole, those in Third Class, being low within the vessel, felt the greatest shudder upon impact with the iceberg. After feeling the collision, the boys wanted to get up to the boat deck to see what had happened. But their mother wanted to wait for instruction from a steward, so she made them stay put and go to bed.

At a quarter past midnight, a steward threw open their door, yelling, "All passengers on deck with life jackets."

Rhoda, Rossmore, and Gene managed their way up to the boat deck with a little maneuvering. As they shuffled in the mass across the stern's deck, the last of the distress signals was launched above them. Eventually, they reached Collapsible C, the boat that some of Rhoda's cabin neighbors, including Amy Stanley and Emily and Frankie Goldsmith, got in. With the assertion of 'Women and Children First' in full effect, Rhoda's sons were too old to be considered children.

At around 2:00 a.m., when Rhoda was frantically offered a place in Collapsible Lifeboat C, she pressed her two boys to her and refused. It was about 2:00 a.m.

Twenty minutes later, Titanic submerged.

Water overtook the boat deck as the officers were desperately trying to launch Collapsible A, which Rhoda and Gene were waiting for--Rossmore, in accordance with Rhoda's worst fear, was put firmly back with the other men.

Rhoda grabbed Gene's hands, but when she surfaced, both Rossmore and Gene had been dragged away underwater.

She never saw her boys again, alive or dead.

Rossmore's corpse was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and committed to the sea on April 24, 1912. He was listed as follows.

CLOTHING - Brown overcoat; grey pants; green cardigan; blue jersey; black boots.
EFFECTS - Watch; chain and fob, with medal marked "Rossmore Abbott"; pocket book empty and two knives.

Gene's body was never found.

With no sight of her lost sons, Rhoda sank again, but was blown back to the surface by the exploding Titanic boilers, which she believed caused burns to her thighs.

Rhoda managed to make it to Collapsible A--which having been washed away only half-prepped, had taken on a few inches of water--and was pulled aboard. She recounted her experience to the Pawtucket Times.

Soon the raft tilted and all slid off into the water. Many of them managed to get back on it and some did not. I managed somehow to get on it, but I don’t know how. We were forced to stand on the float in lockstep to keep our balance for over six hours. Had it not been for Officer Laws I would have been drowned. I was nearly exhausted when he lifted me into his lifeboat. It would have been impossible for an officer to show more courtesy and many of the criticisms that have been made against this man are very unjust.

"Officer Laws" was, in fact, Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, of Lifeboat 14, the only lifeboat to return for survivors.

Officer Lowe left Collapsible A behind. It was recovered one month later, in May of 1912, with three corpses still within.

Rhoda had been practically unconscious when removed from Collapsible A, and was cared for by a fireman until taken aboard Carpathia. She had no memory of any of it. According to fellow survivor Amy Stanley, once on board Carpathia, Rhoda was mute and shellshocked.

 We were very close since we were on the Titanic together. And her stateroom had been near mine. I was the only one that she could talk to about her sons because I knew them myself. She told me that she would get [sic] in the lifeboat if there hadn't been so many people around. So she and her sons kept together. She was thankful that [the] three of them had stayed with her on that piece of wreckage. The youngest went first then the other son went. She grew numb and cold and couldn't remember when she got on the Carpathia. There was a piece of cork in her hair and I managed to get a comb and it took a long time but finally we got it out.

Meanwhile, Rhoda's ex-husband Stanton had been informed of the loss of his young boys. The New York Times reported it on it, with a distinct lack of sentiment, on May 4, 1912.

Stanton Abbott, an Englishman residing at Providence, R. I., inquired at the White Star Line office yesterday for his two sons, Rosmore Edward, 17 years old, and Eugene Joseph, 13, who were passengers with their mother, Mrs. Rose Abbott, 45 years old, on the Titanic, and were lost. The mother, he said, is in the New York Hospital in a dangerous condition from shock and fever. He was told that the body of the older boy had been recovered, and Mr. Abbott said he would go to Halifax to claim it.

Rhoda's physical recovery was slow, and she was one of the last survivors to be released from care at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City.

Her grief, however, knew no real end. Rhoda kept in touch with her cabin neighbors after the sinking, and in 1914, she wrote to Emily Goldsmith, and her grief was no less palpable for the passage of time.

I have so envied you with Frankie, and me losing both mine, but I trust that they are Better off out of this hard world...

I read by the papers the terrible weather you are having. I suppose Frank enjoys it. I know my little fellow used to when he was alive. I have his sled now that he used to enjoy so much, bless his little heart. I know he is safe in God’s keeping, but I miss him So Much.


Rhoda Abbott was the only woman to go down with Titanic and somehow survive.

And therefore, Rhoda, thereafter and for so long called "Rosa" or "Rose," was the only woman rescued from the water.

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