Fascinating life story of Titanic survivor

RMS Titanic - sank on her maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg. Picture: Press Association
RMS Titanic - sank on her maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg. Picture: Press Association

A survivor of the sinking of the Titanic was the subject of a talk in Seaford last week.

The fascinating story of Elsie Bowerman, a lawyer and suffragette, was told to members of Seaford Women’s Institute by speaker Judith Kinnison-Bourke.

Born in Tunbridge Wells in 1889, Elsie and her mother Edith became active members of Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) which campaigned vigorously on the votes for women issue.

The pair boarded RMS Titanic at Southampton on April 10 1912, travelling first class to see relations of Elsie’s late father in North America.

The ship sank in the Atlantic in the early morning of April 15, but mother and daughter were rescued on lifeboat 6.

After the disaster they reached America and carried on with their plans to visit British Columbia, Klondyke and Alaska.

Elsie served with a Scottish women’s hospital unit in Romania during the First World War and in March 1917 had had to retreat to St Petersburg where she witnessed the Russian Revolution at first hand.

After the war, Elsie studied law and was admitted to the Bar in 1924. She was the first woman barrister at the Old Bailey and practised until 1938.

During Second World War she worked for two years with Women’s Voluntary Services, and after a time 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.

On her return she lived near her mother at St Leonards-on-Sea, and then moved to a country house near Hailsham where she died at the age of 83 in October 1973 after suffering a stroke.