Thursday, April 15, 2021

Correcting Fake News From 109 Years Ago

Today is the 109th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. 

It's a tragedy that has intrigued me since I came across a book about the ship twenty-six years ago. Since that day, I've watched plenty of documentaries and read books all about its first, and ultimately - final, journey.

Due to the abundance of passengers - from all walks of life -who travelled on her, Titanic's story fascinates me. 

As I sit here and think about all the people I've read about, whether they survived or not, I cannot help but recall the story about a conman who tricked his way out of the sinking vessel by pretending to be a female.

'Story' is the operative word here.

Every now and again, I come across the tale about an American man named William Thompson Sloper who is alleged to have dressed up as a woman to enter a lifeboat when the order was for 'women and children first' to leave Titanic on lifeboats.

It sure is a fascinating story of chutzpah. However, and as I keep pointing out - it's just a story.

Sloper escaped from Titanic on lifeboat 7 - the first boat to leave the ship. At the time when he boarded it, the 'women and children first' rule appears to not have been enforced by the staff manning the lifeboat.

To highlight a point, it's worth looking through the list of all those who were on board lifeboat 7.

  1. Dickinson H Bishop
  2. Helen Bishop
  3. Henry Black
  4. Paul Romaine Marie Leonce Chevre
  5. Harriette Rebecca Crosby
  6. Catherine Elizabeth Crosby
  7. Olive Earnshaw
  8. Antoinette Flegenheim
  9. Dorothy Winifred Gibson
  10. Pauline Caroline Gibson
  11. William Bertram Greenfield
  12. Blanche Greenfield
  13. Margaret Bechstein Hays
  14. George Alfred Hogg
  15. Archie Jewell
  16. Pierre Marechal
  17. James Robert McGough
  18. Alfred Nourney
  19. Alfred Fernand Omont
  20. Lily Alexenia Potter
  21. Frederic Kimber Seward
  23. John Pillsbury Snyder
  24. Nelle Snyder
  25. Gilbert Milligan Jr Tucker
  26. William Clifford Weller
Just by looking at those names, it's glaringly obvious more than one male was on board. The 'women and children first' directive was certainly not being carried out when this boat left Titanic.

What caused the false story to circulate about Sloper disguising himself as a woman originated from a report from the New York Herald newspaper which falsely claimed he had done that to board lifeboat seven.

Fake news if ever I saw it.

Unfortunately, Sloper would spend the rest of his life disputing the story. He passed away at the age of seventy-one on May 1st 1955.

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