Tales of incredible heroism mark the sinking of the Titanic, doomed by an iceberg in the North Atlantic 103 years ago next month.
One young New York City woman’s quiet sacrifice, however, has been mostly forgotten.
Edith Corse Evans was born into a wealthy New York family in 1875. She survived the Blizzard of 1888 (years later, her sister recalled trudging to school with Edith after the storm ended, in “an enchanting city with trackless snow”).
By all accounts, Edith became an independent, socially prominent woman.
In the spring of 1912, when she was 36 years old, she reportedly went to England to attend a family funeral, then embarked on a clothes-shopping trip to Paris.
Accompanied by her aunt and two female relatives, she decided to take the Titanic home to New York, boarding at Cherbourg, Normandy and booking first-class accommodations.
At 11:40 on April 14, the mighty Titanic was ripped by an iceberg. Over the next few hours, as the ship listed, women and children were lowered into lifeboats.
As time went on and the situation became increasingly grave, Edith and one relative, Mrs. Caroline Brown, remained on deck, according to passenger Archibald Gracie IV.
Gracie (of the Gracie mansion Gracies) survived the sinking and recalled Edith’s last moments in his 1913 book, The Truth About the Titanic.
“I heard a member of the crew, coming from the quarter where the last boat was loaded, say there was room for more ladies in it,” wrote Gracie.
Gracie grabbed Edith and Caroline and rushed them to the last boat. “You go first,” Edith reportedly told her friend, according to Gracie. “You are married and have children.”
With Caroline safely on the lifeboat, Edith tried to board it as well. But she had difficulty climbing over the ship’s gunwale. “Never mind,’ she is said to have called out. ‘I will go on a later boat,'” wrote Gracie.
There was no later boat, and Edith perished in the sea with 1,516 other passengers. Her body was never recovered.
Shortly after her death, a plaque for Edith was installed under a stained glass window inside Grace Church, where her memorial service was held (above, her New York Times obituary notice).
“Love is strong as death” it reads, a quiet monument to a small act of great bravery.