Titanic Survivor Stories - Rhoda ‘Rosa’ Abbott
Perhaps one of the most tragic of Titanic survivor stories is that of Mrs. Rhoda (or Rosa) Abbott. This Rhode Island resident was divorced from her husband, Stanton Abbott, a boxer and sports promoter, in 1911 and moved with sons Rossmore (16) and Eugene (13) to her native England in order to be closer to her family. Less than a year later, she decided that for the sake of her homesick boys, it would be best to move back to the United States. Abbott bought tickets on the Philadelphia but and was pleasantly surprised when, due to the English coal strike, her ticket was changed allowing her family to return home in style on the beautiful RMS Titanic.
Shortly after midnight on April 14, 2012, the Abbott family awoke to commands to don lifejackets and make their way to the decks. The steerage passengers were herded upwards, where only women and children were allowed to proceed to the stern boat deck. Although Mrs. Abbot was offered a lifeboat seat, she declined because at least one of her sons, and possibly both, would not be considered children, but rather adult males.
At around 2:00 am, while waiting for Collapsible Boat A to be prepared, Titanic’s passengers were swept into the ocean as she sank further into the water. In the dark, freezing waters, Abbott lost hold of her sons and never saw them again. Hope for her own survival was minimal when she was snatched out of the water, and placed in the waterlogged Collapsible Boat A. With water up to their knees, approximately twenty survivors fought for their lives against the lethal cold; only thirteen of these survived the night. Just before dawn, these few survivors were transferred to Lifeboat 15 by Officer Lowe. .
Unconscious and in poor condition, Rhoda Abbott was brought onboard Carpathia; her only source of comfort was Amy Stanley who could talk with her about her sons. Broken in body and spirit, Abbott, as the only Salvationist traveling in uniform, was immediately taken by ambulance to the hospital under the direct care of Salvation Army delegation gathered at the pier to minister to the survivors.
With the help of the Salvation Army and friends from her church in Providence, Abbott slowly recovered from her terrible frostbite, hampered breathing, and devastating loss of her sons. Rossmore’s body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and buried at sea; Eugene’s body was not recovered. She received funds from the Women’s Relief Committee and the Titanic Relief Fund.
Abbott did remarry a long time friend and relocated to Jacksonville, Florida. With few prospects, they returned to England to settle an estate. Shortly thereafter, her husband suffered a stroke that made him an invalid the rest of his life in 1938. Although poor, she cared for him the rest of his life, despite her own debilitating respiratory problems. Abbott continually renewed her passport and stated her intention to return to America, however the start of World War II made this impossible. Rhoda Abbott died of heart failure due to hypertension on February 18, 1946. She never made it home to America.