Titanic Survivor Stories - Madeleine Talmage Force Astor
Born in 1893, Madeleine Force was a young woman when she first met John Jacob Astor, an immensely wealthy industrialist and builder from New York City. After she was presented as a debutante in 1910, she and Astor became close and in 1911 announced their engagement. When they married on September 9 of that year, she was 18 and he was 47.
The scandal of Astor’s 1909 divorce plus the disparity between their ages led to intense public gossip and commentary. As a result, the newlyweds soon departed for an extended honeymoon to Europe and Egypt in order to let the gossip die down at home. Upon learning that Madeleine was pregnant, the couple decided to return to America as first class passengers on Titanic.
In the luxury of their C62 suite of rooms, one of the most expensive suites on Titanic, Madeleine and Astor were enjoying their voyage until the night of April 14. Anxious for his wife’s safety, Jacob placed her in a lifeboat but could not join her. He ultimately perished when Titanic sank.
Upon arriving in New York, Madeleine was met by family and taken home to recover. Astor’s death had both financial and emotional repercussions for his young wife. She received money from a trust fund and the use of two houses if she remained an Astor. Should she ever chose to remarry she would have to give up all of the amenities that being an Astor would entail.
Exactly four months after the night of the sinking, Madeleine welcomed their son, John Jacob Astor VI to the world on August 14. In spite of the financial support, Madeleine gave up her fortune in June 1918 to marry William K. Dick, an old friend that did not have nearly the wealth of the John Jacob Astor.
After 15 years together and two sons, Madeleine went to Reno to file for divorce. She then immediately married an attractive Italian boxer – more than 10 years her junior - who had given lessons to her children. They divorced in 1938, leaving Madeleine ill and less than rich. She died at age 47 in Florida.