The Titanic sank 100 years ago this April, but many people might not be aware of the amazing stories of two Salvationist women who survived the horrific sinking.
Rhoda “Rose” Abbott and Elizabeth Nye were among the 2,223 people on board the passenger liner, which was bound from Southampton in England to New York when it struck an iceberg on April 14, causing the deaths of 1,517 people.
Rose, a Salvation Army soldier married to an English boxing champion, has the distinction of being the only woman aboard the Titanic rescued from the water. She reportedly was asleep at the time the ship hit the iceberg and, by the time she reached deck, could not secure a lifeboat.
As the ship made its final plunge, Rose and her two sons, 16 and 14, jumped into the water. The boys never surfaced. Rose suffered burns to her thighs when a boiler exploded as she searched below the surface for her sons.
She was rescued some five hours later. Salvation Army General William Booth, commenting on the loss of Rose’s sons, said, “They died, I am assured, like true Salvationists.”
Elizabeth Nye wasn’t even supposed to be on the Titanic. She was booked on another ship, but a coal strike delayed her trip and she was transferred to the Titanic. She was initially thought to have perished but made it into a lifeboat and to safety.
The daughter of a Salvation Army bandsman, Elizabeth later worked at Salvation Army headquarters in New York City in the uniform department.
When she arrived in New York City aboard the rescue ship Carpathia, Evangeline Booth greeted her and the other survivors.
Elizabeth described her experience to a reporter for the Army’s War Cry magazine:
“She did not sink flatly, like boats sail the ocean, but tipped up,” she said. “And when she was half submerged she broke completely in two and the lights went out … The cries for help were awful, many in the boats were insufficiently clad and suffering from exposure. We drifted about for five–and–a–half hours.”
While Elizabeth’s ordeal was indeed harrowing, God’s plan for the rest of her life took shape even as she arrived at the docks.
That day, she met George Darby, a Salvation Army colonel and national bandmaster. The two eventually married and served in the Army in both England and the United States.