Class of the Titanic

If you were waking up on the 15th of April 1912, you may be excused for assuming that somebody was playing a belated April fool’s joke upon you. After all, the “unsinkable” ship managed to meet its demise in the unlikely form of an iceberg and descended into its watery grave in just a matter of hours. But not everyone on the ship experienced this in the same way, If you were a third class passenger your chances of survival were unlikely in comparison to the higher chances of the upper class. This was due to the very formation of the ship, with each of the decks descending in class order. Furthermore, if you were a male passenger, your chances were even slimmer due to the age old policy of ‘women and children’ first. The sinking of the Titanic was tainted by class hierarchy both in terms of division on the ship, and in terms of how it was reported by the media to the general public.
This basic lack of regard for the lower classes ran from the very formation of the Titanic right through to those who survived. Source 1 is evidence showing that the layout of the ship impeded the chance for third class survival. Third classes were situated lower down in the ship, with six flights of stairs to climb to the upper deck. It is accurate to assume that a third class passengers journey from the third class deck to the upper deck would take them longer and thus cost more lives. This can be supported with the shocking statistics in Source 3 and supports the notion that class division is apparent in the creation of the living quarters of the ship, and so affects the chances of the passenger’s survival aboard the ‘unsinkable ship.’

Source 1: A blueprint of the layout of the floors on the Titanic. On the left the only flight of stairs from the lower deck can be seen.

Source 1: A blueprint of the layout of the floors on the Titanic. On the left the only flight of stairs from the lower deck can be seen.

With this in mind, the Astor family, owners of the Waldorf Astoria hotels in New York, proved the suggestion of the link between the lower down the deck – the lower the class in society, consequently the less likely you were to survive. The wealthy Astor family, were staying on the ‘C’ deck in first class (the deck belonging to first class that was the furthest down.) Therefore, this suggests that the death of John Jacob Astor may have been due to the inability to get to the upper deck, and to get to one of the few lifeboats available. However, John Jacob Astor was one of the few deceased that received a personal mention in the papers, as well as his surviving wife receiving a column. This was not due to him being just a popular man, although he had received tremendous recognition from the Spanish-American War and being granted the status of colonel, he received this media attention due to his class and more importantly his wealth. This showing how although situated in first class, it can be assumed that Astor was still restricted in his efforts to escape due to the poor layout of the ship. And from Source 2 it can be seen that he risked his life, like many men, for the sake of women and children, proving that gender was a contributing factor to survival on the Titanic.

Figure 2 is front page of The Call. Note the headline ‘Wealthy Men Lost,’ just under the death toll.

Figure 2 is front page of The Call. Note the headline ‘Wealthy Men Lost,’ just under the death toll.

The wife of Mr Astor, Madeline, who was aboard the Titanic with her husband, did survive. Therefore, this, along with Source 3, shows the difference between the sexes surviving, suggests that although the chances of survival were thin for lower class, they were also slim for the males on board. As even a man of such high status, could not escape the peril of the sinking of the Titanic.

Figure 3 provides a visual representation of the mortality rates in regards to gender and class

Figure 3 provides a visual representation of the mortality rates in regards to gender and class

The Titanic will remain a haunting disaster. Yet, what seems the forgotten tragedy is the way in which class division had its place during and after the disaster. Yet for those who were male, as well as a part of the third class, had little chance of survival. Unfortunately, the importance of hierarchy and divisions amongst classes on board the Titanic can be seen as a microcosm of British society at this time. However, in the case of the Titanic it is evident that social class was a matter of life or death.