A Woman to Know: Lucile Carter

It was life or death. I took an oar and I started to row. — Lucile

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Lucille Polk had quite the reputation in her hometown. She showed up to parties in "semi-transparent" attire and openly flirted with the hoi polloi of Baltimore society.

But in 1912, after settling down with the wealthy William Carter and traveling beyond gossiping Baltimore, Lucille boarded the famed Titanic. The night of April 14, she and her husband dined with Captain Smith and other first-class passengers. Just a few hours later, while William partied it up in the men's lounge, the ship struck an iceberg — precipitating the greatest maritime tragedy of the 20th century.

With her husband nowhere in sight, Lucille loaded other wives, socialites and her own children into the nearest lifeboat. Joining other passengers in the frenzied escape, she grabbed the nearest oar and piloted her boat to safety, resisting the deadly pull of the sinking Titanic and fighting fear as she heard the cries of other passengers. She led her small band of escapees into open sea until she reached Carpathia, the ship that rescued the bulk of the Titanic's survivors.

The next morning, she saw her husband leaning on the Carpathia guardrail. He had fled to another lifeboat that night, without her and the children. "All he said was that he had a jolly good breakfast," she told reporters, "and that he thought I wouldn't make it."

She filed for divorce in 1914.

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