Friday, February 12, 2016

The Titanic Class Struggle

Bernie Sanders recently featured on a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch based on the theme of the inequality of the 1912 Titanic sinking.

The Titanic carried enough lifeboats for only 52% of its passengers, and judging by which passengers got a seat, class clearly mattered. Some 62% of first-class passengers found places in the boats, compared with 41% of second-class passengers, and 25% of steerage (or third-class) passengers. The crew fared even worse, with just 24% saved.

As Walter Lord, author of the classic account of the Titanic disaster A Night to Remember, observed, the famous “women and children first” rule of the sea only went so far. “In first class, just one child was lost,” Lord noted in a later book, “…while in third class, 52 out of 79 children were lost—about the same percentage as first class men.”

Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, a Scottish aristocrat and his fashion designer wife. They and their secretary left the Titanic in a lifeboat that held just 12 people, despite having a capacity of 40. Sir Cosmo was later accused of bribing the crew to row away from the sinking ship as well as not to turn back and rescue other victims. Their lifeboat was mocked in the press as the “Money Boat.” Lady Duff Gordon as they watched the ship disappear beneath the waves, with some 1,500 children, women, and men still aboard, lamented to her secretary, “There is your beautiful nightdress gone.”

For more information about the rich V the poor on the Titanic read ‘The Class Struggle Aboard the Titanic’ 

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