Charged For Brother’s Remains, Victory For Poor Irish Farmer

How class distinctions affected life and death on the Titanic

Shefali O'Hara


Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Anyone who has seen the movie Titanic has some idea of the ways in which different classes of people were treated. First class accommodations were luxurious. Second class spaces were still fairly spacious, with abundant public gathering places. Third class passengers had more spartan facilities, but at least were given meals by the White Star Line. Some companies forced steerage passengers to bring their own food.

However, most of the crew had worse conditions than even the steerage passengers, jammed into rooms called “Glory Holes”. The stewards, stewardesses, and officers had better accommodations, however. Even among the staff, the class system defined what comforts someone received.

Where these class distinctions really mattered was in survival rates:

  • First class passengers survival rate: 62%
  • Second class passengers: 41%
  • Third class passengers: 25%
  • Women’s survival rate: 75%
  • Children’s survival rate: 50%
  • Men’s survival rate: 20%

A first-class woman had a 97% chance of surviving while a third-class man only had a 16% chance. Surprisingly, second-class children had a 100% chance of living, above the 83% chance of first-class children.

There were a total of 908 crew members onboard Titanic and 696 of them perished in the sinking. That meant among this group, less than 24% survived.

To add insult to injury, crew members who made it home found that the White Star Line had cancelled their employment at 2:20 A.M. on April 15th, as the Titanic was sinking. They received no pay after this point.

Additionally, families were charged for the bodies of the deceased.

For example, the brother of 6th officer James Paul Moody received a letter informing him that if he wished the remains of his deceased sibling to be sent to him, he would need to telegraph the White Star Line and send a deposit of 20 pounds, equivalent to about $2500 today. Though this may have been a moot point as Moody’s remains were never…



Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.