Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (2023)

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Millvina Dean was just 9 weeks old when she boarded the Titanic in 1912 with her parents and older brother. But she wasn't supposed to be on the Titanic at all. The Dean family boarded the ship after a coal strike canceled their original trip. Her family was leaving the UK to move to Kansas City, Missouri, to join her father's cousin. On April 14, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg and later sank. Millvina, her mother, and 2-year-old brother survived, but her father died with the many other third-class men who weren't allowed on lifeboats. When the Deans returned to England aboard the Adriatic, passengers lined up to hold Millvina. The demand was so high an officer made a rule that each person could only hold her for 10 minutes. Millvina didn't learn about the true horrors of the Titanic until she was 8 years old, when her mother finally told her. Millvina and Bertram Dean were educated using money from the Titanic Relief Fund, a charity formed in England to support survivors. During World War II, she worked in the British Army's map-making office. She never publicly spoke about the Titanic until 1985, when the shipwreck was found. Millvina never watched James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" because she was worried it would make her think about what her father had been doing in his final moments. Her brother, Bertram, pictured right, died on the 80th anniversary of the iceberg collision in 1992. He was 81. In 1998, Millvina finally successfully crossed the Atlantic from Southampton to New York City aboard the Queen Elizabeth II. She auctioned off some of her Titanic memorabilia later in life, including the mailbag her mother carried their possessions in after the sinking. James Cameron and "Titanic" stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio donated thousands of dollars towards Millvina's nursing-home costs in 2009. Millvina died in 2009 at 97. She was the last living survivor of the Titanic. FAQs Videos
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Gabbi Shaw

2023-02-09T13:22:00Z

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (1)

GERRY PENNY/AFP/Getty Images
  • Millvina Dean was just 9 weeks old when her family boarded the Titanic in 1912.
  • Dean lived to be 97 years old, dying in 2009. She was the last living survivor of the ship.
  • She never saw the 1997 film "Titanic," which is being rereleased this week for its 25th anniversary.

Millvina Dean was just 9 weeks old when she boarded the Titanic in 1912 with her parents and older brother.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (2)

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She was the youngest passenger aboard. She boarded the Titanic with her mother, Georgette, her father, Bertram Frank, and her brother, Bertram Vere, before the ship set sail from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912.

But she wasn't supposed to be on the Titanic at all. The Dean family boarded the ship after a coal strike canceled their original trip.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (3)

Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Dean family was supposed to cross the Atlantic on a different White Star Line ship, but a coal strike led to the cancellation of their original voyage. White Star Line offered them third-class tickets on the Titanic instead.

Her family was leaving the UK to move to Kansas City, Missouri, to join her father's cousin.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (4)

Ian Cook/Getty Images

The Deans were going to Missouri to be with her father's cousin who owned a store in Kansas City, according to Millvina Dean's obituary in The New York Times. Her father was going to co-own the store, after the Deans sold the pub they owned in England.

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg and later sank. Millvina, her mother, and 2-year-old brother survived, but her father died with the many other third-class men who weren't allowed on lifeboats.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (5)

Ralph White/CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images

According to Millvina, her father felt the ship collide with the iceberg and it might've saved his family's lives.

"I think it was my father who saved us," Dean said in 2002, according to the Los Angeles Times. "So many other people thought the Titanic would never sink, and they didn't bother. My father didn't take a chance."

Millvina Dean, her mother, and brother were put on lifeboat 10. The survivors on lifeboats were later picked up by the RMS Carpathia and taken to New York City. But Dean's father was among the more than 1,500 people who died in the tragedy.

Dean said she believed it was true that White Star Lines employees had prevented third-class passengers from going above deck and potentially escaping the sinking ship, The New York Times reported.

(Video) The INSANE Titanic Movie Set (1997)

"It couldn't happen nowadays, and it's so wrong, so unjust. What do they say? 'Judy O'Grady and the colonel's lady are sisters under the skin.' That's the way it should have been that night, but it wasn't," she said.

When the Deans returned to England aboard the Adriatic, passengers lined up to hold Millvina. The demand was so high an officer made a rule that each person could only hold her for 10 minutes.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (6)

Carl Simon/United Archives/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Three weeks after the sinking of the Titanic, the RMS Adriatic took some survivors back to England. Dean, her mother, and brother were onboard.

"Passengers who knew what the family had been through lined up to hold baby Millvina, the youngest survivor of the Titanic. To keep the line moving, a ship's officer ordered that no one could hold the baby for more than 10 minutes," wrote Mary Rourke of the Los Angeles Times in Millvina's obituary.

Millvina didn't learn about the true horrors of the Titanic until she was 8 years old, when her mother finally told her.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (7)

John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

"My mother would never speak of it, because it was her husband and they were only married four years. He was strikingly handsome. I didn't know anything about it until I was 8 years old. And then my mother got married again. That's when I first heard about the Titanic, and about my father going down, everything like that," she told the Belfast Telegraph in 2009.

In another interview with the Irish Times, the Los Angeles Times reported, Millvina said that her mother suffered severe headaches every day after the sinking.

Millvina and Bertram Dean were educated using money from the Titanic Relief Fund, a charity formed in England to support survivors.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (8)

Ian Cook/Getty Images

The White Star Line rather infamously didn't accept any liability for the Titanic's sinking for years, even though the tragedy left almost all of its passengers with no money, no possessions, and in many cases, no breadwinner — many families lost their husbands and fathers since they couldn't get on lifeboats.

Four years after the crash, the White Star Line agreed to pay the US $665,000, or roughly $430 per passenger. In 2022, that'd be around $11,000 each.

During World War II, she worked in the British Army's map-making office.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (9)

(Video) The Sinking of The RMS Titanic Real Time

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After the war, she worked as a secretary in an engineering office for 20 years.

She never publicly spoke about the Titanic until 1985, when the shipwreck was found.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (10)

GERRY PENNY/AFP/Getty Images

"Nobody knew about me and the Titanic, to be honest, nobody took any interest, so I took no interest either," she said, according to The New York Times. "But then they found the wreck, and after they found the wreck, they found me."

For decades after, Millvina attended many Titanic exhibitions, conventions, and events. She also traveled to different schools to tell her life's story.

Millvina never watched James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" because she was worried it would make her think about what her father had been doing in his final moments.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (11)

IMDb/20th Century Fox

Even though Millvina had said she didn't feel a huge connection to her father, since she never really knew him, she couldn't watch any movies or documentaries relating to the Titanic.

"Because that's the ship on which my father went down. Although I didn't remember him, nothing about him, I would still be emotional. I would think: 'How did he go down? Did he go down with the ship or did he jump overboard?'" she told the Belfast Telegraph in May 2009, weeks before her death.

On February 10, 2023, "Titanic" is being rereleased in theaters to mark its 25th anniversary. Director James Cameron wanted it to be rereleased ahead of Valentine's Day.

Her brother, Bertram, pictured right, died on the 80th anniversary of the iceberg collision in 1992. He was 81.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (12)

PA/PA Images/Getty Images

Her mother lived to be 96, dying in 1975.

(Video) What did Titanic's Break Up REALLY Look Like? (How the Movies Got it Wrong.)

In 1998, Millvina finally successfully crossed the Atlantic from Southampton to New York City aboard the Queen Elizabeth II.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (13)

Xavier DESMIER/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Eighty-five years after the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic, Millvina finally completed the journey from Southampton to New York City.

When she arrived in NYC, she then journeyed to Kansas City to visit the neighborhood that would've been hers, if everything had gone to plan.

She auctioned off some of her Titanic memorabilia later in life, including the mailbag her mother carried their possessions in after the sinking.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (14)

Ben Birchall - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

After breaking her hip in 2006, Millvina began living in a nursing home. To help with expenses, she auctioned off some items that had been with her family on the Titanic, including a suitcase that sold for $18,650. In total, she raised $53,906.

James Cameron and "Titanic" stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio donated thousands of dollars towards Millvina's nursing-home costs in 2009.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (15)

Hal Garb/AFP via Getty Images

Reuters reported that the trio behind "Titanic" donated $30,000 to Millvina, after her longtime friend Don Mullan challenged them too.

"I laid down the challenge to the 'Titanic' actors and directors to support the Millvina Fund and I was delighted with the generosity they have shown in meeting that challenge," Mullan told the Irish Examiner in 2009.

Millvina died in 2009 at 97. She was the last living survivor of the Titanic.

Inside the incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie (16)

Johnny Green/PA Images/Getty Images

Millvina's ashes were scattered by her partner, Bruno Nordmanis, at the Southampton Docks, where the Titanic left for its first and only voyage.

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FAQs

Who was the youngest passenger on the Titanic? ›

Millvina Dean was just 9 weeks old when she boarded the Titanic in 1912 with her parents and older brother. She was the youngest passenger aboard.

Who was the real Titanic survivor in the movie? ›

First Titanic movie featured a real life survivor. The first Titanic movie 'Saved from the Titanic', which was based on the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, featured a real life survivor, Dorothy Gibson. In the short film, Gibson wore the same clothes she wore the night the ship sunk.

What did the Titanic survivors think of the movie? ›

Survivor Eleanor Johnson (18 months old during the ship's voyage) saw the film several times and said that she enjoyed it, though found some of the aspects emotional, understandably.

Who was the last remaining Titanic survivor? ›

Eliza Gladys Dean (2 February 1912 – 31 May 2009), known as Millvina Dean, was a British civil servant, cartographer, and the last living survivor of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on 15 April 1912. At two months old, she was also the youngest passenger aboard.

Was a baby born on the Titanic? ›

Decades after the liner sank scientists conducted a DNA test on the remains of the baby in 2002. The original test identified the baby as Eino Panula by matching his DNA to that of living family members in Finland.

Was there a baby on the Titanic? ›

LONDON – Millvina Dean, who as an infant passenger aboard the Titanic was lowered into a lifeboat in a canvas mail sack and lived to become the ship's last survivor, died yesterday at a nursing home in Southampton, the English port from which the Titanic embarked on its fateful voyage, according to staff at the home.

Is the old Rose in Titanic a real survivor? ›

You probably already knew that Jack and Rose, the main characters in the 1997 movie Titanic, weren't real. Like all films “based on a true story,” the movie added its own fictional elements to historical events.

Was Rose Dawson a real survivor of the Titanic? ›

No. Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater, portrayed in the movie by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, are almost entirely fictional characters (James Cameron modeled the character of Rose after American artist Beatrice Wood, who had no connection to Titanic history).

Who is the most famous survivor of the Titanic? ›

The most famous Titanic survivor, “new money” socialite and philanthropist Margaret Brown became known as “the Unsinkable Molly Brown.” There was a Broadway musical based on her and, later, a film starring Debbie Reynolds. On the night of the sinking, after helping with the evacuation efforts, she got into Lifeboat 6.

Did any Titanic survivors see the wreck? ›

Even now, 18 years after the discovery of the wreck, the 'general perception' is still that only a very few survivors claimed to see the ship split apart before she sank.

Did any Titanic survivors watch a night to remember? ›

Two local residents who survived the sinking of the Titanic relived their experiences when they saw the movie, “A Night to Remember”, which opens at the Trans Lux Wednesday. The other Philadelphia survivor at the preview was Mrs. Gretchen Longley Leopold, widow of Dr.

Was the heart of the ocean ever found? ›

The diamond is, in fact, a fictional diamond. There never was a real version of this remarkable blue diamond in existence. However, a lot of details from this diamond necklace is similar to those from the Hope Diamond. The Hope Diamond was owned by Louis XIV.

When was the last body found from Titanic? ›

Photo copyright by Carol Goodwin, used by permission. Five days after the passenger ship the Titanic sank, the crew of the rescue ship Mackay-Bennett pulled the body of a fair-haired, roughly 2-year-old boy out of the Atlantic Ocean on April 21, 1912.

How many dogs were on the Titanic? ›

The ship carried at least twelve dogs, only three of which survived. First-class passengers often traveled with their pets. The Titanic was equipped with a first-rate kennel and the dogs were well-cared for, including daily exercise on deck.

How long did Titanic passengers survive in water? ›

How Cold Was The Water? -2°C – the temperature of the sea water (around 28°F). 15-45 minutes – the typical maximum life expectancy of the Titanic victims in the water.

Did they pull bodies from the Titanic? ›

Most of the more than 1,500 victims were lost to the North Atlantic. Crews aboard four recovery vessels pulled just 337 bodies out of the water. Scholar Jess Bier examines what was done with those bodies and explains how their identification and treatment was wrapped up in their economic valuation.

Did the captain of the Titanic save a baby? ›

In a matter of hours, more than 1,500 passengers and crew would be dead, including Smith himself. Smith's body was never recovered, and his final moments remain a mystery, with no shortage of conflicting accounts—including one in which he jumped off the ship holding a baby.

Did any 3rd class passengers survive the Titanic? ›

Only 25 percent of the Titanic's third-class passengers survived, and of that 25 percent, only a fraction were men. By contrast, about 97 percent of first-class women survived the sinking of the Titanic. The term steerage originally referred to the part of the ship below-decks where the steering apparatus was located.

Who was the unknown girl on the Titanic? ›

The headstone reads “Unknown Child,” and over the years it has attracted the attention of cemetery visitors. Now the experts have determined it was the body of Eino Viljami Panula, who was 13 months old when the Titanic sank April 15, 1912.

Who gave birth on the Titanic? ›

John Jacob Astor VI
EducationSt. George's School
Alma materHarvard University
OccupationInternational Mercantile Marine Company
Known for"Titanic Baby"
8 more rows

Who survived the Titanic because he was drunk? ›

Charles Joughin

If you remember the movie you may recall a baker drinking from a flask and hanging from a rail during the sinking of the Titanic. That man was Charles Joughin, who was the head baker on board the Titanic and the famous survivor who got hammered on whiskey.

How old was the baby on the Titanic? ›

Sidney Leslie Goodwin (9 September 1910 – 15 April 1912) was a 19-month-old English boy who died during the sinking of the RMS Titanic. In 2008, mitochondrial DNA testing by bio-anthropologist Ryan Parr and the American Armed Forces Identification Laboratory revealed his identity.

How many babies were on the Titanic? ›

Of the 109 children traveling on the Titanic, almost half were killed when the ship sank – 53 children in total. 1 – the number of children from First Class who perished. 52 – the number of children from steerage who perished.

How many kids were in 1st class on the Titanic? ›

There were 325 first class passengers on board – 175 men, 144 women and 6 children. 202 first class passengers survived – 57 men, 140 women and 5 children.

Did any children survive the Titanic? ›

Note: There were 109 children on the Titanic, of whom just 56 survived. Of the fatalities, there was a single child victim in first class, none in second class, whilst in third class 52 children lost their lives.

Who was the richest man on the Titanic? ›

John Jacob Astor was the wealthiest passenger aboard Titanic. He was the head of the Astor family, with a personal fortune of approximately $150,000,000. Born on 13 July 1864 to William Astor, he was educated at St. Paul's School, Concord and later went to Harvard.

What family lost the most on the Titanic? ›

When 11 members of a Peterborough family drowned in the Titanic disaster, it was the single biggest recorded loss of life from one family.

How many dogs survived the Titanic? ›

Canine survivors

Three small dogs, two Pomeranians and a Pekingese, survived the Titanic disaster cradled in their owners' arms as they climbed into lifeboats.

How much was a first class ticket on the Titanic? ›

First-class berths would cost $4,591, second-class would be $1,834, and third-class accommodations $1,071. A calculated estimation of the Titanic concludes that the total number of first-class travelers was 324.

Did any 1st class passengers survived Titanic? ›

Around 325 first class passengers were on board. Around 202 first class passengers survived. The Titanic's first class passengers were rich and upper class.

Who Cancelled their trip on the Titanic? ›

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt

The 34-year-old multimillionaire sportsman, an heir to the Vanderbilt shipping and railroad empire, was returning from a trip to Europe and canceled his passage on the Titanic so late that some early newspaper accounts listed him as being on board.

Did any Titanic passengers survive in the water? ›

Joughin proceeded to tread water for about two hours before encountering a lifeboat, and eventually being rescued by the RMS Carpathia. He is believed to be the very last survivor to leave the ship, and he claimed that his head barely even got wet. When he was rescued his only medical complaint was swollen feet.

How many cats were on the Titanic? ›

Inventory. The ship had her own official cat named Jenny, who was kept aboard Titanic as a mascot and also worked to keep down the ship's population of rats and mice.

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