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You already know that the challenge is the most heart pounding competition show on television, but do you ever wonder how challenged competitors are selected or which challenges were too dangerous for TV? Well, you can learn all that and so much more on MTV's Official Challenge podcast hosted by your girl Tourie and me. Ainissa, we're giving you the inside scoop on the brand new season of the challenge. Let's go, baby.


Listen to MTV's Official Challenge podcast on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcast. Hey, everyone, it's Michelle Williams, and I love being able to share my story with you on my podcast, checking in with Michelle Williams were my guests and I we get real as we share the ups and downs of our mental health journeys.


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Happy New Year and happy Saturday. We know that 20, 20 was so, so hard for many folks and that there is still more to go in 20, 21. So our first Saturday classic of this year is all about surviving. It is Violet Jessop who survived tuberculosis, as well as the wrecks of both the Titanic and its sister ship, the Britannic. This episode originally came out on September 2nd, 2015.


Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class A production of I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to the podcast, Tracy Wilson, and I'm Molly from. Shipwrecks, long time favorite thing on our show from way before Holly and I joined, and today we're taking a slightly different approach to the perennial favorite of shipwrecks. We're going to talk about a shipwreck survivor. Her name is Violet Jessep. She survived a whole lot and I don't want to spoil it. So that is all I'm saying for the intro.


Violet, Constance Jessop was born on October 2nd of 1887 near Bahía Blanca, Argentina. Her parents, William Jessup and Katherine Kelly, had emigrated there from Dublin in the mid 80s with the goal of starting a sheep farm.


Her life at first was extremely modest. Her father didn't really have enough money for a whole herd of sheep, so they were living in what was basically a one room structure of adobe bricks. Violet's crib was made out of a tin box after a while, when it became clear that he wouldn't be able to buy enough sheep to make the farm self-sustaining.


Violet's father instead took a series of other jobs, first working as a customs officer and then working for a railroad line.


This did put the family on more solid financial footing. But in spite of that, Vialet and the rest of her siblings who were born afterwards, she was the oldest. They had a number of medical catastrophes. And really, regardless of what their income had been like, these catastrophes would have basically been unavoidable at the time. Violet and her younger brother Ray, at the time when it was just the two of them both got scarlet fever and Ray actually died of it.


Violet later got tuberculosis and then also got typhoid fever. Two of her brothers nearly died of diphtheria. She had four brothers and one sister who survived to adulthood, but she had other brothers and a sister who died while they were still children. Violet's tuberculosis caused her lungs to hemorrhage, and so even after she was old enough to go to school, a doctor actually recommended that she stay home. Later, when Violet was in the hospital, it seemed as though she might not recover.


It was recommended that she go to the mountains where the air might give her a few more months.


They really did think she was going to die. Her lungs had been seriously haemorrhaging for a long time. So after having lived in Bahía Blanca and Buenos Aires, Violet's father got a transfer to Mendoza, Argentina, which is in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. And Violet's health did get stronger in Mendoza. She seemed to have an aggressively stubborn will to live, and after a while she was doing well enough to explore their sprawling adobe house with her pet armadillo.


I find that wildly charming eventually issue is well enough to go to school, which she did gleefully until her father's death when she was in her early teens.


She really wanted to think so badly. She wanted to be able to go to school and she wanted to have a sister. But instead she had a series of brothers, then a sister who tragically died of meningitis when she was a baby, then a sister who lived to adulthood. So when Violet's father died, her mother decided to take the family to England, even though people worried that Violet's lungs would not be able to handle the English air. This was such a big concern that one of her Argentinean teachers actually offered to adopt her.


At this point, Violet was about 16 years old. They had a difficult time, however, Violet's mother had actually been pregnant when her father died and the baby died shortly after it was born, in spite of the help of Violet's aunt and uncle. They were her mother's sister and her husband. The family had real trouble finding a place to live. There were six children and a mother with no source of income beyond a very small widow's pension. And eventually it was decided to put the boys in a Catholic orphanage so that they could be educated and raised within their religious faith.


Placing the boys in an orphanage actually allowed their mother to go find work, and she got work as a stewardess and the Royal Mail line where she worked for five years. This gave her an income, although because the Royal Mail line was providing long distance passenger service across the ocean, it meant that she had long absences and separations from the rest of the family while her mother was away. It was up to Violet to look after her surviving little sister, Eileen, although this was interrupted by yet another hospitalization for gallstones.


Eventually, the two sisters boarded in a convent where they could stay together and be educated. Violet continued to live on at the convent after finding work as a governess. Violet's own health and the various illnesses of her siblings, the death of her baby sister Molly for meningitis, all these things combined together to lead her to want to study nursing. And while she was living in the convent, she set her sights on taking an exam that would allow her to further her education and pursue a career.


But then after her mother had spent five years working as a stewardess, her health became too fragile to continue. And so Violet, recognizing that her family needed a source of more income than she could possibly provide by being a governess applied to be a stewardess herself, like her mother. And she did so at the Royal Mail line. We're going to talk about what happened when she became a stewardess on board these ocean liners after a brief word from one of the sponsors who keeps our show on the air.


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Now, that is true. You already know that the challenge is the most heart pounding competition show on television, but do you ever wonder how challenge competitors are selected or which challenges were too dangerous for TV? Well, you can learn all that and so much more on MTV's Official Challenge podcast hosted by your girl Tourie and me. Ainissa, we're giving you the inside scoop on the brand new season of the challenge. Let's go, baby.


Listen to MTV's Official Challenge podcast on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcast. When Violet Jessop first applied to be a stewardess, the man who interviewed her was not optimistic about her chances. He told her she was both too young and too pretty. She promised him that she would be as dedicated, careful and unassuming as possible if he would just give her the job. And finally, he told her the next opening was, in fact, hers.


Although it might take some time for a vacancy to open, Jessop and her mother got to work.


Assembling a wardrobe that would be as boring and unattractive as possible cracks me up that she had to take those steps in her memoirs, talk about her just trying to find the most dowdy, grey, unappealing outfits possible. Jessup's first post was aboard the Orinoco, which traveled to the West Indies, better known today as the Caribbean. This was really physically demanding work. Ocean liners of this era were a lot more about utility than about vacationing. So today somebody might get on a similar ship to basically tool around the Caribbean on a pleasure cruise.


But most people on ocean liner needed to get from one place to another, typically across an ocean. It was not about taking time off and relaxing. It was about enduring a long voyage to get to where you needed to go and not a lot of ports of call with exciting activities to take with transatlantic travel. And then also we don't really talk about it as much in this episode. But the people who were in actual cabins who Violet would have been working with as a stewardess, they were in the minority.


There were a lot of people in steerage and very unpleasant accommodations.


However, in spite of these differences between how we look at cruising now versus how these liners were functioning, then the role of stewardess was very like that of a cabin steward. Today, Violet would have cleaned cabins, run errands for passengers, delivered meals, generally kept things neat and tidy and looked after seasick passengers. Sometimes this involved being up all night with people who were ill.


Violet Jessup found that getting her sea legs was basically a matter of sheer willpower, but even once she was accustomed to the motion of the sea, the work itself was exhausting. She also didn't get a lot of formal training on the Royal Mail line, aside from what she picked up herself on the job on her very first voyage. She hurt her thumb, which got infected just as a very severe storm, put everybody crew included in their berths with sea sickness.


And unfortunately, the people who were stricken ill at this point included the doctor. So she wasn't able to be treated for this infected thumb for a while. As she describes them in her memoirs, Violet's first years as a stewardess were quite difficult, in addition to being on her feet doing physical labor on a moving ship all day long. She was also basically confined, confined there with both the passengers and the rest of the crew from time to time.


This led to trouble. On the milder end. There were clicks, infighting and frustrations among the crew to deal with. She also had to fend off the romantic and physical advances of both passengers and superiors. And in one case, she had a lengthy stay aboard a ship with a bow after he revealed that he had no respect for her religious beliefs, knowing that she was going to break up with him for it once they got to shore.


She describes her favorite times in all of these early journeys as being when they were in port, especially because at this point, you know, today you can do laundry on a ship. But this was not the case at the time. So stays in port where lengthier before the ship departed again, this meant that she got to explore. She got to see new things and basically travel a little bit during the time that they were not at sea. So while these long stretches at sea were exhausting and she was very often sick, not just seasick, but she still continued to have trouble with her health.


She also delighted in exploring the ports in the cities where they stopped as her career progressed. This included trips to New York City, which she loved. And she also got to go back to Buenos Aires and say hello to the hospital staff who had been sure so sure that she was going to die of tuberculosis when she was a child.


Eventually, Joseph was serving aboard a ship with a married captain who had previously made advances toward her, which she had rebuffed the second time around. He he found fault with everything that she did and eventually had her dismissed for flirting with the officers, something she had not done. But she also had no way to disprove this assertion and no way to pursue any sort of recourse. So out of work, she went to find another stewardess job and she found one at the White Star Line.


She did not really want to work for the White Star Line. It ship sailed the North Atlantic and she had heard plenty of horror stories about that being a particularly rough crossing with bad weather and threats to ships from the bad weather and from icebergs. And she hadn't heard anything bad at all about the company itself. She just knew that the hours were long. And because of the White Star Line's reputation, exceptional service was both expected and demanded. So it was this combination of exhausting work, extremely high standards for the quality of the work and the treacherous, treacherous ness of the seas.


However, because she had been dismissed from her previous post, she wound up applying for companies that were not at the top of her list, and she wound up being hired by the White Star Line. She served aboard the Majestic, the Adriatic and the Oceanic en routes that went to New York. Violet Jessep really proved her worth to the white star line. She was hardworking, she was dependable, gracious, kind. She was beloved by her passengers, many of whom went on to mention her and her warm, steadfast attention to them through illness and rough seas and other trials, specifically in letters to family and friends.


So she was chosen to serve on the Olympic aboard its maiden voyage as part of a hand-picked best of class crew. This is a job that started well before the departure as the crew readied the ship to sail.


The Olympic was launched on October 20th, 1910, after nearly two years of construction, and at the time it was considered to be the best and most luxurious ship in the Atlantic. Its maiden voyage took place the following June after its construction was completed in September of that year.


As the Olympic was outbound from Southampton, it collided with the HMS Hauk near the Isle of Wight. Violet was aboard. We can logically conclude that she was uninjured, as she does not mention this in her memoirs at all.


This does not seem to have been a big deal enough to even talk about as she was writing her memoir. However, the damage to the Olympics was extensive and took about two months to repair. But once it was seaworthy again, Jessopp was back on board again, part of the stewardess crew. After a year on the Olympic, Jessep was once again hand selected for a maiden voyage crew. In 1912, it was aboard the White Star Alliance next best in class ship, the Titanic.


Jessop was in her bunk sleepily trying to concentrate on her devotions on April 14, 1912, when the Titanic famously struck an iceberg after the crash, there was a temporary silence and then her roommate stoically said, sounds as if something has happened. They both dressed and Jessop expressed her disbelief when a steward named Stanley told them the ship was sinking. From there, they began escorting passengers to the boats.


Her recounting of this part of it sounds almost impossibly calm. Jessop and her roommate took their passengers to the lifeboat and then with nothing else to do, they went back to their cabin. And it was there that Stanley found them again, told them that the boat really was sinking. This was no longer a matter of just precautions and insisted that they go up to the decks as well. He even rummaged through Jessop's closet to try to find some warmer clothing for her to wear.


As Jessopp made her way to the deck.


The full seriousness of this situation had really not reached people yet. Everything was being described as precautionary and boats were being lowered without many people aboard. But while on deck, the ship started to noticeably shift and before long someone handed Jessep a baby and she and her roommate and were put into lifeboats 16.


From her position in the lifeboat, Jessep saw the Titanic go down and she and the rest of the people in her boat were rescued by the Carpathia the following day. A woman who was presumably the baby's mother snatched the baby literally out of her arms after finding her. Jessopp eventually returned to England aboard the Lapland, and she had a very strange experience much later in her life where someone called her on the phone, claimed to be the baby, laughed and hung up.


And it's very unclear whether that was really the baby, you the Titanic or not. Yeah, that that's weird. You right out of it. Can you imagine getting a call like that? But Jessop's time as a stewardess, despite this tremendous event, was not over. And we're going to talk about her next position after we have a brief word from another one of our fabulous sponsors that keeps us going.


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Violet Jessop's voyage aboard the Titanic had obviously been terrifying, and consequently she felt as though she needed to get back to work on a ship immediately or she would never be able to do it at all. However, obviously, jobs at the White Star Line were very hard to come by because its flagship vessel had just sank. And after she got a letter from Ned, that's the old bow that we alluded to earlier, Jessup took a job aboard another line as a way to secure passage to Australia where Ned was living.


Her roommates graciously agreed to cover for her while the ship was in port so that she could go spend time with Ned. And she had hoped that the two of them could clear the air. But nothing actually came of this. She returned to her post and she went back home as planned.


The editor who edited her memoirs kind of sort of meditates for a while on how her life might have been different if she had wound up marrying Ned rather than briefly marrying some other person later on who apparently was not a very good marriage and she hardly refers to in her memoir at all. In 1914, after Great Britain declared war on Germany, Jessep decided to join the British Red Cross. She became part of the voluntary aid detachment where she started as a junior nurse, finally taking on the nursing profession she had so wanted to pursue when she was a child.


She trained at a hospital before once again being assigned to a ship, and this time it was another white star vessel, the Britannic. The Britannicus construction had started about six months before the sinking of the Titanic. It had been conceived as even bigger and more luxurious than that ill fated vessel. Since the Titanic sank so early in the construction of the Titanic, a number of safety improvements were included as this new ship was being built, including additional lifeboats and watertight compartments.


The Britannic was actually scheduled to begin passenger service in 1915, but instead it was requisitioned for military use. And the Olympic, which we talked about just that previously serving on, was requisitioned as well. The Britannic became a hospital ship and it served from December 23, 1915, through June of 1916, when it was briefly released from the war service before being requisitioned again that August.


On November 21st, 1916, the Britannic sank after presumably striking a mine in the water not far from Greece. At the time, people thought that it could have actually been struck by a torpedo. And once again, Violet Jessopp was calm. She went to her cabin and she gathered up her prayer book, her toothbrush, a ring that had belonged to Ned and her clock. She made a pouch out of the front of her apron by folding it up to keep all of these little items secure.


And then she clipped her life belt on over her coat and she got onto a lifeboat.


So just the recounting of the Titanic is quietly tragic. She counts the lights on the deck as the ship sinks, realizing that it's all lost. But her account of the Britannic sinking is horrifying. And in a way, this is a little incongruous because more than fifteen hundred people died on the Titanic, but only about twenty eight died in the sinking of the Titanic. The difference is that those last moments, as as Violet witnessed them, were terrifying and brutal.


The Britannicus propellers were still turning in the water and this just created chaos. It was churning up the water. It was sucking men and debris toward the propellers. And even though she was in a lifeboat, Jessup realized that if she did not get out and swim, her lifeboat was going to hit the propellers as well. She had always instructed passengers not to put their life belts on over their coats in case they needed to take their coats off, and we just mentioned that she did the opposite of what she told them, and that was nearly fatal.


In spite of her lifebelt, the weight of her coat pulled her underwater. She fought her way up and she struck something with her head from below until finally she caught someone else's arm and she was pulled above the water. One of the ship's motorboats picked her up and she and others wound up on a tiny island with the Britannicus doctors patching one another up. And though she was injured, she was safe thanks to the rescue efforts of other nearby boats.


Only twenty eight people, as Tracy said, were killed out of the more than 1000 people that were on board.


So previously, she had immediately gotten to work as a stewardess again after the sinking of the Titanic. But this time she knew that it was going to be hard to find a stewardess job until the war was over. So this time she stayed ashore for about three years. She found a job on land as a clerk, but she had some trouble concentrating. She didn't really think much of it until a lot later when she got an X-ray for a tooth that was bothering her and she learned that her skull had been fractured as she was trying to get away from the Britannic.


So we don't know exactly at what point in her life she discovered this skull fracture, but we do know that she didn't stay on land forever. As for the Olympic, which we've talked about a couple of times, it was upgraded again after the war and it resumed service. And once the war was over, Violet Jessopp once again served aboard it and the Olympic continued its transatlantic service until 1935. That was a little less than a year after it struck and sank a light ship off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.


And Joseph actually was not aboard for that one. That would have been a few. It's not totally surprising that she was aboard both the Olympic and the Titanic because the Titanic's crew was handpicked from other vessels. But having been aboard the Olympic, the Titanic and the Britannic, when all three of those, like best of line vessels, had incidents, that's a little oddly coincidental that she was on there for all of them. So Phyla Jessup spent the oh part of her later stewardess career working with the Red Star Line on World Cruises.


And she worked aboard five different annual world cruises that spanned between 1926 and nineteen thirty one. She went back to the Royal Mail line again in nineteen thirty five and served on the Alcantara until the start of World War Two. During the Second World War, she worked ashore as a nurse again rather than being on another seafaring nursing ship. At the end of World War Two, violent, mostly worked at clerical and factory jobs, realizing that her work as a stewardess was not going to allow her to retire.


And apart from a couple of brief stints at sea, she was land bound until her death on May 5th of 1971.


She finished the memoir that we've referenced a few times in 1934, which is one of the reasons why it doesn't include a lot of her later life. But it wasn't published until two of her nieces submitted a manuscript in the spring of 1996. And then kind of ironically, the man who wound up editing it was someone who had previously interviewed her as he was doing some work on survivors of the Titanic. So it all comes together in this sort of small world situation.


It's very cool, slightly scary if you're afraid of ships and sinking. I've been on ships a lot and they don't really frighten me. But when I got to the part about the Titanic sinking, I was like, OK, every time I've been on a ship, there's been a muster drill. There's enough there are enough lifeboats for every person on board. The crew has been exceptionally prompt about. Escorting everyone to the deck during this muster drill, but I had this thought where I was like.


What if the ship sank in the middle of the ocean and there were no other ships around and we were stuck in the middle of the ocean and then I said, OK, you need to stop thinking about that right now?


Yeah, think about something else. So that is pilot Joseph. Thanks so much for joining us on this Saturday. Since this episode is out of the archive, if you heard an email address or a Facebook URL or something similar over the course of the show, that could be obsolete. Now, our current email address is History podcast at I Heart radio dot com. Our old HowStuffWorks email address no longer works and you can find us all over social media at MTT in history.


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