Had you been a woman traveling in second class on the Titanic a century ago, your chances of survival were quite favorable — 86 percent were saved. For the men in second class, one of whom was my grandfather Lawrence Beesley, the odds were the reverse — only 14 percent survived, and the rest were drowned in the freezing waters of the Atlantic.He was a man ahead of his time, apparently.
Notions of male chivalry toward the weaker sex have since been cast aside, and it is no longer de rigueur for a man to yield his seat on a bus, or a lifeboat, to someone of the opposite sex. But in the Edwardian era it was a moral code with a force stronger than law. When the order was given on the Titanic for families to be separated and for women to board lifeboats first, no man rushed ahead.
I have often wondered how my grandfather managed to beat the heavy odds against his survival.