Thursday, June 13, 2019

Do We Have A Bid ... for Lesbian Titanic Passenger Ella White's Electric Walking Stick?

(above, Ella in the center, Marie on the left. Source: Encyclopedia Titanica)
On July 19th and 20th at Newport, Rhode Island’s renowned, non-profit International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS), Guernsey’s will be holding a massive nautically-themed auction focusing on great ocean liners, majestic sailing ships and other maritime-related treasures.  

The first item is the walking stick of Ella White that lit up the night and achieved notoriety in Walter Lord’s 1955 best-selling book A Night to Remember. “Mrs. J Stuart White,” as she is called in the book, emerged from her private rooms on the tragic evening of the 14th of April, 1912 in just her nightgown, high-heeled diamond-studded evening “slippers” carrying her walking stick that had a built-in electric light. For the time, it was cutting-edge technology.
Once she was in a life boat, instead of helping her fellow passengers row, Ella appointed herself as kind of a signal person, trying to get the attention of boats nearby. It may have been Ella’s cane that helped the RMS Carpathia spot the rowboats from the Titanic. Ella’s family secretly held onto the cane for years, until consigning it to Guernsey’s Auction House this year. It is a brilliant artifact that attests to the real-life powerful women like Ella White and the “unsinkable” Molly Brown who are purported to have taken charge during the tragic sinking. In fact, in the movie Titanic when the row boat captain says to Molly Brown “there will be one less on this boat if you don’t shut that hole in your face,” that was based on a story reported by Ella White (source: Encyclopedia Titanica). Many historians commonly accept that later in her life Ella White was in a committed same-sex relationship with her Titanic traveling companion and later, Plaza Hotel roommate, Marie Grice Young.

Though the Titanic is clearly the most fabled of all ocean liners, this auction also features iconic objects from a wide array of other noteworthy ships including the Lusitania, the Normandie, the SS United States, and the the ill-fated Empress of Ireland and Andrea Doria. 99% of the items in the auction including the bronze quarter deck bell from the Normandie will be sold without minimum reserve. 

For more complete information, please visit or call the auction house (212-794-2280) with any questions or to discuss the possibility of a late consignment.