A fascinating article in the New Scientist, Women and children first? How long have you got? compares the sinking of two famous ships, the Titanic and Lusitania.
The Lusitania was torpedoed and sank within minutes, meaning that only the strongest and fittest had a chance of survival.
The sinking of the Titanic on the other hand took 2 hours and 40 minutes. This made a huge difference in the survivor profiles, as in a less panic-stricken evacuation the women and children were given priority in the lifeboats.
The report shows that "women of all ages on the Titanic had a probability of survival 53 per cent higher than for men, compared with an 11 per cent higher chance of dying on the Lusitania".
The incredible story of one of the women to survive the Titanic, Laura Mabel Francatelli, is told in the Titanic, Lusitania and the forgotten Empress gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum, where her apron is on display. Laura was the personal maid and secretary to the famous couturier 'Lucillle', or Lady Lucy Duff Gordon, the wife of wealthy landowner Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon. Her survival supports the theory in the New Scientist article that first class passengers had a definite survival advantage in the sinking of the Titanic.