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Emily Maria Ryerson (August 10th, 1863 - December 28th, 1939) was a First Class passenger who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15th, 1912.


Early lifeEdit

Emily Maria Borie Ryerson was born on August 10, 1863 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Emily married Arthur Larned Ryerson on January 31st, 1889 and they had 5 children, Susan "Suzette" Parker (August 3rd, 1890), Emily Borie Ryerson (October 8th, 1893), Arthur Larned Ryerson Jr. (1891 - 1912), Ellen Ryerson (1895 - 1973) and John Borie Ryerson (December 16th, 1898 - January 21st, 1986).

Traveling on the RMS TitanicEdit

Emily, her husband Arthur, and three of their children, Suzette, Emily, and John, boarded the RMS Titanic as first-class passengers in Cherbourg, France, after learning of the death of their elder son, Arthur Larned Ryerson Jr., an undergraduate at Yale (he had been killed in an automobile crash in the United States). With the family were their maid, Victorine Chaudanson, and John's governess, Grace Scott Bowen.

On the afternoon of April 14th, 1912 Marian Longstreth Thayer invited Emily for a walk. It was the first time Emily had been on deck in public. After nearly an hour they settled themselves into the deck chairs outside the aft staircase of A Deck to watch the sunset. Bruce Ismay joined them and told them about the ice warning from the Baltic.

Emily was awakened when the Titanic hit an iceberg on April 14th, 1912, 11:40 pm. Emily asked steward Bishop what happened and got as reply: "There's talk of an iceberg, ma'am, and they have stopped, not to run over it." She woke her husband, children, the governess and the maid.

"[The maid's] door was locked and I had some difficulty in waking her. By this time my husband was fully dressed, and we could hear the noise of feet tramping on the deck overhead. He was quite calm and cheerful and helped me put the lifebelts on the children and on my maid. I was paralyzed with fear of not all getting on deck together in time, as there were seven of us. I would not let my younger daughter (Emily Borie) dress, but she only put on a fur coat, as I did over her nightgown."

They went to A Deck and stood there for "fully half an hour". Emily and her family went to the deck. Emily, her two daughters, maid and John's governess stepped into Lifeboat 4 but Second Officer Lightoller refused to let John in. Arthur stepped forward and said, "Of course, that boy goes with his mother. He is only 13."

She witnessed the boat break in half. They were rescued by the RMS Carpathia.

Emily, her children, maid and John's governess survived, but Arthur perished. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

In the 1920s while traveling through China, she met William Forsythe Sherfesee who was the Forestry Advisor to the Chinese Government and later was appointed Advisor to the Ministry of Finance. He, too, was a graduate of Yale University. He was 18 years her junior. William Forsythe was the son of Heinrich "Louis" Sherfesee and Annie Griffith Sherfesee.

The accounts of Forsythe trying to get from Peking to Chicago in the early weeks of December 1927 made the newspapers worldwide. In the attempt to get him to Chicago during a blizzard, he traveled by boat, train, then finally by private plane, which Emily had sent to bring him to Chicago. He did not arrive on time, and they held the wedding December 9th, 1927. They went to Italy and Persia for the Honeymoon. They traveled throughout their marriage, and settled in St Jean, Cape Ferrat on the French Riviera. They built Villa Bontoc. Their next door neighbor was the noted author and playwright, Somerset Maugham.


In December 1939 while in Hawaii, Emily Ryerson fell and broke her hip but insisted on continuing the Trip. It was while in Uruguay, on December 28th, 1939, she suffered a fatal heart attack and died, most likely the broken hip contributed to her death, possibly a blood clot going to her heart. She was buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Cooperstown, New York, USA.

In Popular Culture Edit

A Night to Remember (1958) Edit

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Emily Ryerson in A Night to Remember (1958)

Emily Ryerson appear in A Night to Remember (1958), she's just entered a Lifeboat as his son was rejected to go with her by 2nd Officer Lightoller. Her husband saying to 2nd Officer Lightoller: "Of course he can go, he's only 13".

1996 Miniseries Titanic Edit

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Emily Ryerson in the 1996 Miniseries Titanic

Emily Ryerson also appear in the 1996 Miniseries Titanic. She's appear during the loading of Lifeboat 4 with his son, John. John was rejected to go with his mother but Emily protested to 2nd Officer Lightoller, saying "Of course he can go, he's only 13".

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