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On This Day: The Death of the Youngest Survivor of the Titanic, Millvina Dean

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On this day: in history (2009), Eliza Gladys Dean, known as Millvina Dean, the last known person to have survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, died in Southampton, England. She was nine weeks old at the time of the disaster and was also the youngest passenger aboard.

Dean’s parents decided to leave the United Kingdom and emigrate to the United States; they were planning to move to Wichita, Kansas, where her father had relatives, and his cousin owned a tobacco shop that he was going to co-own.They were not supposed to be aboard the Titanic, but due to a coal strike, they were transferred onto it and boarded it as third-class passengers at Southampton, England. Her father felt its collision with the iceberg on the night of 14 April 1912, and after investigating, returned to his cabin, telling his wife to dress the children and go up on deck. Dean, her mother, and her brother were placed in Lifeboat 10 and were among the first third-class passengers to escape. Her father did not survive, and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

Dean staunchly refused to see James Cameron’s film Titanic (1997). She recalled having nightmares after seeing A Night to Remember (1958), the film based on Walter Lord’s book, and did not wish to imagine her father as one of the people in the crowd of passengers stranded on the sinking liner. She declined invitations to the premieres of Titanic and Ghosts of the Abyss (2003). In December 2007, she also criticised the BBC and its television programme Doctor Who for including an episode with a starship “cruise liner” called the Titanic which was similar in appearance to the historical liner. She said: “The Titanic was a tragedy which tore so many families apart. I lost my father and he lies on that wreck. I think it is disrespectful to make entertainment of such a tragedy.”

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Created by Okey Obiabunmo

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