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Emily Ryerson

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Emily Ryerson

Emily Ryerson
Born Emily Maria Borie Ryerson
(1863-08-10)August 10, 1863
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died December 28, 1939(1939-12-28) (aged 76)
Cooperstown, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s) Arthur Larned Ryerson (his death)

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

Early life

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

RMS Titanic

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, who 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 14, 1912, fellow passenger 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 into the deck chairs outside the aft staircase of 'A' deck to watch the sunset. White Star official, 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 14, 1912, 11:40 pm. 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] dress, but she only put on a fur coat, as I did over her nightgown."

Emily and her family went to 'A' deck and stood there for "fully half an hour". Emily, her two daughters, maid and John's governess stepped into Lifeboat 4. John was initially not allowed in; however, Arthur stepped forward and said, "Of course, that boy goes with his mother. He is only 13."[1]

While in the lifeboat, Emily witnessed the boat break in half. They were rescued by RMS Carpathia at about 8 am on the 15th. Emily, her three children, maid and the governess survived, but Arthur perished. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

Later life

In the 1920s while traveling through China, Emily met William Forsythe Sherfesee, who was the Forestry Advisor to the Chinese Government and later was appointed Advisor to the Ministry of Finance. He was also a graduate of Yale University and was 18 years her junior. 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 9, 1927. They went to Italy and Persia for the Honeymoon. They traveled throughout their marriage, and settled in Saint- Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera where they built Villa Bontoc. Their next door neighbor was the noted author and playwright, Somerset Maugham.

In December 1939 while in Hawaii, Emily fell and broke her hip but insisted on continuing the trip. It was while in Uruguay that 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.


Emily Ryerson died on December 28, 1939. She was buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Cooperstown, New York, USA.


  1. ^ "Affidavit of Emily Ryerson". United States Senate Inquiry : Day 16. Titanic Inquiry Project. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
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