Emily Ryerson

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

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

Early life[edit]

She married Arthur Larned Ryerson on January 31, 1889. They had five children: Susan "Suzette" Parker Ryerson (August 3, 1890), Arthur Larned Ryerson, Jr. (1891-1912), Emily Borie Ryerson (October 8, 1893), Ellen Ashfordbye Ryerson (1895-1973), and John Borie "Jack" Ryerson (December 16, 1898 - January 21, 1986).

RMS Titanic[edit]

Ryerson, 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 son 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 Ryerson for a walk. It was the first time she 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.

Ryerson was awake 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."[1]

Ryerson and her family went to 'A' deck and stood there for "fully half an hour". Ryerson, 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, Ryerson witnessed the ship break in half. They were rescued by RMS Carpathia at about 8 am on the 15th. Ryerson, her three children, maid, and governess survived, but her husband perished. His body, if recovered, was never identified.[2]

Later life[edit]

During and after the First World War, Ryerson served in France as head of the American Fund for French Wounded and the Society for Fatherless Children in France. She received the Croix de Guerre from the French Government, and accompanied President Hoover on his good-will tour to South America.

In the 1920s while traveling through China, Ryerson 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 Ryerson 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 their 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, Ryerson fell and broke her hip but insisted on continuing the trip. In Uruguay she suffered a fatal heart attack and died on December 28, 1939. She was buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Cooperstown, New York.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Affidavit of Emily Ryerson". United States Senate inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic : Day 16. Titanic Inquiry Project. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Otsego Man Slips Away From Family" (PDF). The Daily Star (Oneonta). April 28, 1997.