The light-up walking stick used by a lesbian Titanic survivor is being auctioned next month.
Ella White boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France, as a first-class passenger on April 10, 1912, with her maid, manservant and travelling companion Marie Young. The group also brought along live French chickens with them to take back to New York.
When the ship began to sink, White escaped in a lifeboat and used her walking stick, which was fitted with an electric light, to signal other ships and to rescue them.
Historian Jonathan Ned Katz, co-director of OutHistory, told Outsmart magazine that White and Young were involved in a 30-year same-sex relationship.
In Walter Lord’s 1955 book A Night to Remember, he describes White and her walking stick: “Mrs J. Stuart White didn’t help to row No. 8, but she appointed herself a sort of signalman. She had a cane with a built-in electric light, and during most of the night she waved it fiercely about, alternately helping and confusing everyone.”
The electric light in the tip of White’s cane helped signal rescue ships for Titanic survivors. (Guernsey’s)
The walking stick would have been extremely modern technology at the time, but innovation ran in the family as White’s father invented the burglar alarm.
Objects from the Titanic are set to be auctioned by Guernsey’s in Newport, Rhode Island, and the first item will be White’s light-up cane.
White married a man in 1894, but he passed away three years later and she never remarried. Young was a music teacher who taught the children of President Theodore Roosevelt.
According to Encyclopedia Titanica, White and Young lived together in the Plaza hotel in Manhattan until White’s death in 1942. When she passed away, White left everything she had to Young in her will.
White and Young are two of manyLGBT+ people in history that are little known about but have made a huge impact.