The incredible life of Titanic's youngest survivor, who lived to 97 and refused to see James Cameron's movie

  • Millvina Dean was only 9 weeks old when her family boarded the Titanic in 1912.

  • She never publicly spoke about the Titanic until September 1, 1985, when the wreck was found.

  • She lived to be 97 years old, dying in 2009. She was the last living survivor of the ship.

The RMS Titanic and its doomed voyage have captured people's interest since the tragedy in April 1912.

The ship and its passengers were once again brought back into the spotlight when the wreckage was found on September 1, 1985, over 73 years after it sank.

Among those passengers was Millvina Dean, who was just 2 months old when the ship went down. She was the youngest survivor of the tragedy.

Learn more about Dean's remarkable life, including her service during World War II, her relationship with her newfound fame, and why she never saw "Titanic," one of the highest-grossing films ever.

Millvina Dean was just 9 weeks old when she boarded the Titanic in 1912 with her parents and older brother.

millvina dean and her mother
Millvina Dean and her mother.Public domain

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, she was the youngest passenger aboard. She boarded the Titanic with her mother, Georgette, her father, Bertram Frank, and her brother, Bertram Vere, before the ship set sail from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912.

But she wasn't supposed to be on the Titanic at all. The Dean family boarded the ship after a coal strike canceled their original trip.

The Titanic.Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The family was supposed to cross the Atlantic on a different White Star Line ship, according to the Los Angeles Times' obituary of Dean. However, a coal strike led to the cancellation of their original voyage. The White Star Line offered them third-class tickets on the Titanic instead.

Her family was leaving the UK to move to Kansas City, Missouri, to join her father's cousin.

millvina dean in 1997
Millvina Dean reading some letters from Titanic scholars.Ian Cook/Getty Images

The Deans were going to Missouri to be with her father's cousin, who owned a store in Kansas City, according to Millvina Dean's obituary in The New York Times. Her father was going to co-own the store after the Deans sold the pub they owned in England.

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg and later sank. Dean, her mother, and 2-year-old brother survived, but her father died with the many other third-class men who weren't allowed on lifeboats.

An emergency cutter lifeboat carrying a few survivors from the Titanic, seen floating near the rescue ship Carpathia on the morning of April 15, hours after the disaster. Titanic did not carry enough lifeboats to save all her passengers, and many of the available boats were launched carrying fewer than their 65-passenger capacity
A lifeboat from the Titanic.Ralph White/CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images

According to Dean, her father felt the ship collide with the iceberg, which might have saved his family's lives.

"I think it was my father who saved us," Dean said in 2002, according to the Los Angeles Times. "So many other people thought the Titanic would never sink, and they didn't bother. My father didn't take a chance."

Dean, her mother, and brother were put on lifeboat 13, as reported by BBC News.

The survivors on lifeboats were later picked up by the RMS Carpathia and taken to New York City. But Dean's father was among the more than 1,500 people who died in the tragedy.

Dean said she believed it was true that White Star Lines employees had prevented third-class passengers from going above deck and potentially escaping the sinking ship, The New York Times reported.

"It couldn't happen nowadays, and it's so wrong, so unjust. What do they say? 'Judy O'Grady and the colonel's lady are sisters under the skin.' That's the way it should have been that night, but it wasn't," she said.

When the Deans returned to England aboard the Adriatic, passengers lined up to hold the baby. The demand was so high an officer made a rule that each person could only hold her for 10 minutes.

A happy family can keep a little baby in there arms as they are survivors of the ship wreck of the RMS Titanic, which was brought to New York City by the RMS Carpathia on April 18, 1912.
A small baby pictured on the deck of the Carpathia, which pulled stranded survivors from lifeboats.Carl Simon/United Archives/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Three weeks after the sinking of the Titanic, the RMS Adriatic took some survivors back to England. Dean, her mother, and brother were on board.

"Passengers who knew what the family had been through lined up to hold baby Millvina, the youngest survivor of the Titanic. To keep the line moving, a ship's officer ordered that no one could hold the baby for more than 10 minutes," wrote Mary Rourke of the Los Angeles Times in Dean's obituary.

Dean didn't learn about the true horrors of the Titanic until she was 8 years old when her mother finally told her.

millvina dean in 2003
Millvina Dean at a Titanic exhibit in 2003.John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

"My mother would never speak of it, because it was her husband and they were only married four years. He was strikingly handsome. I didn't know anything about it until I was 8 years old. And then my mother got married again. That's when I first heard about the Titanic, and about my father going down, everything like that," she told the Belfast Telegraph in 2009.

In another interview with the Irish Times, the Los Angeles Times reported, Dean said that her mother suffered severe headaches every day after the sinking.

Millvina and Bertram Dean were educated using money from the Titanic Relief Fund, a charity formed in England to support survivors.

Titanic survivor Millvina Dean, who was nine weeks old when the ship went down, standing by street named for her.
Millvina Dean and a street that was named after her.Ian Cook/Getty Images

The White Star Line rather infamously didn't accept any liability for the Titanic's sinking for years, even though the tragedy left almost all of its passengers with no money, no possessions, and in many cases, no breadwinner — many families lost their husbands and fathers since they couldn't get on lifeboats.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2003 that four years after the crash, the White Star Line agreed to pay the US $665,000, or roughly $430 per passenger.

In 2024, that'd be around $12,700 each.

During World War II, she worked in the British Army's map-making office.

Map showing the deadlock between the Allied and German forces along the Yser canal,
A World War II-era map.Culture Club/Getty Images

After the war, she worked as a secretary in an engineering office for 20 years, reported the Los Angeles Times.

She never publicly spoke about the Titanic until 1985, when the shipwreck was found.

mellvina dean in 2002
Millvina Dean at another Titanic exhibition.GERRY PENNY/AFP/Getty Images

"Nobody knew about me and the Titanic, to be honest, nobody took any interest, so I took no interest either," she said, according to The New York Times. "But then they found the wreck, and after they found the wreck, they found me."

For decades after, Millvina Dean attended many Titanic exhibitions, conventions, and events. She also traveled to different schools to tell her life's story.

Dean never watched James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster "Titanic" because she was worried it would make her think about what her father had been doing in his final moments.

titanic movie
"Titanic."IMDb/20th Century Fox

Even though Dean had said she didn't feel a huge connection to her father, since she never really knew him, she couldn't watch any movies or documentaries relating to the Titanic.

"Because that's the ship on which my father went down. Although I didn't remember him, nothing about him, I would still be emotional. I would think: 'How did he go down? Did he go down with the ship or did he jump overboard?'" she told the Belfast Telegraph in May 2009, weeks before her death.

Her brother Bertram, pictured right, died on the 80th anniversary of the iceberg collision in 1992. He was 81.

American scientist Dr Robert Ballard (centre), who led last year's deep sea expedition to film the wreck of the Titanic, in London for tomorrow's publication of his book 'The Discovery of the Titanic'. With him are two British survivors Eva Hart, 82, of Chadwell Heath, Essex, and Bertram Dean, of Southampton. They are standing next to a model of the liner, which sank off Newfoundland on her maiden voyage in 1912.
Survivors Eva Hart and Bertram Dean (left and right) with scientist Robert Ballard (center), who led the deep-sea expedition to film the wreck of the Titanic.PA/PA Images/Getty Images

Her mother lived to be 96, dying in 1975, according to The New York Times.

In 1997, Millvina Dean finally successfully crossed the Atlantic from Southampton to New York City aboard the Queen Elizabeth II.

millvina dean in 1996
Millvina Dean on the water.Xavier DESMIER/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Eighty-five years after the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic, Dean finally completed the journey from Southampton to New York City, reported the Deseret News.

According to United Press International, after she arrived in NYC in August, she then journeyed to Kansas City to visit the neighborhood that would've been hers, if everything had gone to plan.

She auctioned off some of her Titanic memorabilia later in life, including the mailbag her mother carried their possessions in after the sinking.

A 100-year-old suitcase filled with clothes donated to Millvina Dean, the last remaining survivor of the Titanic, which is up for auction in Wiltshire
A 100-year-old suitcase that was filled with clothes donated to Millvina Dean.Ben Birchall - PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images

After breaking her hip in 2006, Dean began living in a nursing home. To help with expenses, she auctioned off some items that had been with her family on the Titanic, including a suitcase that sold for $18,650. In total, she raised $53,906, according to NBC News.


James Cameron and "Titanic" stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio donated thousands of dollars toward Dean's nursing-home costs in 2009.

Director James Cameron and actress Kate Winslet and actor Leonardo DiCapri pose for photographers after Cameron won the award for Best Director for "Titanic" at the 55th Annual Golden Globe Awards.
Kate Winslet, James Cameron, and Leonardo DiCaprio at the Golden Globes.Hal Garb/AFP via Getty Images

Reuters reported that the trio behind "Titanic" donated $30,000 to Dean after her longtime friend Don Mullan challenged them to.

"I laid down the challenge to the 'Titanic' actors and directors to support the Millvina Fund and I was delighted with the generosity they have shown in meeting that challenge," Mullan told the Irish Examiner in 2009.

Millvina Dean died in 2009 at 97. She was the last living survivor of the Titanic.

Flowers are thrown into The Solent in memory of Millvina Dean the last survivor of the Titanic disaster at the terminal where the ill-fated ship set sail at Southampton Docks in Hampshire.
Flowers where Millvina Dean's ashes were scattered.Johnny Green/PA Images/Getty Images

Millvina Dean's ashes were scattered by her partner, Bruno Nordmanis, at the Southampton Docks, where the Titanic left for its first and only voyage, NBC News reported.

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