Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lady Duff Gordon, Short Skirt Advocate

In the search for scapegoats following the Titanic disaster, nobody not named Bruce Ismay was more villified than Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife.

Duff Gordon, rich, titled and Scottish, was accused of buying his way into a lifeboat along with his wife and her secretary Laura Francatelli. Compounding the allegation was the charge that the Duff Gordons argued against returning to rescue people who went down with the ship.

The fact that his lifeboat, built to save 40, only held five passengers and seven crewmen didn't help his defence. Neither did his offer in the boat to cover the cost of replacing the personal kits of his oarsmen.

One of the officers who loaded the lifeboat and some of the crew that manned the boat testified at a public inquiry that there were literally no other passengers in the vicinity of that lifeboat. But it wasn't enough to remove the taint from the Duff Gordons.

Maybe it was spillover from the fact that Lord Duff Gordon had married a divorcee, still scandalous in 1912. Or that Lady Duff Gordon's sister Elinor Glyn was a novelist who wrote mass market women's erotic fiction.
Nevertheless, the reputation of the Duff Gordons was ruined, first in the press and then by being interrogated like accused criminals at a public inquiry.

As this obituary shows, Lady Duff Gordon never forgot, nor forgave:

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington
April 22, 1935  Page 5
                                              ----- Obituary ------

                                                       Elinor Glyn's
                                                             Sister Passes

                                                 Lady Duff Gordon, Survivor of 
                                                     Titanic Disaster,  Noted
                                                     as Short Skirt Advocate

London, April 21 (AP)---Lady Duff Gordon, one of the last of the dwindling survivors of the ill-fated Titanic and elder sister of Elinor Glyn, the novelist, died today at a Putney nursing home.
     Formerly a well-known modiste, urged adoption and maintenance of the short skirt.
     In 1910 Gordon opened a dressmaking establishment in New York, which eventually involved her in financial difficulties and litigation.
     When in court during the hearing of a suit in 1919, she was asked if she had bought any Liberty bonds.
"Why should I buy any," Lady Duff Gordon replied. "This country means nothing to me. I have had nothing but trouble over here. It is an awful country."

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