Helen Churchill (Hungerford) Candee encountered calamitous situations in her life, most famously surviving the sinking of the Titanic. She had a full life, and she did it in style. But it wasn't always easy.
A child of privilege, she had the misfortune to make a bad marriage to a prosperous but abusive drunk. She found a way to support her children as a single mother, writing household advice in weekly magazines. Here's a sample of her advice, from Outlook weekly (1897):
She petitioned for a divorce, which was denied in New York. Oklahoma was the Wild West at the time, and a place to get a divorce once residency was established. The ever-intrepid Mrs. Candee packed up her children and headed west on a train. From her experiences there, she wrote a novel An Oklahoma Romance. She moved back East to Washington, DC once the divorce was final and became an important advocate for Oklahoma statehood in the nation's capitol. Amongst other things.
She expanded her writing topics to travel and decorating. She published an article about the meat locker in a trans-Atlantic steamer. She also was a pioneer in creating the profession of interior decorator. She had a high profile client in President Theodore Roosevelt, who retained her services for the White House. She was a fashionable hostess with a wide array of influential friends. She wrote a popular book about ways for women to make a living, drawing upon her own hard won experience. It was dedicated to "All Those Women who Work Through Necessity and not Caprice." She was also an advocate for women's rights, to a degree that she was chosen to lead, on horseback, a large Suffragists march in Washington on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.
She was in Europe in 1912 when she received a cable that her son had been injured in an accident. The quickest departure she could find was a first class cabin on the Titanic. As a first class passenger, a woman, she got priority to the lifeboats. As a professional writer, she wrote a story about it for Colliers Weekly, elements of which appear in the blockbuster movie "Titanic."
Later, Helen spent time in Italy as a Red Cross volunteer in World War I, for which she was awarded the Silver Medal by the Italian Red Cross. Amongst the patients she cared for was injured ambulance driver Ernest Hemingway.
By the end of the war, Helen Churchill Candee (the name she chose to go by) was 60 years old. Rather than wind down her life, she set out to explore in Asia. Her book about Cambodian ancient ruins, entitled Angkor the Magnificent - Wonder City of Ancient Cambodia is still in print nearly a century after its publication. Candee is credited with helping open Cambodia to tourism. For this work, she was decorated by the French government and the King of Cambodia, and read in a command performance before King George V and Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace.
She died at her summer cottage in Maine at the age of 90, having lived a full life on her own terms and with great success.
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Helen is 25 degrees from Sharon Caldwell, 17 degrees from Burl Ives and 19 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.