When I was a little girl my mother told me a story that her own mother had told her about a distant cousin of my Grandma’s who lost her life when the Titanic sank.
Annie Funk was an American Mennonite missionary who first went to India in 1906 as a teacher. It bothered her that education was a privilege extended only to boys in India so in 1908 Annie founded a girls’ school in Janjgir, India where young women could learn to read and write.
Early in 1912 Annie was called back home to Pennsylvania because her mother was ill. She arrived in London in March and was told the ship on which she had booked passage to America wouldn’t be sailing due to a coal strike.However it would be possible for her to get a ticket as a second class passenger on another ship, the Titanic. Her name is listed on the ship’s passenger list.
On April 15 when the ship began to sink Annie was fortunate to make her way to one of the last lifeboats left on deck. There was one seat left. Just as the boat was being swung overboard a woman rushed up to it. “My children”, she cried, “are on that boat.” Annie immediately gave up her seat in the lifeboat for the mother. Annie was listed as missing and her body was never found or identified after the Titanic sank.
A special memorial postcard was issued to honor Annie after she died. A large school building for girls was erected in Janjgir and was named The Annie Funk Memorial School. Over the years thousands of young women graduated from the school.
I had not thought about this story for a long time, but all the recent news about the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, brought it to mind. I got out a version of the story I had written to tell to children over twenty years ago and then did a little internet research. I was happy to find that Annie’s story has become popular.
Although Annie’s body was never recovered a memorial stone has been set up for her in the Union Cemetery of Hereford Mennonite Church in Bally Pennsylvania.
I loved hearing Annie’s story when I was a little girl. Annie was inspiring because she was such an independent woman who traveled all alone to India. She thought girls deserved the same opportunities as boys and she was willing to sacrifice her life to save someone else. I’m glad that her story has gained in popularity and is being told in many different kinds of ways. Hopefully she will inspire other children just the way she inspired me.
Other posts about inspiring women……..