One Mother’s Story

Leah Rosen met Samuel Aks while living in London. They were both Jewish and both from Warsaw, Poland. The two were soon married, and Samuel worked as a tailor but was barely able to make a living. A cousin who lived in America visited him in London, and convinced him to move to Norfolk, Virginia.

As soon as he moved and got a job in the scrap metal business, Samuel saved every penny he could to bring Leah to America, as well as his new son, Frank Philip (Filly), whom he’d never met. The day finally came when 18-year-old Leah and 10-month-old Filly boarded Titanic at Southampton for the voyage to their new home.

On the night Titanic struck the iceberg, Leah made her way from her third class cabin to the boat deck with Filly in her arms. Madeleine Astor, wife of multi-millionaire John Jacob Astor, happened to be standing nearby and covered Filly’s head with her silk scarf. A man who had been refused a seat in the lifeboats ran up to Leah, grabbed Filly, and said, “I’ll show you women and children first!” and tossed the baby overboard.

Leah searched for her son in the chaos, but was somehow urged or pushed into Lifeboat 13. Filly had fallen into Lifeboat 11, into the arms of pregnant Italian immigrant Argene del Carlo. She held Filly close and cared for him through the long cold night in the lifeboat as the survivors waited to be rescued. Argene’s husband had been turned away as his wife boarded the lifeboat, and now Argene hoped this baby was somehow sent to her by God to replace her lost husband.

argene del carlo and her husband

Argene and Sebastian del Carlo on their wedding day

On board the Carpathia, a despondent Leah heard a familiar cry. She recognized Filly, now in Argene’s arms, but the woman refused to give Leah her child. Leah appealed to Captain Rostron, who was forced to play the role of King Solomon in deciding who the real mother was. The conflict was resolved when Leah stated her son was circumcised and Argene, as an Italian Catholic of that day, would not have circumcised her son. Filly was then correctly identified as belonging to Leah.

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Samuel, Filly, and Leah Aks

After being reunited with Samuel and beginning her new life in America, Leah gave birth to a baby girl 9 months later. She wanted to name the baby Sara Carpathia Aks. However, due to confusion at the hospital, the nuns in attendance wrote the name Sara Titanic Aks on her birth certificate.

Leah’s ear drums had been damaged by the bitter cold on board the lifeboat, and she suffered from a partial hearing loss the rest of her life. She died in 1967 in Norfolk, Virginia.

The blanket used by Argene del Carlo to keep Filly warm in the lifeboat is on display at the Maritime Museum in Newport, Virginia. Argene delivered a baby girl in November of 1912 and soon returned to Italy, where she eventually remarried.

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