Lily May Peel was born on 26th May 1876 in Georgia, United States. She was the daughter of David G. Peel and his wife Mollie Thompson. Lily had one sibling, a brother called John.
Lily Peel was a creative girl, at the age of 19, she wrote a Schottische called "fantasin" which was then orchestrated during the summer of the same year.
On 17th July 1895, Lily married Jacques Heath Futrelle. Below is their marriage announcement from the Atlanta Constitution on 16 July 1895
Miss Lillie May Peel and Mr. Jack Futrell will be married tomorrow. Miss Peel is one of the most charming and accomplished girls in the city. Mr. Futrell, formally of Atlanta, now holds an editorial position of the staff of the New York Journal, and is winning his way to the front of journalism in the metropolis. The Wedding will occur at the home of the brides parents on Hilliard Street, and will be a private ceremony. The young couple will make their future residence in New York.
It was reported by friends of the couple, that it was love at first sight for May and Jacques, and that their marriage was like one long honeymoon.
Lily, or May as she now seemed to be more commonly known, became the mother of two children. The first was a daughter, Virginia Futrelle born on 8th November 1896 and then a son Jacques Jr. born on 20th November 1898.
When Jacques left the world of newspaper writing to devote himself to fiction stories, The family moved to Stituate, Massachussets, Their home was called "Stepping Stones"
In 1907, a short story of May's appeared in the christmas addition of "Uncle Remus's Magazine" The story was called "Cupid and the Comedian" and was illustrated by Maud Thurston.
After 15 happy years of marriage, in 1910, May and Jacques hosted a masquerade party to celebrate their years together as man and wife.
In April of 1911, the Futrelles entertained Miss. Harry Schlesinger while she was on vacation in Scituate. They took her on automobile rides through the beautiful countryside. She also attended Mr. Futrelle's birthday party, among other things.
1911 was in fact, a fruitful time for May. she had her novel "Secretary of Frivolous Affairs" published. This was a fictional story about a young woman who became the social secretary of a wealthy californian woman. The secretary was told it was her job to tame down the adventerous son of the household. In the end she succeeds and the two fall in love and marry. This novel became one of the best sellers of that year - a great accomplishment which May put down to the expertise and advice of her husband.
The following article appeared in the Kansas City Star on 8th June 1911
AN AUTHORS WIFE AN AUTHOR
Mr. and Mrs. Jacques Futrelle Help and Critisize Each Other.
There have been cases of husband and wife collaborating in fiction. There are the Williamsons, for example and the Castles. But husband and wife as rivals for popular favor, yet living quite peacefully and happily and without jealousy - that is indeed rare. It is so rare; that someone went up to Scituate, Mass., to ask Mr. and Mrs. Jaques Futrelle how they managed it. Mr. Futrelles story, "The High Hand," was one of the popular books of the spring, and Mrs. Futrelle's "secretary of Frivoulous Affairs" promises equally popular this summer. The reporter saw Mrs. Futrelle and gently inquired if she and her husband were in the habit of reading each others productions.
"We are that!" she said. "And we go for them hammer-and-tongs. It's to this that I attribute my lucky escape fromt he usual ups and downs in the writing game.I've had the full benefit of my husband's experience and criticism. If I can get past him with a story, I know that publishers and public will not prove unkind. The greatest trouble with writers who don't succeed is, I think, that they have no one to tell them in unvarnished candor all their faults and shortcomings. My husband is not reticent or flattering when he reads one of my manuscripts. I have my innings when he hands over one of his. It;s a bargain between us, and it pays. You know, I have dedicated "Secretary of Frivoulous Affairs to J.F., who does not spare the rod to spoil the novel."
How the family had first taken to fiction making?
"It's all a result of enviroment." Mrs. Futrelle replied "For ten years we had lived in the newspaper atmosphere -my husband was a newspaper man, you know - when, six years ago, we came to Scituate for a short visit. Scituate swarms with successful authors. They constitute most of the population, My husband, to be in tune with the place, produced, on spur of the moment, "The Grey Ghost" It was accepted by the frst magazine he offered it to. We stayed in Scituate. He got the Scituate habit and continued writing stories.
I can portray only the normal, usual well bred young woman. I have put her in the 'Secretary of Frivoulous Affairs' my first full sized novel. The abnormal ones, the elusive Isabels, I eave to the man to write about. My husband and I will never collaborate. Our stories are too different. Besides, we can help each other more by keeping our points of view independent."
Another accomplishment of 1911, for the talented Mrs. Futrelle was that she had, for a long time been interested in flowers, and was very fond of dahlias. She experimented with growing them from the seed, rather than the bulb which produced her with several exquisite variations. She secured a particulary fine one which she named the "Bobbs-Merrill," in honour of her publishers.
In September, 1911 she put up a prize among the school children of the place just before the long vacation began It was for the best 300 word story and there couldn't be any name attatched to the efforts that the youngster turned in. Result, Jacques Futrelle Jr, the young son of the family, walked off with the prize. But the honor of the contest was enough for him, and he was perfectly willing to see that the second in line got the prize. But this was only after his mother had explained to him the impropriety of winning something that had been put up by your own family.
In 1912, May and Jacques left America for England. They were going on a business trip. After celebrated Jacues' birthday in London with friends, They decided to return to Scituate on board the Titanic. According to May, it was quite a sudden decision, and she was concerned as to how safe it was travelling on a new ship, her husband however reassured her that it was the safer than travelling in old ships.
They boarded the Titanic as first class passengers and had a cabin on A deck.
On the night of the sinking, May was preparing for bed while Jacques was in the smoking room. As soon as the crash came, he went to their cabin and told her to dress. On deck, May pleaded with her husband to get into a boat with her but each time he refused. Finally he screamed at her "For God's sake go!" He lifted her up into the boat, kissed her goodbye and stepped back. May later told reporters that she was in one of the last boats to leave, it was filled with mostly steerage passengers. She was cold but wore a fur coat and was wrapped in a blanket. May's boat joined some other boats which made up a small fleet. they stuck together through the night. During the dawn, May saw a man clinging to wreckage, they tried to reach him but could not.
Once in New York, May was taken to the Belmont Hotel, where she was confined to her room to recover from the shock. She sent the following telgram to her mother:
"Am trying to keep up under the strain.. Doctor will not let me leave here for Atlanta for fear of complete collapse. However, I will leave Tuesday. Don't worry. Keep John cheerful. Virginia and brother Jack are with me. With love - May"
Virginia did not know that her father had died until she was told so by her mother. She tearfully told a reporter: "I'll be brave, for mothers sake."
The following story appeared in the Atlanta Constitution on 20 April 1912
MRS. JAQUES FUTRELLE MAY MAKE HER HOME IN ATLANTA
Mrs. Jaques Futrelle, wife of the noted novelist, who narrowly escaped death in the doomed steamship Titanic, will arrive in Atlnta either Sunday or Monday.
Her mother, Mrs. D.G Pell, who lives with her son, John Peel at 54 West Ninth Street, yesterday morning recieved a telegram from Mr. Peel in New York, stating that Mrs. Futrelle was safe and well, and was suffering no serious physical results from the disaster.
"May safe and well." the telegram reas, "But Jack lost. Will return soon JOHN"
Mrs. D.G Peel stated Friday afternoon that ti was probable Mrs. Futrelle would make Atlanta her home, and might permanently reside here upon her return within a few days. Her son John, a 12-year-old lad, and exact counterpart of his father, is already in the city, living with his grandmothers family. Virginia, Mrs. Futrelle's 15 year old daughter is with her in New York, and will accompany her mother to this city.
Mrs. Peel has no given up hope for Mr. Futrelle, and stated to a Constitution reporter that she would not be suprised at any moment to learn that her son-in-law had been rescued from a raft or mass of wreckage by a passing liner.
"Jack was a good swimmer" She said to the reporter. "One eould greatly judge that there was plenty of wreckage floating around the spot where the ship sank, and endowed with the superhuman strength which comes with a crisis meaning life and death it is my hope that Jack clung to some object until he was saved."
The famous novelist's son is also of the belief that his father is a survivor of the wreck and will return home alive. He knows his fathers former feats as a swimmer and relies upon this ability to save his parent.
Thursday night when the reports were coming in from the arrival of the relief ship Carpathia, the boy lay awake until t he early hours of the morning anxiously awaiting news from his ship-wrecked father and mother.
Friday morning when the telegram stating that Mrs. Futrelle was safe was recieved at the Peel home, John literally danced with joy then he marked the the next news would be from "papa" whom he knew "just couldn't be drowned."
Eventually, May made it to Atlanta. On the trip from New York to Georgia, May was understandbly deeply distressed and nervous. except for small bouts of conversation with her brother and daughter, she just sat and gazed unseeingly at the passing landscape.
She was greeted by family, friends and reporters. Wearing a mourning gown and a widows veil, she told reporter, with tears and a trembling voice, "I can't talk about it, its all too terrible. My heart is dead." She then went ont o say "I have been trying to forget. to think of something else, but all day long it rises before me and I have to think."
She owned a beautiful cottage at 56 Fourth street, which adjoined the home of her mother, which she occupied for a couple of weeks until moving back home to Massachussets on 3 May 1912.
Every month after the sinking, May, made pilgrimages to the seashore on the 15th day of each month, where she cast out scarlet flowers onto the water. Jacques loved scarlet flowers.
On the first anniversary of the sinking, May, along with other widows of the Titanic, went out to sea, where they threw baskets of flowers and wreaths. A short memorial service was conducted by the ships chaplain.
In 1915, a four-reel film feature was adapted from the novel "The Secretary of Frivolous Affairs," written by May Futrelle. It was shown for the first time in private at the Bobbs-Merrill art Gallery. The main charector (played by May Allison.) is a girl who becomes the social secretary to a wealthy woman. by the end of the story, she marries the son of the house (played by Harold Lockwood.) much to everyone's delight. In the same year, May also travelled to her hometown on Atlanta to write her impressions of the public mind regarding the Frank Case for The Boston Post.
In 1918, her story "Jerry" was published in the Sunday Post Magazine of fiction. She also went to the Dominican Republic, returning on 28th February on the ship"Iroquois"
May Futrelle died on 29th October 1967 in Scituate, Plymouth,Massachusetts
Her death notice is below
TITANIC SURVIVOR DIES
A Private requiem Mass was said Thursday for Mrs. May Futrelle who escaped with the last lifeboat from the sinking Titanic when it went down in 1912. Mrs. Futrelle died on Sunday at the age of 91.
The Frederick Post, July 10 1979
THE WASHINGTON POST 16 JAN 1913
THE HOLLAND EVENING SENTINEL 16 APRIL 1962
EUROPEAN STARS AND STRIPES 3 NOVEMBER 1967
The Atlanta Constitution 1912 and 1915
The Galverston Daily News, 1911
Kansas City Star 8 June 1911
Social Security Death Index
1880 United States Census
1900 United States Census
1910 United States Census