The phrase "Women and children first" is an excellent summary of nineteen hundred years of Christian influence on men. It follows the principle given in 1 John 3:16: "Hereby we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." In short, the strong die that the weak might live. This is changed today, based partly on the theory of Evolution, where the weak die that the strong might live.
While "women and children first" is associated with RMS Titanic or HM Troopship Birkenhead, the principle was also seen far before either of those.
After the Continental victory in the American War for Independence, hundreds of soldiers, men, women, and children loyal to Great Britain sailed for Canada. One of the transports for the Loyalists was the Martha, carrying 2 regiments: Maryland Loyalists and 2nd Battalion, DeLancey's Brigade, in addition to women and children. As they sailed to Canada, the ship struck rocks in the Bay of Fundy, on September 23, 1783. The long boat was smashed by one of the masts falling, and only the jolly-boat and cutter remained. The cowardly captain turned the jolly-boat loose on the waves and sailed for shore in the cutter.
This next portion is quoted from Maryland Loyalists web site "Having lost their homes and possessions, the Maryland Loyalists were exiled to Canada. While sailing to their new homes, their ship, HMS Martha, ran aground in the Bay of Fundy and sank. It is said that, after putting their wives and children into the small boats, the remaining Marylanders formed up into ranks on the main deck as the ship went down."
Perhaps some of the nearby inhabitants came out with their boats to the wreck and picked up the women and children before the soldiers (the captain discouraged any from visiting the site of the wreck, but it did not succeed). In any case, some of the passengers on board the Martha were saved. This provides a testimony both of "the weak die for the strong" as the captain did, and "the strong die for the weak", as the Maryland Loyalists did.
Loyalists arrive in Canada
Note: account of the wreck taken from http://www.marylandloyalists.org/unithistory.html and http://www.royalprovincial.com/genealogy/settle/lndmarth.shtml