Who was the Unsinkable Molly Brown? First of all, she died thirty years before the name became her moniker. Brown, who survived the disaster of Titanic in 1912, went back to New York City via the Carpathia and settled in for the remainder of her life in Denver, Colorado. After her death in 1932, she was buried in a Long Island, New York cemetery.
Never known as Molly until a musical was written in the 1960s entitled The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the lady herself had instead been called Maggie. She grew up in Missouri with several step-siblings and worked her early years stripping tobacco leaves in Hannibal. At the age of eighteen she followed one of her sisters to Colorado, where she took work at a blacksmith shop she and her family established. Her brother Daniel began work at the mines and eventually Maggie met and married a miner by the name of J. J. Brown. From that point on, she was simply Margaret. She and her husband lived in a little cottage in a town called Stumpville.
Brown became well known for her early roots in the feminist movement and establishment of the Colorado Chapter of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, as well as working in soup kitchens and other charitable acts. She never knew she was destined for wealth and fame and certainly not the celebrity of the RMS Titanic and its failed maiden voyage.
Her husband was a silver miner. There was gold further in, but nobody could get to it until J.J. Brown devised a brilliant method to do so and became wealthy from it. That was how the simple and regular folksy Margaret Brown became worthy of mingling with the “old money” rich and famous and found herself aboard the Titanic.
It was Brown’s first instinct, when disaster struck, to help others. She was among the preferred, being a first class passenger and a woman, and was therefore put into a lifeboat early on. But she argued with the crew who lowered the lifeboat only half full and she argued with them as they rowed away from the great ship, where fellow passengers were now jumping off the deck into freezing water. She was the one of very few women noted to have rowed a boat. The popular story is that she was able to convince the women in the lifeboat to take over rowing the boat to go back and rescue people, but different scholars have different opinions. Some say she was unsuccessful. Some say she was successful, but they found no survivors.
After surviving Titanic, via lifeboat number 6, Brown arrived in New York on the Carpathia. She helped create the Survivors Committee, was elected chair and raised $10,000 for destitute survivors’ families. She disregarded praise for her efforts aboard Titanic and went about the business of lending help where needed. Brown helped erect the Titanic memorial in Washington, DC and visited the cemeteries of Titanic victims in Nova Scotia, laying wreaths on the grave sites.
This was an extraordinary woman with a biography too large to cover in a single article. She is well worth researching and information can be found easily on line. Mrs. Brown will be at Titanic—100 Years, telling you her account from the other side of this earthly world. She will introduce you to some others with their own stories to tell.
We invite you to join us and find out. Please see posters around town for further details. Titanic—100 Years takes place on Sunday, April 15. Ticket A is all events advanced price (before April 6: $30) and includes dinner, play, displays walk-through. Ticket B is all events regular price (between April 7–13: $40) and includes dinner, play, displays walk-through. Ticket C is $15 for just the play and displays walk-through. Ticket D ($5/person) is displays walk-through only. Tickets will be at the Community Centre by March 24. Presented by the Grizzly Valley Players.