An Unsinkable Story …
Much has been written about Margaret “Molly” Brown based on legend and myth. However, her real life was full of adventure and activism far beyond her role as a survivor of the Titanic disaster. Many quotations from Mrs. Brown provide insights into her character in Unsinkable: The Molly Brown Story, an all-ages nonfiction biography.
Maregaret Tobin Brown is the name of the person often referred to as Molly Brown. When she was a youngster, census records listed her as Maggie. As an adult, she was known as Margaret, and Mrs. J. J. Brown after she married. The name, Molly, does not appear to have been in use during her lifetime. Many people believe the name “Molly” was adopted for the 1960s Broadway musical production of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” then the feature film of the same name. However, her name as “Molly” appeared in a 1932 newspaper obituary, used as a loose reference to her Irish family background.
As sometimes happens, Margret Brown’s Unsinkable story caught my attention by accident. While I was at the Denver Public Library researching passenger lists on microfilm, I stumbled across a newspaper account of the April 1912 Titanic disaster. It contained lists of survivors as well as casualties of the steamship’s collision with an iceberg and its demise in the icy North Atlantic Ocean.
Additional articles contained accounts of the Titanic disaster as recounted by Margaret Brown, a Denver survivor of the tragedy. The descriptions were extensive and eloquent. Much later, I discovered the reason for the interviews. Mrs. Brown was not invited to share her testimony with a Congressional hearing about the steamship disaster. Mrs. Brown, hurt and angered by the exclusion, had a story to tell and she knew what to do. She offered her account to Denver newspaper reporters, who eagerly snapped up the story. When the article was printed, she was referred to as “Lady Margaret, Heroine of the Titanic”.
Margaret Brown’s first-hand description of the night when the Titanic sank killing 1492 passengers had tremendous impact when it was printed on April 19, 1912. No writer or reporter could conjure up a more dramatic story than Mrs. Brown’s account of the Titanic disaster. The following quotation from The Denver Post is a small portion of her report
Someone said, ‘Women first, quick!’ and I was literally thrown into a lifeboat and lowered to the foaming ocean.
There in that lifeboat, with a sailor at my side, I rowed with all my might for seven and a half hours. I rowed until my head was sick, until I thought I was dead. Fifteen more could have been saved in our boat …
Just as the Carpathia (rescue ship) swung alongside of us, I lost my remaining strength and fell exhausted. Two hours after that I was in the shop’s hospital, nursing the hysterical. Don’t ask me how I did it – I don’t know myself. Here in this gloomy room I have been three days and nights, working with every bit of strength in my body.
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Margaret Brown survived and lived out the remaining two decades of her life. Characteristically, hers was a life full of activism, altruism and adventure. After tending to the survivors of the Titanic, forming a survivor’s association, planning a monument to victims, and presenting honors to the rescuers, she moved on to help people in many situations and to support issues she considered worthy and important.
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To learn more about Margaret Brown and the Titanic, read Unsinkable: The Molly Brown Story, by Joyce B. Lohse, a young adult/all ages book published by Filter Press at www.FilterPressBooks.com. Lohse’s article, “Leadville’s Favorite Unsinkable Titanic Survivor,” appeared in the April 2012 issue of Colorado Central magazine
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“I am a daughter of adventure. This means I never experience a dull moment and must be prepared for any eventuality … That’s my arc as the astrologers would say. It’s a good one, too, for a person who had rather make a snap-out than a fade-out of life.”
— Margaret Tobin Brown (Denver Post, August 1923)