The Unsinkable Molly Brown

So much has been said last week about Debbie Reynolds and the iconic roles she played. One of those was the bold, historical figure–the unsinkable Molly Brown. Debbie was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her portrayal. It was a great role and Debbie really captured the woman’s zest for life.

Molly Brown was born Margaret Tobin in 1867 and lived just blocks from the Mississippi River. Both of her parents were Irish immigrants and struggled to survive.

At the age of eighteen, she followed a sister, brother-in-law and brother to Leadville, Colorado where she went to work in a mercantile. She met a miner named James Joseph (J.J.) Brown and fell in love. They married in 1886, settled down and had two children.

Molly wasn’t content to sit idle. She joined the Women’s Suffrage Movement to fight for women’s rights and she worked in a soup kitchen that fed starving miners.

Meanwhile, J.J. rose to own his own mine and due to a method he devised, began shipping 135 tons of gold ore a day. They were in the money. They built a large, fancy home in a swanky Denver neighborhood and a summer one in the foothills.

Next on her list was forming the Denver Women’s Club with projects in literacy, education, and human rights. She raised funds to build hospitals, schools, and churches and worked with well-known judge to help destitute children. The judge’s and her efforts led to the formation of the U.S. Juvenile Court System. She was lifelong activist for human rights and organized conferences around the nation to address the issue.

So it was no surprise when she ran for a U.S. Senate seat—8 years before women won the right to vote. She didn’t win but it was remarkable all the same.

In 1912, she boarded the Titantic to sail home, and as everyone knows, it hit an iceberg and sank. Molly helped others into lifeboats until she was forced into one herself. She manned an oar and kept everyone’s spirits up until they were rescued.

Once onboard the Carpathia, she assisted the survivors with getting what they needed. Since she spoke French, German, and Russian, she was of tremendous help. Her undaunted good cheer proved very beneficial in keeping everyone’s spirits up. She remained with the survivors upon landing until each had family, friends and/or medical assistance at their side. Plus, she raised over $10,000 for the survivors and worked for them for countless years afterward.

In New York, the authorities held a hearing on the shipwreck but they refused to let her testify—because she was a woman. So she gathered pen and paper and wrote out her version of the events. She mailed it to the ones in charge—in addition to publishing it in newspapers in Denver, New York and Paris. She’d teach them to try to silence her. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her tireless work.

J.J. Brown died in 1922 and Molly in 1932 of a brain tumor.

No one was more vital and had such a driving need to help those less fortunate. She’ll long be remembered for her courage, strength and boundless optimism. She was a force to reckon with.

I wish I could’ve met her and asked about the night the Titantic sank. If you could talk to any historical person, man or woman, who would it be?

About LindaBroday

I'm a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of western historical romance. I love stories of the old West and the people who once lived there. I haunt libraries and museums and can hang out in them for hours. To tell all the stories that are in my head would take a lifetime.


The Unsinkable Molly Brown — 4 Comments

  1. What a woman she was! I remember the Molly Brown house in Denver and drove by it, but never stopped to take one of the tours through it. I should have. 🙂 If I could talk to any historical person, I think it would have to be (you saw this one coming) Billy The Kid. I’d like to know what went on in his mind through the Lincoln County Wars and if he was really a psychopath like the history books show him to be. Great post, sister!

    • Hi Jan……yes, I saw that coming. You have a fascination with Billy. I’d be torn between Lottie Deno and Clay Allison. There are so many I’d like to talk with. Oh the stories they’d have to tell. But Molly Brown would be a great one too. I’m glad you liked my post about Molly Brown. I wish you’d have stopped and taken the tour. That would’ve been interesting and fun.

      Love you, sister! 🙂

  2. Awesome post, Linda. My daughter and I became obsessed with Titanic lore when the movie came out (still and ever one of my favorites) and we heard, for the musical, that the producers made up Molly but she was always called Maggie. I knew she had been in Keadville, which reminds me–I think Doc Holliday is the historical figure I’d like to meet. He was very misunderstood lol. Hugs…

    • Hi Tanya……Glad to see you. I’m glad you enjoyed Molly Brown. She was quite different from the musical. People in Denver didn’t shun her so she never had to struggle with that. Yes, I think Doc Holiday was a very interesting historical figure. He certainly had a knack for putting himself at the right time and place to make a huge impact on history. I always thought it was so sad he died that young. Oh man if we could go back and talk to some of these people!!

      Hugs, dear friend!