Posted on July 18, 2018
Okay, today's famous birthday wasn't named "Molly"; she was Margaret. And her nickname was "Maggie."
But this brave and caring woman ended up inspiring a Broadway musical and a movie, and in those she was immortalized as Molly Brown, so, here we are.
Born on this date in 1867, Margaret Tobin planned to marry a rich man but ended up marrying a poor man, for love. However, Mrs. Brown found herself rich, anyway, since her husband's work in mining engineering paid off in a big way.
The Browns bought a mansion in Denver and built a summer house in a nearby area called Bear Creek. Maggie Brown went from working in a department store, as a single woman, to entertaining, patronizing the arts, becoming fluent in four languages, traveling, and doing social and charitable work. Brown did everything from work in soup kitchens to fundraising for churches, from helping poor kids to helping establish the first juvenile court in the country - helping to create the foundation for the entire U.S. juvenile court system!
She also raised two kids.
She already sounds fairly remarkable to me, but none of that stuff is the reason for her fame. Instead, it's because she took a certain sea voyage...
...At age 45, Brown booked first-class passage on the RMS Titanic. And you know what happened to the Titanic, right?
When the ship started to sink, Brown helped evacuate the ship, helping others into the lifeboats. When she was finally persuaded to get into a lifeboat herself (Lifeboat No. 6), she took an oar herself but argued that they should go back and save more people. Quartermaster Robert Hichens was in charge of Lifeboat 6, and he argued that they couldn't go back for more. He may have been aware of the suction effect of a sinking ship, he may have been afraid that too many people would try to get onto their boat and sink the lifeboat, he may have just been scared and selfish. Who knows? He may have been right to say "no," or he may have been wrong - again, who knows?
What I find surprising is that Brown threatened to throw him overboard, she felt so passionately that he was wrong.
And what I find really surprising is that we don't actually know whether or not Lifeboat 6 actually DID go back, and whether or not they found anyone alive. The reason we don't know these things is because different sources give different reports on these two points.
At any rate, whatever happened as a result of Brown's efforts, we do know that she survived. Not only that, she organized a survivors' committee with other first-class survivors to get basic necessities for second- and third-class survivors. The committee even provided informal counseling to survivors!
Brown went on to run for Senate, to work rebuilding France after World War I, helping wounded French and American soldiers, and championing other important causes.
I don't know how this happened, but the last few years of her life, Brown acted! She died of an undiagnosed brain tumor.
A quarter century after her death, a fictionalized version of Brown's life came to life in a musical that was popular on Broadway for more than a year - that launched a movie starring Debbie Reynolds - that was brought back several times - and that inspired Readers' Theater versions in Denver. The play and movie were called The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
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