March is Women in History month and with that in mind, we wanted to share a few interesting women we’ve discovered while researching our historical novels. Since I’m currently writing a story set in Denver, I thought I’d share a bit of Colorado history and talk about Margaret Brown – better known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”.
Margaret Brown is a fascinating woman. Although most admit “Molly” was a nickname given her by the press and not one her friends or family used, she was nevertheless an important part of history. Born in Hannibal, MO in 1867 to a poor Irish Catholic family, Margaret quit school at 13 to help support her family by working in a tobacco factory. Mining was already a strong attraction drawing folks to Colorado and Margaret had brothers who relocated there. When she was 19, she joined them and within six months she fell in love and married J.J. Brown who worked as a mine superintendent.
Margaret and J.J. had a son and a daughter, but she was also extremely busy in Leadville, Colorado helping folks in her community. She was particularly concerned about miner’s and children’s rights and the suffragette movement. Later when her husband struck it rich, they were to move to an opulent 39,000 sq.ft. home in Denver. You can still tour this home in Denver, and it’s quite the place. Here are a few photos.
In Denver, Margaret continued to lead the way in support of various causes. She didn’t care how the world viewed her, but fought to see justice done for those who had no voice. Even so, most people known her for her “unsinkable” title.
Margaret earned this title aboard the Titanic’s maiden voyage. She was one of the fortunate 700 who made it to a lifeboat after the ship hit an iceberg. It was said that she took charge and helped assist folks to safety and kept morale up while awaiting rescue. Even then, while on the rescue ship Carpathia, Margaret handed out food, water and blankets. And, by the time the ship reached New York, she had already established a Survivor’s Committee, had been voted chairwoman and had raised $10,000 to aid the Titanic survivors. Her heroism preceded her arrival to New York City where she was lauded for her service. She would later be awarded the French Legion of Honor.
She used her fame to fight against folks like J.D. Rockefeller for the rights of coal miners. She walked picket lines, spoke 5 languages, ran for congress, helped win women the right to vote and when World War I broke out, she went to France to work for the Red Cross. She died from a brain tumor in 1932, much loved and admired for her giving spirit and no-nonsense, but good humored nature.
One of my favorite movies about her is The Unsinkable Molly Brown with Debbie Reynolds. Although it’s not completely accurate, it’s loads of fun.
Women like Margaret “Molly” Brown not only added a bit of spice to the women of history, but she labored hard to make life better for us today. She was quite a woman—an inspiration to us all.