The "Unsinkable" Molly Brown
Margaret Brown or "Molly Brown" was born on the 18th July 1867. Her parents were Irish immigrants John and Johanna Collins. She was born in Hannibal, Missouri.
Margaret was educated at the local grammar school run by her Aunt, Mary O’Leary.
In her teens she worked at Garth’s Tobacco Company in Hannibal but at the age of 18 she moved to Colorado where her sister and brother-in-law had set up a blacksmith shop.
Margaret commenced work for Daniels and Fisher Merchantile in Leadville in the carpets and draperies department.
In 1886 Margaret met and married James Joseph Brown who was a miner and had two children Lawrence and Catherine. Soon after their births she became involved in the feminist movement in Leadville; “The Colorado Chapter of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association”.
By 1893 James’ mine had become very successful when he struck gold. He became one of the most successful mining men in the country.
At the time the Titanic was to sail on her maiden voyage, Margaret received word whilst she was staying with the John Jacob Astor party that her grandson Lawrence was ill. Upon hearing the news she decided to return to America via New York. She booked the first available sail across from Southampton to New York. Her passage was of course on the Titanic. Catherine remained in London.
During the hours of the disaster onboard the Titanic, Margaret found herself being assisted into lifeboat No. 6. There should have been 65 passengers in the boat but there were only 21 women, 2 men and a 12 year old boy. Once the boat hit the water she assisted in the rowing.
Margaret demanded that the boat be turned around to pick up survivors in the freezing water. Quartermaster Hutchens ordered the women to continue rowing in the opposite direction away from the disaster site. He argued that if they picked up survivors there would be so much panic that they may inadvertently overturn the boats resulting in another 24 deaths.
That was a good example of the lifeboats sailing away less than half filled.
Once onboard the SS Carpathia, her role in the disaster did not end. She searched the ship for blankets and supplies and gave comfort to the survivors. Remarkably, she rallied the first class passengers to donate money to help less fortunate passengers. $10,000 was raised before the Carpathia reached New York.
Margaret remained in New York and became President of the Survivors Committee. She had earned the nickname “Unsinkable Mrs Brown” (the name Molly was introduced by Hollywood in subsequent films – presumably a marketing exercise?)
On 29th may 1912, Margaret presented a silver cup to Captain Rostron of the Carpathia and a medal to each crew member. She also helped to erect the Titanic Memorial in Washington DC.
She continued to fight for women’s rights and labour issues. In 1932 she was awarded the “French Legion of Honour” for work she carried out during the first Word War.
Sadly, her husband passed away in 1922 in New York and gradually her finances slipped away. Margaret died on 26th October 1932 from a brain tumour. She was a very remarkable character.