“The Unsinkable” Molly Brown
Born in 1867 and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, Margaret “Molly” Brown would go on to live a life of wealth, adventure, and activism.
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Molly Tobin went to school until she was 13 when she dropped out to work in a tobacco factory and help support her family. Once adults, she and her brother Daniel moved to Colorado during the gold rush migration. She soon met and married J.J. Brown, a mining engineer, and they made a fortune when the mining company they were majority shareholders in struck gold. The pair were very involved in philanthropy, progressive change, and travel.
While touring Europe in 1912 with her daughter and friends, Molly got news of a grandchild taken ill and decided to take the fastest way home, which included a trip on the Titanic. When the sinking began, Molly was focused on getting her fellow passengers into lifeboats and wouldn’t have gotten in one herself if a steward of the ship hadn’t picked her up and thrown her into one. Her lifeboat was rescued by the Carpathia, and she was so upset to think of those who lost family members and all their possessions in the sinking that she and some of the other wealthy survivors had raised $10,000 before the Carpathia docked in New York to be donated to the less fortunate survivors. (Adjusted for inflation, that is a little over $283,000.) The gossip writers of turn-of-the-century Colorado dubbed her “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” in an attempt to be catty, but Molly thought it humorous.
After her new fame, she kept up her philanthropic work with survivors of the Titanic, fought for fair wages and working conditions for coal miners in Colorado, and became a champion for women’s rights. A staunch supporter of the suffrage movement, Molly was even favored to be elected as a Senator before World War I broke out; however, she declined to run so she could focus on relief efforts.
Molly Brown passed in her sleep in 1932, and was a free-thinking, ambitious, and charitable woman we can all look to for inspiration.
Written by Meg Pearson, 2022.