Monday, July 21, 2014

Biographical Book Review: Heroine of the Titanic

Heroine of the Titanic: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown, by Elaine Landau, Clarion Books, New York, 2001.

There are several myths or misnomers about Molly Brown that are corrected with this book.  The first is her name.  Molly is not her name.  Her name is Margaret, and she did go by Maggie.  They only place she was referred to as Molly was in the media. 
Her maiden name was Margaret Tobin.  She grew up in Hannibal, and was a bit of a Tom-boy.  When a young adult she moved to Leadville to live with her brother.  She determined to marry a wealthy man so she could help her father.  While in Leadville she met J.J. Brown who worked in the mining industry.  He was not a wealthy man, but finally she decided better to marry someone you love rather than a wealthy man you don’t love. 
J.J. Brown studied mining and applied himself.  He made an investment in the Little Jonny Mine.  After investing heavily in this silver mine, they changed it over to a gold mine, one of the richest in history, and J.J. was suddenly extremely wealthy. 
This lead to the family moving to Denver we the purchased a home close to the Capitol building.  They decorated this with lions on the outside.  They were not given entrance to the upper echelons of Denver society, but their social situation was not as bad as that depicted in the movie.  They gave parties that were well attended, but because the media were often invited, they never were part of the “Sacred 36.”  However it is not certain if she really wanted to be.  Margaret enjoyed travel, and spent considerable time in Europe.  On the other hand J.J. felt more at home in Leadville with his old friends.  They separated, but never considered divorce because of their religious convictions.  They would never reconcile.
Of course Margaret is most known for her exploits on board the Titanic, and adrift in the ocean.  Many of the sailors were young and ill prepared.  It was she who took charge of their life boat and returned to look for survivors.  She also was instrumental in helping get reparations and donations to many of the women who lost their husbands on the Titanic.  She felt the ocean liner owed something to these people.  She was active in politics, and ran for congress.  She was one who struggled for suffrage for women.
She spent and donated money freely during her life.  There was not much left by the time she passed away.  When her husband died there was a conflict between she and her two children as to who should manage the estate.  She did live her life in comfort, but died in the East rather than the West and is buried on Long Island, New York with her husband.

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