Today’s woman was headstrong, badass and, dare I say it… unsinkable.
Day 7: Margaret “Molly” Brown
Philanthropist, activist, socialite
Molly was born to Irish immigrants in Hannibal, Missouri. Even though she had always talked about marrying a rich man, when she met and fell in love with J.J Brown, a mining superintendent, inn 1886, she married for love. The two struggled financially until gold was struck at one of J.J’s mines– the couple, now extremely well off, moved to Denver, where Margaret Brown became a prominent socialite.
Brown used her new-found status to help others, never forgetting where she came from. Notably, she raised money to help Judge Ben Lindsey’s quest to help destitute children and establish a separate court system for young offenders.
In 1912, while visiting France, Brown got news that her grandchild was sick and decided to cut her trip short and hop on a ship heading back to the US– this ship was the Titanic. I doubt I need to go into the details of what happened (we have a handy Leonardo DiCaprio movie for that). Brown made it on to one of the few life boats and survived the ship’s sinking and, afterwards, raised a significant amount of money (even before the ship that rescued them made it to shore!) to help less wealthy survivors. Her story made headlines and history, and she is remembered as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” despite the fact that no one called her Molly during her lifetime.
Now Brown had both status and fame, which she used to further the philanthropic causes about which she was passionate. She ran for the US Senate in 1914 (6 years before most women could vote), but ended her campaign when WWI broke out so she could travel to France to work with the American Committee for Devastated France. She was eventually awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French government for her efforts.
Thus, although popular culture and memory has painted “Molly” Brown as a brash, comical character who happened to achieve fame due to her involvement with the Titanic, the real Margaret Brown was so much more than that.
Today’s recommendation for celebrating women’s history: Think about how completely erasing women’s voices and contributions is not the only way we silence them. Margaret Brown is just one of many women who history remembers more as a character than a person.