Molly Brown

Debbie Reynolds And Harve Presnell In 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown'
Archive Photos / Getty Images
  • Known for: surviving the Titanic disaster and helping others; part of the Denver mining boom
  • Dates: July 18, 1867 - October 26, 1932
  • Also known as: Margaret Tobin Brown, Molly Brown, Maggie, Mrs. J. J. Brown, "Unsinkable" Molly Brown

Made famous by the 1960s musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Margaret Tobin Brown was not known by the nickname "Molly" during her lifetime, but as Maggie in her younger years and, following the custom of her time, mostly as Mrs. J. J. Brown after her marriage.

Molly Brown grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, and at 19 went to Leadville, Colorado, with her brother. She married James Joseph Brown, who worked in the local silver mines. While her husband advanced to superintendent in the mines, Molly Brown started soup kitchens in the mining community and became active in women's rights.

Molly Brown in Denver

J. J. Brown (known as "Leadville Johnny" in the film and Broadway versions of Margaret Brown's story) found a means of mining gold, making the Browns wealthy and, after a move to Denver, part of Denver society. Molly Brown helped found the Denver Woman's Club and worked for juvenile courts. In 1901 she went to the Carnegie Institute to study, and in 1909 and 1914 she ran for Congress. She spearheaded a campaign that raised the money to build the Roman Catholic cathedral in Denver.

Molly Brown and the Titanic

Molly Brown was traveling in Egypt in 1912 when she received word that her grandson was ill. She booked passage on a ship to return home; the Titanic. Her heroism in assisting other survivors and getting people to safety was recognized after her return, including with the French Legion of Honour in 1932.

Molly Brown was head of the Titanic Survivors' Committee which supported immigrants who had lost everything in the disaster and helped to get a memorial erected to the Titanic survivors in Washington, DC. She was not allowed to testify in Congressional hearings about the sinking of the Titanic, because she was a woman; in response to this slight she published her account in newspapers.

More About Molly Brown

Molly Brown went on to study acting and drama in Paris and New York and to work as a volunteer during World War I. J.J. Brown died in 1922, and Margaret and the children contended over the will. Margaret died in 1932 of a brain tumor in New York.

Print Bibliography

  • Iversen, Kristen. Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth. 1999.
  • Whitacre, Christine. Molly Brown: Denver's Unsinkable Lady. 1984.
  • Grinstead, Leigh A., and Gueda Gayou. Victorian Gardens at the Molly Brown House. 1995.
  • Wills, May B., and Caroline Bancroft. Unsinkable Molly Brown Cookbook. 1966.
  • Unsinkable Molly Brown: Vocal Selections. (Lyrics to songs from the musical.)

Children's books

  • Blos, Joan W., and Tennessee Dixon. The Heroine of the Titanic: A Tale Both True and Otherwise of the Life of Molly Brown. 1991. Ages 4-8.
  • Pinson, Mary E. You're an Orphan, Molly Brown. 1998. Ages 10-12.
  • Simon, Charnan. Molly Brown: Sharing Her Good Fortune. 2000. Ages 9-12.

Music and Videos

  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Original Soundtrack, CD, Remaster, 2000.
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Original Broadway Cast, CD, 1993.
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Director: Charles Walters. 1964.
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Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Molly Brown." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2023, April 5). Molly Brown. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Molly Brown." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).