Margaret Brown – The “Unsinkable” Survivor
By Christina Lewis
On the morning of April 14, 1912, Margaret Brown woke aboard the giant cruise ship Titanic, unaware of the danger ahead. She had been vacationing in Europe with her daughter Helen and decided to return home early because her grandson was ill. During her vacation Margaret had gone to a palm reader in Egypt for fun. After studying her palm the fortuneteller kept repeating, “water, water, water.” He said that he saw a sinking ship surrounded by drowning people.
Margaret paid no attention to his warning and boarded the Titanic on April 10th. For the first several days the trip was uneventful, but that would soon change. Although there were warnings of ice, the captain did not slow the ship down. At 11:40 p.m. a crewmember spotted an iceberg, but it was too late. The side of the ship scraped against the iceberg causing severe damage. Three hours later the Titanic sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Of the more than 2,200 passengers on board only 705 survived. The Titanic did not have enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew.
Margaret was one of the lucky ones who survived. When they were rescued by the Carpathia, she worked tirelessly helping the other survivors by handing out food, drinks and blankets. As the ship arrived in New York Margaret found herself in the spotlight, everyone had already heard about her bravery and good deeds.
There are many myths and legends surrounding the “unsinkable Molly Brown.” But the real facts of her life are just as interesting. Margaret Tobin was born on July 18, 1867 in Hannibal, Missouri. Her parents, John and Johanna, had both been widowed and each had one daughter from previous marriages. Along with her two half sisters Margaret had two brothers and one younger sister. She attended school until she was thirteen years old and then went to work in a tobacco factory to help with the family expenses.
When Margaret was nineteen she moved to Leadville, Colorado and lived with her brother Daniel. She got a job at a dry goods store sewing carpets and drapes. She hadn’t been in Leadville long when she met James Joseph (J.J.) Brown at a church picnic. He was a mining engineer and eleven years older than Margaret. They were married on September 1, 1886 and lived in a two-room cabin in Stumptown. A year later they moved into a larger house in Leadville.
Their son, Lawrence Palmer, was born on August 30, 1887. And their second child, Catherine Ellen, called Helen, was born on July 1, 1889. Margaret became active in the community and charitable causes and was very outspoken about what she believed in. In 1891 J.J. purchased stock in a mining company that soon struck gold, and he suddenly became very rich. They moved to Denver in 1894 and Margaret didn’t waste any time filling her house with expensive furniture and decorations from around the world. She enjoyed being in the local spotlight and an important part of Denver society.
Margaret often traveled to Europe to study drama, music, literature and languages. While Margaret kept herself busy traveling, working for social causes and contributing to fund-raising projects, J.J. was busy with his mining investments. The two were growing apart and often disagreed on important issues. In 1909 Margaret and J.J. separated, but they never divorced.
Margaret’s life changed considerably after the Titanic tragedy in 1912. She received a lot of publicity for her heroic efforts. She gave her time and energy helping other passengers who lost far more than she did. Margaret used the media’s interest in her to promote her beliefs in women’s rights. She was also active in politics and in 1914 became the first woman to run for the U.S. Congress. She lost the campaign but she never gave up trying.
When World War I broke out Margaret traveled to France and helped establish a relief station for the soldiers. Her knowledge in French was put to good use. Margaret and J.J. did not see much of each other during these years, and J.J. died on September 5, 1922. Although they could not seem to get along they both cared for and respected each other. From 1929 to 1932 Margaret spent her time between living in New York and traveling. She returned to Leadville occasionally to visit family and friends. On October 26, 1932, at the age of sixty-five, the “unsinkable Molly Brown” passed away from a stroke.
Margaret Tobin Brown raised herself up from poverty to wealth and fame. She had the courage to stand up and fight for what she believed in. She went after her dreams and made every moment of her life count. She worked hard to make life better for herself, her family, and thousands of strangers.
Christina Lewis is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and two daughters in Kansas. She has had several parenting articles published and writes fiction and non-fiction for children. She has written three eBooks for children, “100 Cool Sites For Kids,” “Halloween Tales and Treats” and “Christmas Tales and Treats.” She is the owner of a website for children, www.KidsBookshelf.com.