When Margaret “Maggie” Tobin was born in 1867 in the little town of Hannibal, Missouri, she surely had no idea that 45 years later she would enter history as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” who was one of the survivors of the epic Titanic disaster. Over 105 years later, her Denver home is still open to visitors and a great spot to pay visit to.
Descending from a rather poor Irish Catholic immigrant background, Margaret always had a strong vision about how her future life should be. And so she relocated at the age of 18 to Leadville in Colorado where she began working for a famous local department store.
While dreaming of getting married to a wealthy man, she finally ended up falling in love with the, at that time, rather not wealthy but well-educated James Joseph Brown, aka J.J. Brown.
After finding gold in a mine of the Mining company that J.J. had worked for in 1893, the couple and their two children became rich overnight and their lives changed completely. The Denver mansion which can still be toured today was obtained back in 1897 at a price of $30,000. That was a huge fortune at that time.
Despite her sudden wealth, Margaret had always had a strong connection to her social background and was socially very, very engaged in her community. She soon became a well-known American socialite and philanthropist and a respected advocate for women´s rights.
The Brown couple had strong morals, so even after they decided to separate after their 23 years of marriage, they continued to live under one roof and stay befriended ever after.
It was actually bad fate that Margaret Brown joined Titanic on her fatal maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in April 1912. She had been traveling through Europe and Northern Africa for quite some time when she received the news that her eldest grandchild was seriously ill.
She instantly booked the next possible passage to the United States which happened to be aboard the luxury liner. Her daughter Helen was supposed to come along, decided to stay last-minute in Paris to continue her studies at the Sorbonne University.
Brown joined Titanic in Cherbourg, France as a first class passenger on April 10, 1912, four nights before the tragic accident. It was actually her who tried to convince the crew and passengers inside her life boat No. 6 to return to the sinking site and to try to save as many people from the ice-cold waters as possible.
In the end, her quarrel with the crew member remained unsolved and so it was only a little over 700 survivors that were rescued hours later on the open Atlantic. Her place in history was sealed though.
After the Titanic disaster, Margaret returned to Denver where her lifetime partner J.J. Brown died in 1922. Until her death in 1932, Maggie Brown spend her life fighting for the rights of workers and women, education and literacy of children as well as commemoration of the bravery and chivalry displayed by the crew and passengers of the Titanic.
Funnily, the nickname Molly Brown has never been in use by any friends or family members at the time she was alive. It was created by the press after the news of her self-confidence towards the Quartermaster of her lifeboat after Titanic had sunk.
Having been very familiar with lots of the stories about Titanic and her passengers from childhood on, walking through her actual house created quite a shiver. It was just like paying visit upon invitation and it felt like she could come around a corner at any time. It was like time stood still inside the house. A must for every Titanic fan and those who appreciate someone swimming against the stream!
The Molly Brown House
1340 Pennsylvania St, Denver, CO 80203, USA