NewsWomen's History Month


'The Unsinkable Molly Brown's' contributions to early Denver

From helping establish the Dumb Friends League to advocating for women's rights nationwide, Margaret Brown had a big impact on and off the Titanic.
Posted at 5:45 PM, Mar 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-26 11:57:13-04

DENVER — One of Denver's most famous residents is synonymous with an infamous ship.

"She becomes known as the heroine of the Titanic because she's assisting women and children into lifeboats," said Andrea Malcomb, museum director of the Molly Brown House.

There's much more to Brown than what happened on the Titanic.

"She's politically engaged, civically engaged, and she also loved to explore and learn new things, new cultures," said Malcolmb.

One thing many people might now know about Molly Brown is that her name isn't actually "Molly."

"When they wrote the play 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown,' they thought 'Molly' kind of sounds better than Margaret. Easier to sing," explained Malcomb.

Before Brown was 'Unsinkable,' she was the wife of a wealthy gold mine owner and used her money and status to better the community.

"She helped start the Denver Dumb Friends League with that generous first contribution. She helped Judge Ben Lindsey create the juvenile court system here in Denver," said Malcolmb. "She helped create playgrounds and helped start kids camps."

She was returning from Europe on the Titanic in 1912 and survived the ship sinking, helping countless others before they were rescued.

"Titanic was largely an immigrant ship, so people moving to the United States for the first time to start a new life. Suddenly you've lost your husband, you've lost your son, you've lost a good portion of your family. So she wanted to help them as much as she could. She spoke five languages, she was able to translate. She raised over $10,000 by the time they even got to New York City," said Malcomb.

Brown used the notoriety from the Titanic to push causes important to her, particularly labor rights and women's voting rights.

"In Colorado, women had the right to vote in 1893. So as a state, women were able to vote in federal elections and in local elections. But then the rest of the country says, 'How, Colorado, did you get women the right to vote?' Women of Colorado like Mrs. Brown, like Ellis Meredith, were really instrumental in the national movement for women's voting rights," said Malcomb.

Brown eventually attempted to run for U.S. Senate in the years following the Titanic.

"Unheard of! The nation began this conversation: What does it mean to have a woman in the Senate?" said Malcomb.

Brown eventually decided not to run and instead focused on aid efforts in France during World War I. Her legacy has lasted long after she died in 1932 through her philanthropic and civic efforts.

"It's just vital to show that everyone needs to be included in Democracy, regardless of your gender, your identity, your place of birth," said Malcomb, "I think that's a tremendous gift that she gave our country."

To learn more about Margaret 'Molly' Brown and visit her restored Denver home, click here for information on the Molly Brown House.

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