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MOLLY BROWN by Kristen Iversen


Unraveling the Myth

by Kristen Iversen

Pub Date: July 5th, 1999
ISBN: 1-55566-236-6

            The real Margaret (she was never called Molly) Brown revealed in a biography long on both dramatic reconstructions of the Titanic disaster and mundane family scrapbooks.

            As Iversen, an editor at Westcliffe Publishers, has it, Margaret (she was sometimes called Maggie) Brown was never the high-kicking vulgarian with a heart of gold portrayed by Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown or even the flamboyant dowager queen of the West (with a heart of gold) portrayed by Kathy Bates in the film Titanic.  She was educated, culturally aware, multilingual, and comfortable in Paris, Newport, New York, Denver, and Leadville, Colo., society.  She did have a heart of gold, and it was often dedicated to such sophisticated activities as organizing successful fund-raising events for building Denver’s Roman Catholic cathedral, adding a wing to a Denver hospital, aiding families of miners left destitute by disaster, and, with her friend “Kids Judge” Benjamin Lindsey, organizing and subsidizing programs for indigent children.  Her courage and organizational abilities were evident in the Titanic disaster, when she not only helped row Lifeboat #6 to safety but also went on to raise money and social support for the surviving immigrants, who had lost everything when the ship went down.  Margaret was also a feminist, putting herself forth as a candidate for Congress.  Her marriage to miner J.J. Brown had collapsed by then, due probably to both his womanizing and her activism.  Margaret and her two children vied in court over J.J.’s will but eventually reconciled.  Before she died in 1932 at age 65, Margaret was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her work in France during WWI.

            A pastiche of reminiscences and newspaper clippings that tries to set the record straight and certainly suggests that, as important as the myth of the golden-hearted Western girl may be, the real Margaret was far more interesting than the cinematic versions.  (b&w photos, not seen)