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An Unsinkable Story

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By Joyce B. Lohse

Whenever somebody asks about my book, Unsinkable: The Molly Brown Story,a question often arises. Why did you write about the person we know as Molly Brown? What new material or information could you possibly share about this famous historic character from Colorado?

As a journalist, I constantly search for the truth behind a story. Much has been written about the Molly Brown story based on legend and myth. My book, appropriate for all ages, is the first of its kind to present a nonfiction biography about the person we know as Molly Brown. Through my research, I sorted through the myths to find the truth. In the process, I discovered there is much more to her than we learn from the Titanic disaster, and that her many quotations bring her character stridently to life.

The first truth I like to point out is that Molly Brown’s name is Margaret. As a youngster, she was known as Maggie, then became Margaret as an adult, and Mrs. J. J. Brown after she was married. She was never known as Molly in her lifetime. Many people believe the name “Molly” was modified in the 1960s for the Broadway theater production of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” then the feature film of the same name. My research shows that the name “Molly” was used in a 1932 newspaper obituary, probably as a nod to her poor Irish family background. Still, the loosely used nickname appeared after she was deceased.

Once the name issue is straightened out, the question still lingers. What was my initial interest in the story and how did I find my material? As is often the case, I came across Margret Brown’s story by accident. Her Unsinkable story found me. While I was collecting information for a presentation about immigration records from Europe, and the use of passenger lists for research, I was reading historic Denver newspaper articles on microfilm. My film reader came to a screeching halt when I stumbled across accounts of the April 1912 Titanic disaster, which contained useful passenger lists of survivors as well as casualties of the steamship’s wreck with an iceberg and its terrible demise.

In addition, the articles contained accounts of the Titanic disaster by a Denver survivor of the tragedy, Margaret Brown. The descriptions were extensive and eloquent. Much later, I discovered why. As a woman, Mrs. Brown was not invited to share her testimony with a Congressional hearing about the steamship wreck. She was hurt and angry at the exclusion. Mrs. Brown knew how to use the print media to best advantage, and offered her unabridged story to Denver newspaper reporters. They snapped up the bait, and she became a local heroine known as Lady Margaret, Titanic Survivor.

The only way to convey the impact of Margaret Brown’s description of that terrible night in the North Atlantic Ocean when the Titanic sank is to share a sample from the Denver Post, April 19, 1912. No writer or reporter could conjure up a more moving account of the Titanic disaster.

“Someone said, ‘Women first, quick!’ and I was literally thrown into a lifeboat and lowered to the foaming ocean.

“There in that lifeboat, with a sailor at my side, I rowed for all my might for seven and a half hours. I rowed until my head was sick, until I thought I was dead. Fifteen more could have been saved in our boat …

“Just as the Carpathia [rescue ship] swung alongside of us, I lost my remaining strength and fell exhausted. Two hours after that I was in the shop’s hospital, nursing the hysterical. Don’t ask me how I did it – I don’t know myself. Here in this gloomy room I have been three days and nights, working with every bit of strength in my body.”

Margaret Brown was meant to survive and live out the remaining two decades of her life. Characteristically, it was a life full of activism, altruism, and adventure. After tending to the survivors of the Titanic, forming a survivor’s association, planning a monument to the victims, and presenting honors to the rescuers, she moved on to help people in many situations and to support issues she considered worthy and important.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To learn more about Margaret Brown and the Titanic, read Joyce Lohse’s book, Unsinkable: The Molly Brown Story, published by Filter Press. Her article, “Leadville’s Favorite Unsinkable Titanic Survivor,” is scheduled to appear in the April issue of Colorado Centralmagazine. For more about Joyce Lohse’s books and articles, go to: www.LohseWorks.com .

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