Molly Brown


Jason D. Tiller

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Molly Brown earned the nickname "Unsinkable" because she refused to back down against Quartermaster Robert Hichens, who was trying to intimidate her in lifeboat #6. Eventually, she took charge of the lifeboat from Hichens and encouraged other women passengers to row.

Molly Brown was never really called "Molly", it is supposedly an invention by Hollywood.
 
Dec 9, 2004
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Hello everyone and Merry Christmas all. I am now a second time visitor, (first time was to register and receive username). Well, I've read all of the posted regarding Ms. Molly Tobin Brown and Ms. Muffet Brown's post dated Thursday 27 July, 2000 made my jaw drop! My family name is Tucker and we lost an aunt who's name was Ella Tucker....I've been unable, so far, to find much information on her. Please, Ms. Muffet Brown, if you are still coming to these pages, could you give me anymore information about Mr. John Bert Brady's sister Ms. Ella Brady Tucker?!
Would be wonderful to find if this is the lady we've been searching for!

Again, all, Merry Christmas and Happy New Years.
Michelle
 
Sep 1, 2004
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I heard somewhere (I think it was here) that Margaret Brown was not called "Molly" - it's Hollywood's innovation. How is it with "Unsinkable Molly Brown"? If it's Hollywood's innovation, she could not been called Molly in 1912. Any ideas?
 

Bob Godfrey

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She was never called Molly in her own lifetime, only Margaret or Maggie. The name Molly was a Broadway rather than a Hollywood invention, by Meredith Wilson for his stage musical Unsinkable Molly Brown. Wilson thought that 'Molly' sounded better and was easier to sing than Margaret or Maggie. The film version of the musical retained the name, and Margaret Brown has been stuck with it ever since! But she really did refer to herself as unsinkable, and had been described by a writer as 'the unsinkable Mrs Brown'.

Wilson also invented the portrayal of Margaret as a unreformed Beverley Hillbilly, which has persisted to some extent in later films. In reality, the Margaret Brown who travelled on Titanic was a well-educated, cultured woman who could speak several languages and was not out of place in any company.
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Kyrila Scully

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To add to what Bob has already said, though Margaret's family was quite poor and lacked resources for education and nice clothes, they all strived (as many hillbilly families do) to better their circumstances. Margaret's family actually lived in Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River, and Margaret was familiar with a girl her own age who was niece to Hannibal's other famous resident, Samuel Clemons aka Mark Twain.

Margaret reminds me a lot of my Aunt Amanda, a real Kentucky hillbilly, who married well and sought to improve herself by climbing the social ladder and absorbing culture through music, art and literature. Margaret traveled in well-heeled circles and was quite welcome among the Newport Beach crowd, if not accepted by the cliquish top families of Denver. In Europe, Margaret was a constant student of many subjects, particularly the arts and languages, but also ancient history, which led her to join the Astors on their honeymoon trip to Egypt. In fact, I believe Egypt was THE PLACE to be in the winter of 1912 as many of Titanic's first class passengers had spent some time there before boarding the ship.

Margaret was warned by an Egyptian fortune teller not to travel by sea, but she laughed about it because he obviously knew she was an American and would have to return by sea. She did buy a jade talisman which looked like a mummy (I've seen it on display at the TSOD - now it's gone to Branson for the new exhibit), and it was this 3 inch souvenir that sparked tales and rumors of a mummy being aboard Titanic that cursed the ship. She later gave the talisman to Capt. Rostron of the Carpathia as a token of her appreciation.

As for being called Molly in her lifetime, I did find a tabloid reference of a nature that used "Molly" as a term referring to any woman from Ireland. It was noted in Kristen Iverson's book that Polly Pry, a journalist friend of Margaret's wrote: "Here's luck to the annual Lindsey-bad-boy-Mrs. J.J. Brown show. We'll all be there, Molly darlin.'"

This comment was made in reference to an annual talent show that Margaret hosted with a local judge to raise money for a boys' reform school. The "Molly" comment was the result not of a pet name for Margaret, but because she "had the temerity to be named Margaret." All women of Irish descent who were named Mary or Margaret got tagged as Molly much in the same way a black person is tagged with a name like Leroy or Willie. It has nothing to do with their real names, but with the contemporary trends of thoughtless and passive prejudice.

In fact, I use that quote in my script when I portray Margaret Brown to explain the Molly phenom.

But I recommend you read Kristen Iverson's book for more information. Also for accurate information and authorized by the family.

Kyrila
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Bob and Kyrila have wrapped it up for you pretty well. But I will second the recommendation that you read Iversen’s book, which isn’t just well written and researched but puts "Molly" in perspective culturally. She was a much more serious, hard-working, intellectual woman than she’s been portrayed elsewhere. On the other hand, she was every bit the eccentric we already think of her as! After Titanic established her as a "personality" she was able to channel her fame in positive political ways and actually had a deeper social influence than might be imagined.

Having said that, the perception that Molly was a monumental society figure at the time she sailed on Titanic is mistaken. She was already rich and well-connected but it took Titanic to make her a celebrity. Even that celebrity was mainly regional —— and nowhere near the extent of her posthumous fame.

Ironically, the most famous woman in her own right who was aboard Titanic is now not as well known as Molly —— and that of course is "Lucile," who had a truly major impact on the world through her work in fashion, media, theatre and film. There was no other female Titanic passenger and few male passengers who achieved the level of importance during their own time as Lucile did.

Molly’s fame today, of course, surpasses them all but that fame has come since the 1950s with the popularity of the play and movie based on her life.
 

Bob Godfrey

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On second thoughts, I was wrong to say that Meredith Wilson invented the persona as well as the name of his 'Molly' character. It was certainly he who popularised the now familiar image of 'Molly', but credit for the invention should rightfully go to Gene Fowler, who included a brief chapter on The Unsinkable Mrs Brown in his 1933 book Timber Line, which was supposedly a work of non-fiction. Fowler's Margaret is in fact a curious mix of fact and fiction, boarding the Titanic at Liverpool (a neat trick), singing in the ship's concert and providing further entertainment by demonstrating feats of expert marksmanship with her Colt automatic.

In the lifeboat she takes charge at the point of her pistol, cursing the men who don't row hard enough and distributing her own garments to the needy: "It was said she presented a fantastic sight in the light flares, half standing among the terrified passengers, stripped down to her corset, the beloved Swiss bloomers, the Duke of Charlot's golf stockings and her stout shoes".

Fans (like me) of ANTR and ce-ment floors will appreciate an earlier reference to: "Leadville Johnny went the limit in building a house for his bride. As a climactic touch, he laid concrete floors in every room of the house, and embedded silver dollars, edge to edge, in the cement surfaces!"

But nowhere in his book did Mr Fowler refer to Margaret as Molly. He claimed rather that the Press dubbed her as 'The Unsinkable Mrs Brown' and as 'Lady Margaret of the Titanic'.
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Bob Godfrey

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Could be the AY and Minnie mine, which had a very strict dress code. At least one of the workers dressed in his best and went down like a gentleman. :)
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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I'm finally getting around to reading Kristen Iversen's bio on Margaret Brown.
I won't take up space here with comments and the like, but one thing I do think is appropriate to put here is Iversen's assertion that Margaret Brown and Marian Thayer were close friends. I have never seen this mentioned elsewhere. Can anyone confirm?
 
Jul 12, 2005
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The Titanic Historical Society sells reproduction Carpathia medals. Check their website www.titanic1.org for information. Also, Eaton and Haas talk about the ceremony presenting a loving cup and medals to the Captain and crew of the Carpathia in their book "Titanic--A Journey Through Time". On Wednesday, May 29, 1912, the Carpathia arrived in New York on her first return visit following her rescue of the Titanic survivors. After the passengers left the ship, Molly Brown and her survivor's committee boarded the ship and presented Captain Rostron with a loving cup. The medals were presented to the officers and crew--gold medals to the senior officers, silver medals to the junior officers and bronze medals to the general crew. Robert H. Gibbons
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Not to take anything away from Molly Brown, but as the link Mark has shared proves, she was not chairman of the Committee of Titanic Survivors. At the time of the presentation of the awards to Carpathia’s crew, it was Fred Seward who was chairman, although Sam Goldenberg originally filled that position. The committee numbered 25, including Brown; her title, if she had one, was not publicized. Most of the people on the committee were men, which in retrospect seems odd, but at the time it may have been because so many of the women were bereaved. Molly’s heroism was just becoming nationally known at the time of the presentation, and that was the main reason she did the honors of handing Rostron the cup. Otherwise her presence might be seen as symbolic of the gratitude of the women survivors who weren’t present, but it wasn’t indicative of her role on the committee itself.
 
J

João Carlos Pereira Martins

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I was just wondering if Molly was really like she's shown in films. She's normally portrayed as a vulgar woman who didn't know the etiquette, speaks with exaggerated American accent and makes everybody to feel embarassed with her presence. I know she was fluent in languages and arts and had vast cultural basket, but did she was really like we see her in films? I suppose she was at least... an extroverted woman...

I though somebody might know the answer.

Best regards,
João
 

Kyrila Scully

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Joao wrote: "I was just wondering if Molly was really like she's shown in films"

An emphatic NO!

This has always been a sore spot with me, because I've never been satisfied with any film or stage portrayal of Margaret Brown, which is one of the reasons I portray her among other Titanic women in my Titanic Impact program. I want to portray her properly - even went as far as to consult with Muffet Brown and Helen Benziger to learn what her voice sounded like, whether or not she had a distinct accent (she didn't).

You are correct that Mrs. Brown was fluent in several languages and self-taught in the arts and cultures of many countries. Her adventures could really make an interesting film, but alas! It is her legend that usually gets filmed.

Kyrila
 

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