Margaret Brown was more than an American socialite and philanthropist; she was a woman with a big heart and love for people. Maggie had a humble beginning that may have given her the concern for the less fortunate that made her famous. Born Margaret Tobin on July 18, 1867, in Hannibal, Missouri, to Irish Catholic immigrant parents living in a two-room home, she had three brothers, a sister, and two half-sisters. His parents were widowed very young.
When Margaret was eighteen, she and her older brother Daniel moved to Leadville, Colorado, with her sister Mary Ann and her sister’s husband. In those days, mining in Colorado offered many opportunities to get a good job in industry or in businesses that served miners and their families. Maggie lived with her brother in a small house and found work in a department store. Margaret eventually met and married JJ Brown.
Maggie had the opportunity to marry rich men who made their fortunes in mining and tried to woo her. Instead, she married a self-taught entrepreneur. When asked about that, he said:
“I wanted a rich man, but I loved Jim Brown. I thought about how I wanted comfort for my father and how I had decided to stay single until a man came along who could give the weary old man the things he longed for. Jim was as poor as he was. us, and I had no better chances in life. I fought hard with myself in those days. I loved Jim, but he was poor. Finally, I decided that I would be better off with a poor man whom I loved than with someone rich whose money had attracted me. So I married Jim Brown. “
The couple were married on September 1, 1886 in Leadville at the Church of the Annunciation. For the next three years they had two children, Larry and Helen. In 1893 everything changed for the Brown family. JJ was responsible for the gold discovery at the Little Jonny silver mine, owned by Ibex Mining. The switch from silver to gold production enriched the company and changed the unemployment rate to 90 percent among Leadville miners. The Ibex granted him 12,500 shares and a position on its Board of Directors.
Margaret donated her time and effort to work at a soup kitchen that served the needy families of unlucky miners. She was outspoken about women’s rights and very active in the suffrage movement for women to have the right to vote. Maggie assisted in fundraising efforts for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (completed in 1911). He also worked with Judge Ben Lindsey to help homeless children and establish America’s first juvenile court, which formed the model for America’s modern juvenile court system.
Margaret’s social views were not supported by her husband, who had very sexist beliefs about the role of women in marriage and society. Sadly, these views were typical among most wealthy men and their high-society wives in those days. Although it never happened to her, women were regularly and legally flogged by their husbands for most crimes. These may include serving dinner late, having a messy home, or not properly supervising children. Maggie also managed to annoy JJ and others by wearing oversized women’s hats to draw attention to her and her causes.
In less than a year, the Browns were wealthy and in 1894 they bought a Victorian mansion in Denver. In 1897 they built a summer home near Bear Creek in southwest Denver. Margaret helped establish the Denver Women’s Club with other wealthy wives. The club’s mission was to improve the lives of women through education and philanthropy. Maggie embraced her new role by getting involved with the arts and learning to speak French, German, Italian and Russian fluently.
Margaret Brown became a wealthy socialite, but she despised snobs. Maggie threw successful parties attended by many of Denver’s best-known celebrities. However, even after starting an association that celebrated French culture (which was a favorite of wealthy women in those days), she was unable to join Denver’s most elite group of women, Sacred 36. Members of that group they attended exclusive parties and dinners. by Louise Sneed Hill. Brown called her “the most snobbish woman in Denver.”
Maggie’s early feminist views constantly annoyed her husband and some of the more influential members of the Denver Society. In 1909 Margaret and JJ signed a separation agreement. As religious Catholics, they never divorced, but lived apart for the rest of their lives. The two of them still communicated in a friendly manner and cared for each other. Margaret received a cash settlement, kept possession of their homes, and received a monthly allowance of $ 700 to continue her travels and social work.
Margaret Brown spent 1912 traveling the Middle East and Europe. While in France, he received a message from Denver saying that his oldest grandson was seriously ill. He booked first-class passage on the RMS Titanic, which was the next passenger ship leaving for New York. Her daughter Helen was supposed to accompany her, but she decided to stay in Paris to continue her studies. Brown was transported to the Titanic aboard the cuddly SS Nomadic in Cherbourg, France, on the night of April 10, 1912.
On April 15, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg around 11:40 p.m. Less than three hours later it slid below the surface. During the rush to save as many as possible, Maggie helped other passengers into their lifeboats, refusing to board hers. Eventually, she was persuaded to abandon ship in lifeboat No. 6. The impetuous Brown was later branded “unsinkable” by a newspaper reporting her stubborn refusal to abandon ship until she had helped as many as possible to get on the lifeboats. like his other actions to save lives and help survivors.
When the Titanic sank, Maggie urged Mayor Robert Hichens to turn the half-empty lifeboat around and search for survivors. Hichens feared that the lifeboat would be knocked over by the Titanic’s suction or flooded by people trying to get into it, so he declined his request. Passengers in his lifeboat later told reporters that Brown threatened to throw the crew member overboard. After the survivors of the Titanic were picked up by the RMS Carpathia, Brown organized a committee of first class passengers to assist the second and third class passengers. They provided the essentials and even organized counseling.
Margaret Brown ran for a Senate seat from Colorado in 1914. She abruptly ended her campaign to return to France to work with the American Committee for Devastated France during World War I. Later, she used her newfound fame as “The Unsinkable Mrs. Brown” to advocate for literacy among women and children, and better working conditions for miners. Maggie also continued to lobby for women’s rights and raise money for worthy causes like the Red Cross.
During the 1920s, Maggie fulfilled a lifelong ambition and became an actress. The desire that the public had to meet her due to all the publicity she received caused people to come out in great numbers. Her fame as a Titanic survivor and her outright cheekiness made her an instant hit in the theater world. She survived her husband, but on October 26, 1932, Margaret Brown died in her sleep at the Barbizon Hotel in New York City. An autopsy revealed that he died of a brain tumor. She was buried with JJ Brown in Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury, Long Island, New York.
Margaret Brown’s fame as a heroic Titanic survivor helped her promote historic preservation and commemoration of the bravery and chivalry displayed by the men aboard the Titanic. During World War I, he worked with the American Committee for Devastated France and helped wounded French and American soldiers. She was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur for her actions, activism, and philanthropy.
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