“I am sick at heart, but alive and safe”

This quote was from Margaret, “Molly,” Brown after the infamous sinking of the Titanic. I ran across her story recently when preparing a presentation with colleagues on recognition in philanthropy. It seems she was among the first to publicize philanthropic giving of her peers and solicit them publicly at events in her home.

My research caused me to learn more about the Titanic, beyond what we have all seen and heard in the movies. The Titanic was the largest moveable man-made object in the world with 10 decks. It was financed by J.P. Morgan and had 804 staterooms, an indoor pool, a gym, Turkish baths, a squash court, barbershop and a hospital. 

There were 20 life boats, 4 more than required and if filled to capacity would hold 1178 people. On that fateful night, there were 2228 people on board the Titanic.

It cost $475 in the lowest of third class passage across the Atlanta Ocean, and $4700 for the lowest first class ticket. 107 children were on board. The youngest aged 2 months, survived in lifeboat #10. The eldest at 74 years of age perished. There were 10 dogs in first class, and cats, rats, mice, and live chickens on board. 

On April 14, 1912, at 11:40 pm, the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink. They were 400 miles south of Newfoundland and 5 hours from any help. 18 of 20 lifeboats launched by 2:05 am, but they were not filled to capacity. The Titanic sank at 2:30 am, 2 hours and 40 minutes after striking the iceberg. Two sets of musicians continued to play in the lounges until the end, and none of them survived.

Molly Brown was considered a heroine that night because she helped row a boat to safety. There was much confusion on what really happened that night, given the contradicting stories told by survivors. Molly made it her mission in life to comfort and raise funds for the immigrant passengers who survived. They had lost everything on their journey to the new world.

Molly Brown herself has been the subject of many books, movies, and stage productions, and has become one of Denver’s most intriguing legends. She was an amazing and spirited woman and became active in the women’s suffrage movement and labor reform efforts. By 1970, her home had fallen prey to deterioration and was in danger of being demolished. A group of concerned citizens incorporated themselves as Historic Denver, Inc. and fought to save and restore the Brown home. 

What began with the Molly Brown House Museum in late 1970 has expanded into a citywide historic preservation movement. Today, fifty years into its work, Historic Denver engages the community through efforts including showcasing the story of Denver’s Chicano/a Movement in La Alma Lincoln Park, finding preservation solutions for buildings in jeopardy, and creating an inventory of significant buildings and neighborhoods across the city through the Discover Denver project. We should all be grateful for the life and example of this amazing and “unsinkable” woman, Molly Brown.