The interesting life of Missouri native Margaret Tobin Brown has been presented in two acts on stages across America.
The popular musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” tells the rags-to-riches story of Molly as portrayed by notable actresses, including Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 movie version, written by Meredith Wilson and Richard Morris.
Born in Hannibal, Mo., in 1867, Molly lived in a small home with her parents John and Johanna before moving to Leadville, Co., and marrying JJ “Leadville Johnny” Brown in 1886. JJ owned the Little Johnny Mine and struck it rich with veins of both gold and silver in 1893.
The sudden wealth propelled Molly into a life of high society and travel, including trips to Europe to mingle with royalty before a return trip to America finds her aboard the RMS Titanic. Despite her wealth, Molly retained her Midwestern upbringing, encouraging passengers to get into lifeboats despite the perils of the open sea, as the ocean liner sank on April 14, 1912.
While the musical focuses on Molly’s life as a wife, socialite and Titanic heroine, in real life she was outspoken regarding miners’ rights and ran for the United States Congress representing Colorado in 1901, 1909, and 1914. Leading up to the Women’s Suffrage Movement, she helped organize the National Women’s Trade Union League and the Conference of Great Women.
During and following World War I, Molly devoted her time and assets with the American Committee for Devastated France, earning the French Legion of Honor for her work. After a life of adventure and philanthropy, she passed away in 1932 at age 65.
Today both her home in Hannibal and her Denver mansion are open for tours, and the musical continues to provide theatergoers with a brief glimpse of her life. Like many high schools across the county, Kansas City’s Winnetonka High presented their student-acted version in five performances in March 1976.