The Titanic- Part 2

As Margaret sat down for dinner on the night of 14th April, 1912 her friend Mrs. Bucknell who was with her on the table said, “I had a premonition that something is going to happen to the ship.” Margaret joined with others on the table and laughed at her. Mrs. Bucknell was known for her always tragic premonitions. “The Titanic is unsinkable” Margaret reminded her. She told her that they were a part of history and she should enjoy it while she can. After dinner they retired to the cabin for a night’s sleep, complaining about how cold it was on the deck.

Dinner on the Titanic. It was a lavish affair.

Margaret was reading a book by her window, when the iceberg hit the Titanic for the first time. Margaret fell on the ground. “Picking myself up I proceeded to see what the steamer had hit. On emerging from the room I found men in the gangway in their pyjamas. They while standing were chaffing each other, one of them remarked, “Are you prepared to swim in those things?” referring to the pyjamas.The women were standing in their kimonos. All seemed to be quietly listening and thinking that nothing serious had happened, though realising that the engines had stopped immediately after the crash and the ship was standstill.” 

An artist’s impression of the Titanic sinking in the newspaper next day.

After confirming that everything was alright, Margaret returned to her cabin and got back to her book. She looked through the curtain. The sea looked calm and the sky bright with the stars shinning on the palace of the sea. After 15 mins the ship’s engines remained shut and she couldn’t hear any chatter in the corridor. She opened the door. “I looked out and saw a man whose face was blanched, his eyes protruding, wearing the look of a haunted creature. “Get your life-saver.” he yelled. Snatching up fur and placing a skill capote on my head, I hurriedly mounted the stairs to A deck, and there I found possibly fifty passengers all putting their life-belts.”  When Margaret reached the A deck, Mrs Bucknell was right there looking terrified, looking at Margaret with an expression that said, “I told you so.”  On the deck there was a lot of commotion. There were people running around everywhere and the life-boats were being lowered from the falls. Margaret wanted to the check if the lower decks where the poorer people stayed were getting any help. Just then she met Madame DeViller of Paris who was in her night-gown and running to get her money and jewellery back from her room. Margaret told her not to go and rush to the lifeboat instead. She assured her that this was just a safety measure and she would be brought back to the Titanic later.

Most of these life-boats left the Titanic almost empty. The staff was not really trained for a situation like this. Titanic was said to be unsinkable and nobody ever thought it would.

As Margaret started walking to the other side of the ship to check on the lowers decks, “Suddenly I saw a shadow and a few seconds later, I was taken hold of and with the words”You are going too.” I was dropped fully four feet into the lowering life boat. I just saw one man in charge of the boat.”  As the boat went down Margaret heard the sound of music being played. She thought to herself how could the musicians build up courage to play music when their life was in grave danger. As she looked up she saw the captain of the ship standing and looking down at them, “As we reached the sea as smooth as glass, we looked up and saw the benign, resigned countenance and the Chesterfieldian bearing of our beloved Captain. He looked down upon us a beloved father, directing us to row to the light in the distance.”

The captain of the Titanic Edward Smith and his team.

Margaret’s boat had fourteen women and just one man who was rowing the boat. Margaret realised that it was impossible to depend on him to row them to safety. She took the oar in her hands and asked a young girl on the boat to help her. They rowed as fast as they could. By the time they were a little away from the ship they saw that the E and the C deck had completely submerged. The music grew fainter and finally stopped. As they went further away from the Titanic, she saw horrible things. Men and women jumping from all over. Some of them trying to jump on the lifeboats and failing.  The biggest problems of the rescue efforts of the Titanic was that most of the lifeboats  left the ship empty. Margaret’s boat had only 15 people when it could easily fit in 15-20 more. After about an hour after they left the Titanic they heard a loud thud. The Titanic had vanished and nothing remained. It was so calm that it scared Margaret. She told the quarterback of the ship that it was only appropriate to row the boat back towards the Titanic. There would be a lot of people still swimming and alive. Nobody listened to her even after a lot of persuasion from Margaret. After almost 10 hours on the boat on a very cold night and very tired arms Margaret finally saw a ship that was coming their way. It was the Carpathia.

I own this paper. It was so cool to get to read this print from 1912.

Once on the Carpathia, Margaret saw and heard horror stories all around. The Carpathia already had passengers on board and the addition of the rescued passengers didn’t make the task very easy. They were low on first-aid supplies, food, water and blankets. Margaret realised that there was no time to sit down and think about the horror. She had to start helping in any way she could. She realised that the most crucial thing to do was to find out and list down the details of the survivors and the family they had missing. She got everything from addresses to telephone numbers. She started making the list.  It was important to send information back home about the list. So she recorded messages on the transistor and spend nights sending information. She also would go around asking survivors what they need and would send the list to the captain by night. She realised that the richest of the people had been rescued and that in this catastrophe it was important to raise money. She herself had lost all her gowns, jewellery and money in the Titanic. After a lot of persuasion and effort Margaret was able to raise 10000 dollars from the people on board. In her time on Carpathia she had various experiences. She met a mad women who was running around with strands of her hair in her hand trying to find her baby. In the rescue efforts the women and children were given first preference. A whole lot of them had lost their brothers and husbands. A woman who had thought she had lost her son, found her son at the end of the journey when they reached Newyork. There were a handful of experiences that gave joy, though the majority were devastating.  She adopted three women onboard Titanic and send them a stipend every month till she lived. By the time The Carpathia reached New york Margaret was a hero.

Margaret honoured the crew of Carpathia for the help with the daunting task of helping the survivors of the Titanic. She raised 4500 dollars and distributed them amongst the crew.

After Margaret reached New york she wrote articles for various publications all over the world. She blamed Joseph Ismay, the Managing Director of the White Star Line that forced the captain to overspeed. She openly spoke about how the stewards were selfish and useless because they refused to do their jobs of informing passengers about the life-boats and rescue. She kept working for the women and children to get their compensation from White Star Line long after the world had forgotten about it. Margaret got the Legion of Honor Khighthood from the French Government for the work she had done all her life.

The movie Titanic we saw many years later made by James Cameron has a lot of incidents based on the story told by Margaret. Nobody has told the story of the Titanic like her. The fearless Margaret Brown was remembered as “The Unsinkable Molly” till she lived and after she died. She is not a hero because she survived, but because she wanted to row back the boat to find any survivors, because she worked endlessly to help and raise money for them, because she adopted three women, because she understood that being rich is not about the gowns you wore but about the people you helped when they had lost everything.

Kathy Bates played Margaret in Titanic.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown!!

Margaret Brown- Part 1

On the night of 14th April 1912, Margaret Brown wore one of the gowns of her very famous collection and went to have dinner.  It was a dinner like none other. There was a vast spread of meat, fruits, vegetables, desserts, breads and cheeses and included cuisines from all over the world to choose from. Being a socialite herself she had a decent knowledge about vintage culinary and artefacts. The hall was full with one of the most beautiful collections of vintage vases, culinary and furniture. She found her designated table next to her friend. They chatted and ate, marvelling at the creation they were sitting in. She decided not to take her coat off as she ate, it was  really cold that night. They finished dinner and Margaret headed to her cabin. The cabin was well-heated and she felt much better. She got into her night-gown and began reading a book, near the window with the night lamp on. She was engrossed in her reading when something hit the window so hard that she fell down on the ground. Margaret Brown was on the Titanic and The Unsinkable Titanic had suffered  it’s first hit from an iceberg. Everything she did since made her a hero and she was world famous over night.

The young Margaret Brown, just after marriage!

Margaret Tobin was born to Irish immigrants John and Johanna Tobin in 1867, in Hannibal, Missouri. Just like many other people around the world their family came to America which was experiencing a revolution in industrialisation. Margaret was a part of a very big family, which was essentially poor. Margaret though was always a rebel and a curious child. She wanted to be free and independent. She came from a Catholic family that believed in educating daughters, freedom and equality. At 13 she had to start working in a factory as a labourer. She got her first hand experience with problems of labours. As she would grow older she will fight for labour rights. At 15 she and her brother migrated to Leadville for better opportunities and more money. Margaret got a job at a department store. She was always a philanthropist, with money or without it. She became a member of various charity groups. People now knew her and noticed her for her fearless thinking and confidence. At age 19 she was in a pub when J.J.Brown saw her and fell in love with her instantly. After a few weeks of running behind her he finally convinced Margaret to marry him. Margaret was 19 when she went from Tobin to Mrs.Brown.

Margaret with her family. J.J.Brown, daughter Hellen and son Lawrence.

Though Margaret was a social worker and an activist she also always dreamt of being very rich. May be it was because of the poverty that she had seen growing up. J.J.Brown was a mine superintendent and did not have a big bank balance though he was not really short on luck. In 1893 J.J.Brown struck gold, and I’m not just using it as a phrase. J.J.Brown really struck pure gold in one of the mines he was leading. The Browns became millionaires instantly. This changed everything for Margaret. It was the start of living her dream.

The Little Jonny Mill near Leadville that struck Gold.
The Molly Brown house in Denver. She had a great sense of interior. The collection of books in her library was amazing. She loved vintage and antique collectibles. As you can very well see in the picture.
The entrance hall. I being in Denver took the chance to see the house. The house is now a museum. Photography is prohibited, both the pictures are from the web. This house is also supposed to be haunted and is included in one of the ‘Haunted places’ tours in Denver. 🙂

With all that money The Browns got themselves a big house near the Capitol Hill in Denver. This became a historic monument for the city long after the Browns died. Margaret got herself an education in Carnegie University. She traveled the whole world with her husband. She developed a world view. Being a curious soul she read a book a week. Her showcase of the library in her Denver home would become a thing to see in Denver in the 1800s. She developed a very unique sense of fashion. Her gowns, her hairstyles, her jewellery all became a regular feature in the press. Margaret wasn’t just a socialite. She remained a philanthropist and an activist all her life, working on issues of women empowerment and labour rights.

She traveled a lot. These photos are from her travels in Japan and France.
Margaret had a great collections of gowns and was always in the news for it. Her sense of fashion is still used as a reference by a lot of designers till date.

At 46 J.J.Brown suffered a paralytic stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. Since the attack everything went downhill for Margaret personally. There were constant fights and news of affairs and what not. There were rumours that the Browns had got themselves a divorce. They never did. The Browns were  devout Catholics, and divorce was considered a sin. They never got themselves an official divorce but they were separated. Margaret got herself a great settlement. According to the agreement, Margaret received a cash settlement and maintained possession of the house on Pennsylvania Street, in Denver. She also received $700 a month allowing her to continue her travels and philanthropic activities. James went to Ireland. Margaret hardly lived in Denver though. She mostly loved to spend her time in Newport, New york, Florida and France.

After the divorce, Margaret felt less burdened. Now more independent than ever, Margaret departed on a trip to Egypt, Rome and Paris with her daughter Helen, and friends J.J. and Madeleine Astor, in 1912. However, news of her ill grandson hastened Margaret’s return, and she booked passage on the first available ship, the Titanic.

A day before she boarded the Titanic, Margaret would visit a fortune teller. He would tell her not to board the ship, being Margaret she would jump at the opportunity and do exactly the opposite. Hoping for an adventure she was always in search of. Her life was going to change forever. From a Denver based socialite she was going to become a house-hold name in America and eventually the world.

The Titanic, just after leaving the Southampton harbour in England on April 10 1912, it was New york bound. Ofcourse it never reached New york!