Heroine of the Titanic: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown

Heroine of the Titanic: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown

by Elaine Landau
     
 

Margaret (Molly) Brown is best known for her bravery and compassion during the tragic sinking of the Titanic, which catapulted her to international fame virtually overnight. But few people are aware that she was also an outspoken suffragist, a tireless champion of miners’ rights, and one of the first women to run for the U.S. Congress. Raised in a

Overview

Margaret (Molly) Brown is best known for her bravery and compassion during the tragic sinking of the Titanic, which catapulted her to international fame virtually overnight. But few people are aware that she was also an outspoken suffragist, a tireless champion of miners’ rights, and one of the first women to run for the U.S. Congress. Raised in a working-class Mississippi River town, Margaret—who was never called Molly in her lifetime—followed her brother to a rough-and-tumble Colorado boomtown at a time when few women dared to settle in the then untamed West. She married a silver miner who eventually struck it rich, and she used her new wealth and social prominence to further her own education and to fight for the rights of others, regardless of their race or religious beliefs. This vivid account of Margaret Brown’s remarkable life from well-regarded author Elaine Landau shows how much a strong woman could accomplish, even at a time when few opportunities were available. Archival photographs and excerpts from early-twentieth-century newspapers and Brown family letters provide a clear picture of this forward-looking, energetic individual and the society that she strove to reform. Chronology, endnotes, bibliography, index.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Landau hits just the right tone in this complete portrait of a "social figure, suffragette, and patriot", and readers will enjoy learning the truth about her.
School Library Journal, Starred

While keeping the focus on Brown's experiences and personality, the text quietly illuminates the social and historical landscape that surrounded her, contrasting her forthright support of causes such as worker's rights and feminism with more staid behavior generally expected of women of her social status. Part of Landau's intent is to separate fact from legend, and to this end she retells the rumors alongside accounts that set the facts straight.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Separating the mythical Molly Brown from the controversial Margaret Brown, Landau's biography portrays a larger-than-life female who symbolizes women's emerging independence in the early twentieth century.
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

This informative biography offers an objective, well-balanced look at the woman who became an American legend for her heroism during the Titanic disaster. Black-and-white archival photographs effectively illustrate the accessible text, which concentrates on Brown's life after the Titanic and on her activism as a social reformer.
Horn Book Guide

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The vivacity of the socialite and activist who survived the infamous shipwreck seems curiously absent from this otherwise well-researched biography. Landau (John F. Kennedy Jr.) cautions, "Much of what you think you know about [Margaret Brown] may be untrue"; for instance, she was "never called Molly during her lifetime." But the author often corrects misinformation from newspaper stories and the 1960s film (The Unsinkable Molly Brown) with the assumption that readers know something of her subject. One of the strongest sections is Landau's description of how Margaret threatened to throw the simpering quartermaster of her lifeboat overboard and how the society women passengers rowed to save victims from drowning a passage that proves more inspiring than the characterization in the 1997 movie. Margaret earned her fame by her dedication to raising funds and finding housing for lower-class and immigrant women (many of whom were widowed in the shipwreck). The bulk of the volume focuses on Margaret's humble beginnings and marriage to an engineer whose success thrust her into the upper echelons of society. Several anecdotes capture a saucy, witty Margaret; for example when a friend of Margaret's points out another woman at a luncheon, saying it "wasn't proper to wear diamonds in the daytime," Margaret replies in the woman's defense, "I didn't think so either until I had some." Brown's pithy quotes unfortunately underscore the contrast between her own words and the volume's rather belabored narrative style. Ages 10-14. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
Separating the mythical Molly Brown from the controversial Margaret Brown, Landau's biography portrays a larger-than-life female who symbolizes women's emerging independence in the early twentieth century. Beginning with the tragedy that made Brown a folk hero and the rescue work that proved her character, Landau traces Brown's life from a humble birth in Hannibal, Missouri, through factory days, western migration, love match, gold strike, and social activism. The details about her ostentatious lifestyle and unhappy marriage portray her as contradictory rather than romantic. Teenagers will enjoy the prediction of the shipwreck, the elegant but practical clothes and possessions that Brown took from her Titanic stateroom, the gold mine that made her rich, and her continued social success in spite of stifling conventions. Less interesting are the details about her children's lives. The many pictures accompanying the biography give a sense of the times and the ebb and flow of Brown's colorful life. This motivating account will fit well in research units about women's rights, personal courage, or the Titanic tragedy. Simon Adams's Titanic (DK, 1999), providing a colorful and detailed presentation of the vessel in the context of comparable ships and their era as well as characters in the tragedy, reinforces Landau's biography. Because Landau explains how media and myth have muddied the real story of Molly Brown, a comparison with Joan W. Blos's children's story, The Heroine of the Titanic (Morrow, 1991), will highlight the difference between nonfiction and fiction based on fact. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Chronology. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasionallapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Clarion, 132p, $18. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer: Lucy Schall
Children's Literature
Margaret Brown has been memorialized on stage and screen for being one of the few people with a little common sense aboard the sinking Titanic. Landau's biography addresses this pivotal event, of course, before flashing back to Brown's roots as a first-generation Irish-American born in Hannibal, Missouri, moving as a teenager to Leadville, Colorado, and making a fortuitous marriage to the future mining tycoon, J. J. Brown. Alas, the rest of Margaret Brown's life is a tale of trying to make it as nouveau riche within Denver, New York, and European society. Brown did do good works, was a peripheral member of the burgeoning women's movement—but as related here, her efforts appear to be unfocused and fragmented. She comes across more as a spendthrift who ruined her children and alienated her husband while seeking approval abroad. Clarion's biography series is usually brilliant, and the expected high-quality production efforts are in place. What's missing is the need for this particular subject to be commemorated. Somehow, the efforts to set Brown within her period and experiences—none of which are lacking in drama—fall flat. This biography just doesn't have the life of its subject. 2001, Clarion, $18.00. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
I'm probably one of the very few people in the world not to have never seen "Titanic," and I also knew next to nothing about the Unsinkable Molly Brown. What a fascinating woman! Illustrated with lots of historic photographs, this biography of a strong-willed woman is well-written and fun to read. A great gift idea. 2001, Clarion Books, $18.00. Ages 10 to 12. Reviewer: A. Braga SOURCE: Parent Council, September 2001 (Vol. 9, No. 1)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-A realistic biography of an independent and strong-willed woman. When the ship on which she was traveling to visit her sick grandchild sank, both the Titanic and Margaret Brown were guaranteed perpetual fame. The role that Mrs. Brown took, organizing relief for the survivors, was very much in keeping with her life of charity and generosity, and Landau successfully puts the Titanic experience in the proper perspective of her subject's life. The turn-of-the-century Western American culture of which she was a part is well presented, as is the fact that some people were not ready to accept such a charismatic female. Many others came to respect Mrs. Brown and her family as they admired and appreciated her benevolence. For example, although the wealth that she enjoyed came from her husband's silver mines, she waged a crusade for miners' rights. Along the way, the author clarifies many obscure facts, including how Molly, who never went by that name during her lifetime, was one of the first women to run for Congress. Black-and-white archival illustrations and photos highlight her life as well as greater relevant aspects of the period in which she lived. The cult of Molly Brown is discussed, and photos of her stage and screen representations are included. Landau hits just the right tone in this complete portrait of a "social figure, suffragette, [and] patriot," and readers will enjoy learning the truth about her.-Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780395939123
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/28/2001
Edition description:
None
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
599,110
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)
Lexile:
1100L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Elaine Landau has written over one hundred books for young people on a variety of topics ranging from AIDS to terrorism. She lives in Miami, Florida.

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