As the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the Hiwan Homestead Museum will host historical presenter Mary Jane Bradbury on Saturday, April 21, as she portrays Molly Brown.
During her presentation, Bradbury will take the perspective of Brown circa the 1920s. In the 45-minute talk, Bradbury will give a brief chronology of Margaret Tobin “Molly” Brown’s life, from her birthplace in Hannibal, Mo., where she grew up in poverty, through the volatility of post-Civil War life. That volatility exposed the young woman to numerous inequities for women, minorities and the poor.
Bradbury says much of the history about Brown has been skewed over time.
“She was not an eccentric, boorish Irish immigrant who bellied up to the bar, as one of the songs from the musical says. She was an outstanding and outspoken advocate for women’s reform, children’s reform and labor reform,” Bradbury said. “Because she grew up in the midst of all that change and unrest, she had a good perspective. She knew what it meant to be poor, she knew what it meant to be a laborer, and she came from those places in society. So when she became rich, yes, she wanted a good life, she wanted to have the things you have when you’re rich, but she concentrated so much of her effort on reform.”
Bradbury, who also works as an interpreter for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, believes her work helps paint a truer picture of the woman who has become known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
“When you portray someone, you do extensive research and then you interpret how that person would present their life,” she said. “She was outspoken, and she wasn’t refined.”
Nevertheless, Brown was able to bring attention to the inequities of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “That’s the Margaret Brown story I like to bring to life.”
Bradbury relishes the opportunity to portray her in a way that audiences sit back and say, “Wow, I never knew that.”
Brown came West when she was 19 and went to Leadville, where her Colorado story began. In Leadville, the young woman met James Joseph Brown, nicknamed J.J., an enterprising miner. The couple married and had two children, Franklin and Katy. Once the Browns moved to Denver, she focused her time on raising her children, nieces and nephews. She spent much time on issues like women's suffrage and philanthropy. She was an outspoken advocate for women and children.
Bradbury will discuss the circumstances of how Brown ended up on the Titanic and how her harrowing experience affected her for the rest of her life.
“A lot of the Titanic history has been has been sensationalized in movies,” she said. “There’s good scholarship out there, and the truth is much more compelling than the stories people make up.”
Bradbury believes the sad story of the iconic ship marked the end of an era.
“The sinking of the Titanic was just a metaphor for the Gilded Age going down, because within two years the world was at war and by 1920 the world would never be the same.”
Bradbury, who lives in Denver, will also answer questions from the audience.
During her talk, she will discuss the local connection to the Brown family. The Browns, who owned a summer home on Bear Creek, would take day trips to Evergreen and surrounding communities.
“Living history, in general, is a wonderful way to get perspective on the times. A person like Margaret Brown talking about her life can bring in the politics of the day, social mores of the day, opinions of the day,” Bradbury said. “It’s a wonderful way to bring that history alive and connect to the humanity that we all share.”
The presentation is appropriate for all ages.
Molly Brown in Jefferson County
Molly Brown in Jefferson County will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the Hiwan Homestead Museum, 4208 Timbervale Drive in Evergreen. The cost is $7. For more information, call 720-497-7650. To learn more about Bradbury’s work, visit www.biosinhistory.com.