When Margaret Brown (nee Tobin) was born in July of 1867, the Civil War had just ended and the country was still reeling from the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution had recently been adopted putting an end to slavery and providing equal protection under the law to everyone including then freed slaves. It was a perfect time for the powerhouse that was Margaret Brown to be alive. The world was thriving in innovations that we take for granted today. Thomas Edison had invented both the phonograph and the lightbulb when Margaret was just a young girl, the first transcontinental railroad was build across the United States and Henry Ford had just introduced the assembly line. But for all the advancements the country had seen and progress made towards equality for African American’s, the late 1800’s and early 1900’s saw the degradation of rights and equality for both women and Native Americans.
Margaret Brown has, to the modern era, become best known for being the most famous survivor of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic. While she helped survivor’s escape the sinking behemoth, her greatest work in that capacity was on the rescue ship, the Carpathia where she organized the Survivor’s Committee, raising over $10,000 for survivors. She also stayed on the ship until all Titanic survivors had received medical attention or were received by their families. She used her new found fame after the tragedy to catapult her life ‘s work which was ultimately devoted to women, children, and the destitute. Following her adult siblings from their home state of Missouri to Leadville, Colorado, “Maggie” helped to lead the first women’s suffrage movement in the state, founding the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and the Denver Women’s Club, the latter which promoted literacy, education, women’s suffrage and human rights. She also organized the first International Women’s Rights Conference in Rhode Island in 1914, which was attended in great numbers by people from all over the world just two years after surviving the Titanic disaster.
Coming from meager beginnings and having married a man of little means, Margaret was no stranger to a humble life. When her husband, a mine worker in the Leadville mines, suggested an innovation to the mining process that lead to massive success, he was rewarded substantially, thus making the family quite wealthy. From her newfound position, Maggie worked to help those less fortunate by working in the miner’s soup kitchen, helped to found a catholic church and hospital as well as the country’s first Juvenile Court, which our current system is based upon.
Being an outspoken advocate for gaining women’s right to vote, Margaret set her sights on elected office, running for the U.S. Senate eight years before the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment which granted women the right to vote. She also worked during World War I to help restore devastated parts of France and was hence given the French Legion of Honor, all this while raising two children!
And I think I’ve got too much on my plate 🙂
Margaret Brown lived until October 26, 1932 where she passed away in New York after a power packed 66 years of life.