Not too many folks know that the famous Unsinkable Molly Brown is a Hannibal, Missouri native. She is best known as a survivor of the Titanic, but she was much more than what's been portrayed in Hollywood pictures. Hannibal History Museum operators Ken and Lisa Marks have released a new book about the pioneer woman's activism and it gives more insight to who this laid back, yet determined Midwestern woman really was.
Q What did you learn when you started researching this book?
A The focus of our book was something that no one had ever explored before and that was, what happened in Hannibal during Margaret's childhood that would have prepared her for this amazing life that she would lead. What were her experiences that would help shape her moral code and the things she was passionate about throughout her life? - Lisa Marks
Q The other key to this book was to show she was more than the Titanic. More than just a survivor of a famous shipwreck. What was the biggest piece of information about her that you put out about her that shows she's much more?
A When you understand the history of — the literally decades — of her life spent championing the rights of women and children, and workers rights … she was fighting for the working man. She's battling her husband who's a capitalist and she's working for the labor movement. She had this very progressive agenda and really felt very strongly that was what her life's work was. As a woman at the turn of the century into the 1920s, that was just unheard of. - Lisa Marks
Q Were you able to discover her personality as you researched and dug this stuff up?
A The thing about Margaret that wasn't surprising necessarily to us, but we think would cause a shift in a way other people would understand her, is that Margaret was a political activist as soon as she could afford to be one. As soon as she was in a position of leverage, which only comes back in those days as money. When the family was able to receive that money, she almost from the beginning, saw it as a way of doing good. - Ken Marks
Q She clearly had a Midwestern gruff/casualness to herself. Is that what made her so appealing to people in a way?
A I don't think anybody ever hated her. I think they admired her. I think they were taken. But she won people over. If they came in with any preconceived notions of who she was, maybe they would misconstrue things, but when they met her they fell in love with her. Because she was well-celebrated throughout her life. I'm not seeing any negative press against her. There was a lot of gossip and scandal, but it was never anything that she was somehow really frowned upon. - Lisa Marks
Page 2 of 2 - Q Certainly there were people who thought, "What is this woman doing?"
A She got to the point where she was in the right group to do that. I think that's part of the reason she left Denver and went to Newport. Because when she really started paling around with the Astors, and the Vanderbilts, and the Rockefellers — the women in that upper society were allowed freedoms that every other woman in the Victorian era was not. She was a leader, but it wasn't so out of line that she wasn't the only one. - Lisa Marks.
Q Who captures Molly better in film? Debbie Reynolds or Kathy Bates?
A I don't think either one of them are even close. I don't think either one have anything resembling Molly Brown at all. Not the real Molly Brown. Molly was kind of small person, she wasn't very tall. She wasn't very large. I think James Cameron fell into the trap of she was this Midwestern girl from the hicks. That was not who she was. - Lisa Marks
A I don think Kathy got closer than anyone else because of her matter of speech and her matter of frankness. - Ken Marks