by Kristen Iversen

Reviewer Rating:


Broadway and Hollywood have cast "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" as a backwoods New Money socialite, whose Leadville millions couldn't buy her manners. Kristen Iversen's biography of Margaret Tobin Brown (who never went by Molly) busts the myths wide open. Her more legendary incarnation was an illiterate saloon girl. In reality, Margaret Brown was well-educated, compassionate, and a tireless fighter for progressive causes. Locally, she helped fund and found various institutions, including the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the first juvenile court system in the country, and the Denver Dumb Friends League. She was also the first woman to run for Senate, an advocate for miners' rights after the Ludlow massacre, a volunteer ambulance driver during World War I, a stage actress, and a yodeler. The Debbie Reynolds version is pretty dull by comparison.

I found Iversen's text to be very readable and gripping, and does an excellent job of placing Margaret in the context of nineteenth-century Denver and Victorian society. If you want to see where the musical (and James Cameron) got it wrong and learn a lot about early Denver, I highly recommend this biography.   

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