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Book Title: Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth|
The author of the book: Kristen Iversen
Edition: Johnson Books
The size of the: 4.12 MB
City - Country: No data
Date of issue: September 25th 1999
ISBN 13: 9781555662370
Format files: PDF
Loaded: 1979 times
Reader ratings: 3.6
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Next month I'm going to be at a teacher workshop in Denver. The topic is how to use biographies to teach Western History. The workshop is hosted by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Molly Brown House, and our first assignment is to read a biography on Mrs. Brown. Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth. Kristen Iversen's 1990 volume won the Colorado Book Award for Biography, and a 2010 updated edition was just published. The 304 page paperback is a quick read, and even if you don't know anything about Molly Brown beyond her “unsinkableness,” you'll find this an enjoyable book.
Iversen's account of Molly Brown's life starts with the most famous part of her life—her survival the night the Titanic sank. This harrowing story is really the only thing I knew about Mrs. Brown (real name Margaret Tobin Brown, whose alteration Iverson eventually explains) before picking up the book. It serves as a good introduction to both Brown and the world that she lived in—one of riches and excess, but also an overwhelming concern for and connection with the people not of her elevated class.
After the Titanic story, Iversen goes back in time to tell us about where Margaret came from: her parents' roots in Ireland, her own birth and childhood in Hannibal Missouri (her time there did overlap with Samuel Clemens, but it doesn't seem like they knew one another), and her move to Leadville Colorado—a silver boomtown that was growing faster than Denver in the 1880s. When she marries J.J. Brown, Margaret Tobin marries someone 13 years older than her, a hardworking engineer who eventually helps a mine break into a new source not of silver, but of gold. This makes them fabulously wealthy, and catapults them into Denver's social scene.
Throughout the book, Iversen does a good job of differentiating the myths of Molly Brown (no one ever called her “Molly,” as far as historians can figure out, although some early friends and family did call her “Maggie”) from the reality of her life. The Titanic story is the one that's ended up most true, although she wasn't ever standing in her lifeboat, stripped down to her corset and garters, singing ala Debbie Reynolds. She's often portrayed as a bumpkin who got rich overnight, rejected from Denver high society because she wasn't as refined or educated as The Sacred 36, the most elite of the wealthy families. The truth is that while she wasn't as accepted by some of those families, others embraced her, because for more than a decade, she was Denver high society. Mrs. Brown was educated, both in book learning and in the peculiar mores of the Gilded Age. She played instruments, she sang, she had private tutors for herself and her children, she spent time in Europe and around the world—she wasn't a hick.
Her life reminds me somewhat of Eleanor Roosevelt's—she felt like she had more to give than just host tea parties for the other wealthy ladies of the city, and she put herself and her money to work with many charitable organizations. Some of that seems to have stemmed from her own childhood and experience working in a tobacco processing factory in Missouri; some of it from what she saw as a boss's wife in Leadville. Wherever it came from, she always seems to have been busy with one cause or another, which may have helped to erode her own marriage.
Iversen spins a good tale, and her research is well-documented with more than twenty pages of end notes, a bibliography, and an interview with the author at the end of the book. If you're interested in a number of topics from the time period, whether it's the Titanic, Women's Suffrage, the Gilded Age, or the Wild West, you'll enjoy Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth.
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Read information about the authorKristen Iversen is the author of Full Body Burden Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and Molly Brown Unraveling the Myth, winner of the Colorado Book Award and the Barbara Sudler Award for Nonfiction. Full Body Burden was chosen by Kirkus Reviews and the American Library Association as one of the Best Books of 2012 and named 2012 Best Book about Justice by The Atlantic. Iversen’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Reader’s Digest, and many other publications. She has appeared on C-Span and NPR’s Fresh Air and worked extensively with A&E Biography, The History Channel, and the NEH. She holds a Ph.D from the University of Denver and currently teaches in the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. She is also the author of a textbook, Shadow Boxing Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction.
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