Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chasing Her Dream - New York City

I am finally beginning my journey of “Chasing Molly”.  I ask myself, what does “Chasing Molly” mean to me? I have been sharing her story as a docent at The Molly Brown House Museum for several years.  Her home was her “roots” for so many years between her traveling and her passion for helping others.  The museum provides a great opportunity to reach out to others and share her legacy from her birth to her passing.  But I have never had the opportunity to step out of the museum and seek out what her life’s journey might have been like in other parts of the world. I thought that before our 100th Anniversary Titanic Memorial cruise, I would first visit New York City to see where she lived during her final years.  

To start off, our first stop was at the Today Show on NBC.  In order to promote our journey, we arrived in our Titanic sweatshirts, my floppy red Victorian hat, my husband in his bowler hat, and a poster from The Molly Brown House Museum.  I did stand out a little bit with the hat as we walked from our hotel to the Today Show location with hopes we might make a brief and very quick appearance on camera outside Rockefeller Center.  We were able to sneak a little coverage behind the news desk from outside as the hat was very noticeable.  I was very pleased when asked about the hat, as I was able to discuss Margaret “Molly” Brown, by clarifying her role as a multi-dimensional, awesome woman, a woman of change, and how she used her Titanic experience to help even more people

 New York City was one of Margaret Brown’s favorite cities and she lived the later part of her life here, 
“Chasing her Dream”.    New York at the time was one of the world’s predominant cultural hubs and at this point in her life she was focusing on her own personal development.  She moved to New York at the age of 60 to become an actress and made her home at the Barbizon Hotel.   The hotel at the time was the earliest residential alternative for women moving to New York City to take advantage of the new professional opportunities of the 1920s.    She established her home in a suite there and perhaps this was one of the happiest times in her life.  She had seen so much change and progress with all the causes she had supported for so many years.  Women could vote, women had a voice and had come to the front in many aspects of their lives, as she was now focusing on another dream she had in her life, becoming an actress.

We dropped by the Barbizon Hotel which is still there today and now accommodates condominiums starting at the tune of $1.5 million and above.  The hotel was built in 1927 incorporating a blend of Italian Renaissance, late Gothic Revival, and Islamic decorative elements.  It has not changed much from the exterior but the interior has been extensively renovated from its original 300 plus hotel rooms with each floor supporting a den mother to keep the women from harm’s way as men were not allowed past the lobby.  I am sure, knowing the elegance of Margaret, she fit very well into this environment enjoying the luxury of the time, and pursuing her consulting with women in the field of arts and drama as well as Chasing her Dream of becoming an actress. 

New York City represents so much history for our country.   It is a true symbol of the formation of our culture through the immigration of so many people looking for a new future in North America and freedom.  There are so many significant landmarks that reflect this history for America, so we decided to visit Ellis Island.

Over a hundred million Americans can claim ancestors who came through Ellis Island.  The immigrants who came to America were looking for adventure and employment.  In many cases they had suffered from religious persecution and political strife, and had to cut many family connections.  Beginning in 1892, the majority, some 12 million, took their first steps toward becoming Americans at Ellis Island.   Today Ellis Island is a memorial to all who have made this nation their adopted home.  This is where the Old World met the new.  Margaret’s parents were immigrants from Ireland.  Even though they did not pass through Ellis Island (they immigrated at an earlier date prior to 1892), they were also symbols of where the Old World met the new in order to make new lives for themselves.   What was significant to me with my visit were the pictures of the immigrants.  They did not look happy at the time entering into America through this facility.  However, it was probably the best day of their life going forward.  Freedom of choice was their future now.  

The next stop was the Statue of Liberty, how magnificent.  A true symbol of freedom for America.  Since its dedication in New York City in 1886, it is still the most symbolic statue in America for freedom of choice.   As we left, it crossed my mind how truly sad it is that there were so many immigrants on the Titanic who were looking forward to the moment of seeing this symbol of freedom.  That moment never came for so many of them.

Unfortunately Margaret passed away too early in her life at the Barbizon Hotel in 1932.  She was truly the “Daughter of Adventure.”  She lived a passionate life and brought so much energy to every project she started.

Our last stop on this portion of our journey was at Holy Rood Cemetery on Long Island where Margaret and J.J. Brown are buried – about 25 miles east of New York City.  I wanted to pay my respects as well as for all the volunteers from The Molly Brown House Museum who too are so passionate in telling her stories of her legacy.  The headstone is a humble monument in an early area of a now very expansive cemetery.  It was a very somber setting.  I could only think it was such a small remembrance for a woman with such a powerful legacy.   No matter the size of the headstone she still remains today larger than life. 

 In closing this blog, I might have become closer to Margaret with my short experience of the culture, the diversity and overall magic of New York City.  How exciting her journey in life must have been coming from humble beginnings in Hannibal Missouri, going to Leadville, settling in Denver, and traveling all over the world.  If only we could have half the courage and strength to make a difference in our life’s journey. If it had to be, she died in a place which tied all of her passions together in the last years of her life.  I picked up just a small touch of her spirit here in New York City… my chase continues for Molly…    


  1. Great stories, Janet ! Thank you for taking us along on this extraordinary journey through your photos and words. Keep up the great work!

  2. My best friend, who died from breast cancer last year, is buried in Montefiore Cemetary also on Long Island, she was a larger than life person too. What a dramatic jumping off point for your story, the story of the ill-fated liner, a cameo of Molly's vibrant life and a tribute to honor the precious people who perished by the accident. You and your husband must be so so excited for such a great trip through time and memories. Let the adventure begin. Yippee.