The real Molly Brown rises to the surface
Lynn Rymarz plays Titanic survivor Molly Brown in her presentation "The True Story of the Unsinkable Molly Brown" commemorating the 100th anniversary of the shipwreck.
‘The True Story of the Unsinkable Molly Brown’
Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake St.
7 p.m. Thursday, April 19
(708) 383-8200 or oppl.org
An incarnation of Titanic survivor Molly Brown, who died in 1932, is coming back to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ship disaster in the north Atlantic Ocean in 1912.
Lynn Rymarz will portray Brown, the philanthropic Colorado woman who was on her way back to the United States from Egypt, at the Oak Park Public Library on April 19.
Molly Brown is so popular this year that Rymarz, of Schaumburg, hardly has enough time to be herself these days. She’s scheduled to appear as the Titanic survivor 26 times this month and five times, so far, in May.
Rymarz, who portrays several important women in U.S. history, will talk about Brown’s life and dispel some of the myths about her.
Rymarz’s interest was piqued after watching the 1997 blockbuster film “Titanic” and again when she visited the Molly Brown House Museum in Denver, Colo., two years ago.
There she learned Brown grew up poor in Missouri, worked at a tobacco company when she was 13, and moved to Colorado seeking adventure and a better way of life. It was in Denver that Brown met the man who became her husband. He worked in a silver mine and the couple struck it rich.
“That’s where I discovered her life,” Rymarz said. “She just piqued my interest — for a woman of that time to have a lot of courage and try to succeed in life and go around the world and have this yearning for knowledge. She just really inspired me a lot.”
Rymarz also spotted a dress made by a seamstress in Colorado for an author who wrote a book on Molly Brown, and bought it.
It took Rymarz a year to do the necessary research and perfect the character.
“My program is called ‘The True Story of the Unsinkable Molly Brown’ because there are a lot of myths out there about her,” Rymarz said.
For example, there’s a rumor, Rymarz said, that when Brown and her husband became rich, she hid the money in the stove and set fire to it, and $300,000 was seen floating out the stove pipe.
Hollywood, she added, has portrayed Brown as loud and arrogant, which would lead the viewer to not think well of her.
“What I found was that she had causes that she worked for, and charities,” Rymarz said. “I want people to know she worked for miners’ rights, set up soup kitchens.”
Rymarz said Brown also solicited funds from other wealthy Titanic survivors to establish a fund for the widows left by the disaster.
Rymarz also learned Brown was 5’8”, tried her hand at boxing, dyed her hair with henna, spoke a handful of languages, ran for Congress, and was carrying artifacts from Egypt for a museum when she boarded the Titanic in Southampton, England, heading home after learning her grandson was ill. And, Brown went by her birth name Margaret, not the nickname Molly.
“Her life was so much more than what we think of her,” she said. “I hope to bring to life her actual words.”
Rymarz, a children’s author and retired teacher, does the same for a number of other female historic figures.
“I really feel like a teacher,” Rymarz said about the value of portraying these women in history. “These women were so ahead of their time.”