How the legacy of the “Unsinkable” Warrior Queen is encouraging students to pursue careers in museums

When you hear the term warrior queen, who do you think of first? Athena? Cleopatra? Viola Davis in the recent film The Woman King? What about Colorado’s most famous suffragette? Recent guest speaker, Andrea Malcomb, Director of Historic Denver’s Molly Brown House Museum, came to RMCAD in July to encourage students to consider a career in art history, like museums. While she was on campus, Malcomb spoke about the museum by making the case for Molly Brown as the warrior queen of Denver! “A warrior queen is someone who goes against the social norms of a time,” said Malcomb.

“I don’t know what my destiny is, but it isn’t to be sunk in the sea or blown into the air.” -Margaret Brown

For those who may not know, Margaret Brown or “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” was a Denver activist and philanthropist most famous for surviving the sinking of the Titanic, however, her legacy is far greater! According to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, Brown was born from humble beginnings and came into considerable wealth after her husband struck gold in Leadville. An avid supporter of women’s suffrage, worker safety reform, and WWI veterans, Brown used her wealth and status to fight for what she believed was right. Additionally, she was a world traveler, a boxer, a supporter of art education, and a mother of two. All in an era where “women of a certain class were expected not to seek education, work outside the home, or travel alone,” says Malcomb, making her one of the most admired heroines in Denver’s history!

Molly Brown’s historic home is now a museum, residing at 1340 Pennsylvania in Denver’s historic Capitol Hill neighborhood. There, Malcomb has shaped the discourse around Brown as a warrior, activist, and mother for nearly 25 years. A warrior queen in her own right, Malcomb has championed outreach efforts much like her presentation at RMCAD. She told us that one of the most important things a museum can do is get the community involved. As such, The Molly Brown House’s education department has championed Brown’s story to 10,000 kids every year. “I love getting to make those connections every day. You can see the light bulbs go off in people’s heads as you talk to them,” says Malcomb.

“I am a daughter of adventure.” -Margaret Brown

RMCAD students asked Malcomb about the day-to-day work of a museum director, she encouraged all students, particularly those interested in the arts saying, “Look to museums as a profession. There are so many different opportunities. It’s such an enriching experience!” Malcomb’s undergraduate background is in art history and women’s history, so she knows firsthand what it is like to find career opportunities as an art student. Malcomb left RMCAD students with one final sentiment, one she has learned from years of studying history, “You don’t need to be someone big to make a change,” anyone can be a warrior queen! Learn more about RMCAD’s Art Education program, and check out other history pieces, like: Who was Anne Evans?

Many of the quotes in this story have been edited for brevity and clarity by the author, but are meant to retain the significance and purpose of the original speaker.

The image used above is from the collection of the Library of Congress. Archive number 98509447.


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