I am for, all intents and purposes, a Colorado Native, which means I love near everything my state has to offer. From hiking through our purple mountain majesties, to kayaking on some of our most precious and invaluable resources, and most importantly, the vast and colored history that only a state like Colorado could offer! I’ve always joked that I’ve been “held hostage by history” since a very young age; My passion was ignited, I could argue against my will, by my father, a Denver native who learned all he could from his father. In our family….having a passion for history is practically a requirement and I’ve embraced it to help foster my own brand of “nerdery”…even if it did set me apart from my peers early on.
My first introduction to Margaret Tobin Brown was as most children in Colorado get introduced, through my fourth grade class. To this day, I can still feel the excitement I had knowing we were going to learn about Colorado history, especially since I felt I had the upper hand, you know, since being a giant history nerd runs in the family and all. One aspect of our history that had always captivated my attention were the strong women who have called Colorado home, because I had aspired to become one of those women myself. In a moment of full disclosure, growing up I was always on team Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor (what can I say, at heart I’m a girl who loves romanticised and flowery re-telling of stories!)….until a field trip to the Molly Brown House Museum changed e v e r y t h i n g.
From the moment I stepped through the front door and into the House of Lions as a child, I felt an overwhelming sense of awe, which I suppose is the point of a magnificent entryway in an 1889 Queen Anne home. That same awe-struck feeling would be a welcomed emotion each and every time I would find myself coming to the House of Lions as I grew older; whether it was spending an afternoon with my dad, when I was yearning to feel more connected to my city and her history or when I just needed a distraction to my life….The Molly Brown House Museum was always there. To be transported back to a time when the world and state were so different, and a world where a strong and passionate woman like Margaret wouldn’t necessarily be accepted or appreciated. Unless, of course, you are Margaret Brown herself! Traveling through the levels of the home, I would become beguiled by the varied facets of Margaret’s life. From her humble beginnings to her passion for societal change, by the end of that very first tour with my fourth grade class I stood mesmerized in her library, amazed that she had loved to learn just as much as I did, and knew when I grew up, I wanted to be a woman like Margaret Brown.
My heart has run parallel to Margaret for as long as I can remember; she was a woman who believed that your circumstance shouldn’t dictate how you are embraced by society, and that, “money can’t make a man or woman…it isn’t who you are, nor what you have, but what you are that counts”. For a young girl searching for a way to leave her mark on the world, there would be no better mantra to adopt. Education is something that has always been close to Margaret’s heart; starting her life with an 8th grade education, which was almost unheard of for the child of two Irish immigrants in the 1880s, she believed in the importance of continuing her education throughout the rest of her life. After gaining their wealth in 1893, Margaret hired a tutor to visit her weekly, knew over 5 languages and believed that a well-informed woman, is a woman who can change the world!
Without actively thinking of it, Margaret has been an ever present fixture in my life: from the framed photo I purchased years ago of Margaret in her late 20s, that has sat on my dresser as I’ve moved from home to home and from life experience to life experience, the complete pandamonium that seemed to overcome everyone (yes, including myself) in 1999 with the release of Titanic, her silent encouragement in striving to become as educated as I could possibly be, to finding out that some of the causes that are so close to my heart, the continuing trailblazing for the right’s of women and immigrant welfare, were so close to hers as well. My passion for history saw me graduate with a degree in History from Colorado State University and allowed me to opportunity work in museums across the state, spreading my nerdery to anyone who would listen. The story has come full circle, as I was welcomed into the Molly Brown House Museum family as an Education Associate in fall of 2016.
Helping to realize a lifelong dream of making history accessible and, I know this may come as a shock to some, FUN for the public, I now get to spend every day educating children and adults alike on the accomplishments and life of the far from ordinary, Margaret Tobin Brown. To be on the “other side” as it were, I now get to show elementary school kiddos from all across Colorado the very same home that helped to inspire my historical passion. I would never remember the names of the docents that showed me the fun side of history but their impact has stayed with me well into adulthood. Everyday I get to see the connections and genuine excitement creep across elementary school faces when they find their nerdery, is linked to mine. Now more than ever, I find myself asking, “What would Margaret do?” and the ways in which she lived her life, the things she valued and what she decided were worth fighting for, help me in whatever crossroads I find myself. Margaret taught me to never, under any circumstances, make an excuse for who I am and what I value, to embrace the nerdery that propels me forward…a lesson that every young person should be able to experience, and a lesson that I now get to help articulate.
Savannah R. Reeves
Education Program Associate
What am I currently obsessing over?
America’s Constitution: A Biography Akhil Amar
Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth Kristen Iverson
Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast