MOLLIE FOX: WOMAN WOMAN OF LOCK HAVEN
by Lou Bernard
My son, Paul Matthew, is two and a half years old. He’s recently developed an interest in superheroes. We like to watch the Justice League cartoon before bed. In fact, we were watching the Justice League last night. (No matter when you are reading this, we were watching the Justice League last night.)
He loves them all. Paul knows that the Flash is my favorite, and his favorite seems to be Green Lantern. He gets all excited when any of them come on the screen: “It Superman! It Batman! I told you! Where Robin? Look! It Woman Woman!”
“Woman Woman” is Wonder Woman, which he has not quite learned to say yet. But he loves the character, and I suspect it won’t be too long before he starts asking me why there are no superheroes in Lock Haven. And then I’ll explain to him that we do, indeed, have superheroes.
I’ve written occasionally about Water Man, who was Boyd Keller, head of the water department and a volunteer firefighter. Known for staying calm in a crisis, he saved a lot of lives and buildings, and was excessively cool.
And if you want to rival Woman Woman, you really can’t do better than Mollie Fox.
Born Mary Ann Valentine in 1869, she went under the name of “Mollie.” She grew up to marry Ira Fox, and the two of them bought a building on Main Street in Lock Haven—Look up sometime; it still says “Fox Building” across the top. Ira passed away in 1935, and Mollie handled the business alone.
Mollie did have some qualities in common with superheroes: She cared about her community, and she had an overdeveloped sense of drama. There was a newspaper column that mentioned an incident where she pulled a gun on her neighbor to prevent him from putting a ladder on her property. (The gun was not functional. Don’t worry.)
Mollie also had a lot in common with superheroes because she wore colorful clothes that nobody else in their right mind would wear. An article on Mollie defined her as “One of Lock Haven’s most colorful personalities,” and this was literally true. Whenever anyone talks about Mollie, they always remember the clothes—Bright reds and blues, big colorful hats. Back in the old days, the clothes were considered fairly controversial—For the time. By today’s standards, they weren’t all that bad; I’ve seen Mormon missionaries who dress trampier than Mollie Fox did. But back then, the clothes were considered wild. “She had two inches of slip showing,” a senior citizen once told me.
At one point, Mollie confessed to a friend that she would change clothes when she had a business meeting out of town. She would bring a more conservative set of clothes, and change on the train. In her own community, Mollie wanted to stand out. While doing business elsewhere, she chose to look more businesslike. (How many times have you seen Bruce Wayne do this same thing?)
Mollie took an interest in educational matters, always donating her time and money to further local schools. She ran for school board twice, but wasn’t elected—The men of the time basically suggested that a brightly-dressed, slip-showing woman was too controversial a choice to run the school system. It didn’t stop her, though, and she kept participating in the community.
With her death on Christmas day of 1956, Mollie made her final contribution—And it was a lasting one. Her will left money to be used as a scholarship, putting students of “good moral character” through Lock Haven University. The newspaper at the time said the estate was “entangled in legal points,” which was understating the case a bit.
Mollie’s will had some weird stuff in it. She left directions that no body but her own was ever to be buried in her grave, as if that was a consideration. She ordered that none of her properties ever be sold again, and that her neighbor never be allowed to build windows in his house. (Yes, the same neighbor from the gun incident.)
Had Mollie gone crazy? No, I’m convinced she did it deliberately.
This quirky stuff tied the will up in court for three years. Meanwhile, the money was tied up in a trust fund, earning interest. Mollie was a businesswoman, and she would have known that the will would be held up. Because of the time delay, Mollie wound up leaving the students more money than she had at the time she died—Which was her plan all along.
Changed her colorful clothes in public places, had dramatic plans, did good things in her city….Mollie was a superhero, for sure. Like Woman Woman, Mollie deserves her own cartoon. “Quick! To the Foxmobile!”