A little notoriety, a lot of history
Local prosecutor's free lecture to focus on the notable — and notorious — women of our city
She made her money dealing jewels and diamonds in Hartford City.
This was right at the turn of the century, and Mary Maloley was successful. So much so she was able to scratch together enough money at the age of 22 to travel back to her native Syria — solo — to bring her niece in tow back to the states.
In 1908, she moved to Fort Wayne.
Here, she bought up property, took girls in and became one of the most famous — or infamous, depending on how you look at it — brothel operators in this city’s history, even gaining influence among the male movers and shakers during that time.
There has always been something about the notorious that tends to tingle our senses, and for Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards, that with a mix of history can provide everyone with a unique sense of where we came from and who we are.
This Saturday, Richards will give a free lecture titled “Notable and Notorious Fort Wayne Women” at the downtown library for ARCH, Inc.
“A lot of women that seem pretty straightforward had some quirky traits that were outside the norm,” said Richards, an ARCH board member. “We have all these different people in our history but nobody talks about them.”
Richards, who studied history at Northwestern University, plans to touch on Maloley’s life as well as others who are not exactly notorious.
These include notables like film actress Carole Lombard and possibly the “Hamilton sisters” — actual sisters Edith and Alice and their first cousin Agnes — who were renowned for their work in education and social issues.
“Not many people know that Carole Lombard broke the mold a little bit,” Richards said, noting how the dramatic actress during the silent film era transformed herself into a comedic specialist and found fame making people laugh.
Richards also said her talk might include the Fort Wayne Daisies, of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Lavone A. “Pepper” Paire Davis, a catcher for the Daisies in 1945 and then again in 1953, inspired the role of Dottie Hinson, played by Geena Davis, in the film A League of their Own. Dorothy Wiltse Collins, a pitcher for the Daisies who compiled a career 117-76 record and played until she was four months pregnant in the summer of 1948, is also said to have been a partial inspiration for the movie.
“I think it’s nice to include history that doesn’t focus on all white men,” Richards said.
This will be Richards’ fourth lecture for ARCH, and she came up with ideas to focus on people other than white men once while taking a tour of Lindenwood Cemetery. That’s where she saw the graves of people like Maloley and George.
And while she may have been notorious at one point, Mary Maloley’s story didn’t end with the brothel — or brothels — she ran.
Instead, many historians point to her being behind — in some capacity, at least — the Maloley grocery stores that began popping up in Fort Wayne.
“How’s the saying go?” Richards asked. “Something about ugly furniture and old prostitutes — they always end up respectable if they’re around long enough.”
Notable and Notorious Fort Wayne Women
When: Jan. 28
Time: 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Venue: Downtown Library, Meeting Room A, 900 Library Plaza