Fox, Leah (c. 1818–1890)

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Fox, Leah (c. 1818–1890)

Canadian-born medium who was the sister of spiritualists Margaret and Kate Fox. Name variations: Leah Fish. Born Ann Leah Fox around 1818, in the state of New York; died on November 1, 1890, in New York City; eldest of six or more children of John Fox (a farmer) and Margaret (Rutan) Fox; sister of Margaret Fox (c. 1833–1893) and Kate Fox (c. 1839–1892); married to a man named Fish, in the 1840s (possibly died); married Calvin Brown, 1851 (died, 1853); married Daniel Underhill (an insurance executive and a spiritualist), 1858; children: three by first marriage; possibly more.

In most accounts of the spiritualists Margaret and Kate Fox , the role of a third sister, Leah, is significant. She is portrayed variously as opportunistic and ambitious, or concerned and protective, depending on the source. Ruth Brandon , in her book The Spiritualists, quotes one commentator as explaining that Leah exploited her sisters in the interest of founding a new religion. Whatever her motives, Leah appears to have been the most robust and well adjusted of the three sisters, and seemingly capable in dealing with the notoriety that surrounded the family. She was living in Rochester, New York, with her first husband and family around the time of the first rappings at the Fox home in 1848 and, with Eliab W. Capron, managed her sisters during the years of their public demonstrations. After either the death or desertion of her first husband, she remarried twice, and from 1858 lived a quiet life. One source indicates that Leah often providing sanctuary for her troubled sisters, while another maintains that she eventually disowned them. Leah was said to be an adept medium herself, although she only gave private seances, never for money. Upon her death in 1890, she was mourned by spiritualists around the world.

sources:

Brandon, Ruth. The Spiritualists. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.