- "It's a fact. Look it up."
- —Edna Strickland on a number of occasions
Edna Strickland was the elder sister of the Hill Valley High School principal Gerald Strickland and an etiquette columnist for the Hill Valley Herald back in the 1930s. Edna was the middle child of three, with an older brother named Robert. She shared the Strickland family trait of uncompromising morality and discipline. Unlike her younger brother Gerald, Edna was actually capable of smiling and even being civil at times, yet for the most part the Strickland doctrine of strict, uncompromising discipline was still as much a part of her character as it was for her younger brother.
Edna Strickland was born in 1906 to Roger and Irene Strickland, As a young lady, Edna had jet black hair, and was strongly for Prohibition, even founding the Stay Sober Society (SSS) in Hill Valley. She made soup deliveries to interested patrons, but as of 1931, business was running dry. Upset by the many speakeasy establishments, Edna took it upon herself to burn down the buildings, thus becoming the mysterious Speakeasy Arsonist.
Edna had just about lost her mind in the 1960s, when the hippy counter-culture movement arose, this implies that she was incredibly opposed to the anti-establishment attitudes of hippies, and tried to protest against them, but her lack of sucess caused her to have a mental breakdown.
By 1986, her identity as the Speakeasy Arsonist was still unknown. She had become a hermit in her apartment outside Courthouse Square, constantly spying on people with binoculars and shouting at them with a bullhorn. She called people "miscreants", "hooligans", and like her brother, "slackers". She corrected one vandal's misspelling of his graffiti, yelled at a litterbug, and caught Jack and Diane making out behind a tree. One individual she screamed at was Tiff Tannen, who was apparently stealing a hubcap.
Her apartment above the arcade Starbase Zero was located just outside Courthouse Square, within sight of Valley Video. The apartment was filled with every issue of the Hill Valley Telegraph, from 1871 to the present, in pristine condition and meticulously organized. Edna also had editorial trophies from Cat Lovers Quarterly, an old typewriter, a picture of Gerald in his mother's clothes, a photograph of Marshal James Strickland, and a can of old candy. She enjoyed tea and tended to confuse the sound of her teapot with her radiator. Despite her overzealous need to dictate to everyone what they should and should not do, Edna shows Marty McFly (who came to return her missing shoe) a surprising level of politeness and hospitality, albeit curmudgeonly.
After Edna went into the kitchen, Marty found a newspaper article that informed him of Doc's whereabouts. Upon leaving, he accidentally knocked over the meticulously organized newspapers and rushed out after Edna scolded him.
Marty intervenes in the past
On June 13, 1931, she encountered Marty McFly in the street and interviewed him, asking his opinion of the speakeasy fire. Later, Marty and a young Emmett Brown convinced her to hold a meeting of the SSS at the Brown residence, and make a delivery of "soup" to the meeting. The soup was in fact alcohol, used by Emmett to fuel his rocket-powered drill invention. She got into a scuffle with Judge Erhardt Brown on the matter, and was banned from the residence. From then on, she scoffed at anything involving Emmett or his inventions.
On August 25, 1931, Edna stood in the front lawn of the Hill Valley Courthouse attempting to raise money to "Donate to the Clock Tower". Her intentions were to place some ornate sculptures alongside the clock, such as gargoyles, however when Marty returned, he suggested lions (creating a possible predestination paradox). She also wrote a song titled "You Should Care", and began to sing it horribly. Marty obtained a copy of her song and used it later at the new El Kid speakeasy under the Sisters of Mercy Soup Kitchen to help Trixie Trotter interact with Officer Danny Parker. Upon realizing who had burnt down his speakeasy, Irving "Kid" Tannen kidnapped Edna, and suspected her of burning others in Colfax, Georgetown, and Placerville. Thanks to Marty and Emmett, Kid was brought in, causing Edna to develop an interest in Emmett.
In the 1986G timeline, she becomes romantically involved with young Emmett Brown, and had encouraged his career in science, albeit one that would ultimately serve her ends. Thus creating an alternate 1986 where Emmett Brown is the chief executive and every activity is heavily regulated. While Citizen Brown was the face of their empire, it was Edna who had true control, using Brown's technology to create psychological conditioning tools to brainwash the citizens of Hill Valley. When Brown learned the truth, they had a falling-out. Edna attempted to brainwash Brown, but Marty saved him.
As of October 12, 1931, she had tried to motivate Emmett down the path to becoming Citizen Brown by inventing a personality analyzer. Thanks to a photograph provided by Marty, she was able to get Trixie fired from the Hill Valley Science Expo. That enraged Trixie into helping Marty breaking up Edna and Emmett. However, Marty's plan went too far. Citizen Brown, concerned about the totalitarianism he helped make, the anarchy of the Tannen Crime Family in 1986F, as well as Edna's feelings, proposed if there was a "third way", in which "everybody wins". However, Marty would have none of that idea, saying there should be no further disruptions in the space-time continuum. Citizen Brown, annoyed with Marty's hardheadedness, left him to be by himself for a while.
Heartbroken later that night, she was picked up by Citizen Brown who sought to comfort her and claimed that Marty was an anarchist named Yakov Smirnoff. She was "informed" that Yakov planned to ruin the Science Expo, prompting the two to create a plan to stop Marty.
The next day, Edna informed Danny Parker of Marty's "plan", causing Emmett's exhibit to be shut down. Marty responded by gathering proof that Edna was the Speakeasy Arsonist, causing her to cowardly flee. She used the DeLorean to evade Parker only for the machine to send her to 1876. History had changed once again, as Hill Valley High School and surrounded buildings faded, and were replaced by nothing except wild backcountry.
Edna took the name "Mary Pickford" and found 1876 to be a peaceful place. Sometime later, she found that Beauregard Tannen had built a saloon. She reported it to Marshall Strickland, who responded it was lawful (since prohibition would not happen until January 17th, 1920). She took matters into her own hands once again and plotted to set fire to the saloon on July 17, 1876. The fire, however, spread and destroyed the rest of Hill Valley. As a result, people believed the place cursed, and never attempted to rebuild, instead resettling in Haysville or elsewhere. This event prompted Edna into repressing her memories of the preceding events, gradually sinking into dementia over the next several decades.
In the 1931B timeline, Edna, who was now aged and known as "Scary Mary" due to her dementia and willingness to live in a ghost town, remained in a shack in a deserted portion of what would have been Hill Valley. One of the men who was willing to see her was William McFly, as he had a job as a delivery boy for the Haysville Herald (in the original timeline he worked for the Hill Valley Herald), although he did so only in the commission of his duties, to deliver her subscriptions. Marty and Doc were warned by William about "Scary Mary", but they visited anyway to investigate what had happened to Hill Valley. Marty got her to come to the window and pointed her to her ex-boyfriend. This prompted her into leaving her house and slowly remembering her trip through time and recalling her actions in 1876 (due to Marty using some objects to trigger bits of her memory). Snapping out of her repressing, she showed the two a newspaper providing the specific date, and attempted to shoot them. She was prevented from doing so by William McFly.
After Marty and Doc arrive in 1876 to stop Edna from burning down the saloon, she retreated into her DeLorean with the two pursuing her. Marty managed to hook a flux override to her DeLorean's flux emitters, allowing Doc to pull her back to October 13, 1931. After her return, she was arrested by Danny Parker for her previous crime, evading arrest, driving under the influence (as she drove the DeLorean into the police station), and for being a public nuisance.
Prior to her arrest, a photo of Edna was used for the mind map test of the Mental alignment meter. Marty speculated that since Emmett was attracted to, that she was supposed to prompt a positive response. But since Edna had a hand in the invention, it was likely that she deemed her devotion would prompt a positive response from a Model Citizen in general.
In the newest timeline, Edna shared a cell with Kid Tannen, and they eventually got married at some point after 1955 (although she wasn't Biff's biological mother). She also had gotten over her dislike of dogs and walked Einstein on a regular basis. Finding and reforming Kid Tannen had greatly improved her outlook on life and by 1986 was shown to have a much more chipper, friendly demeanor.
- Back to the Future: The Game
- James Strickland (Grandfather)
- Roger Strickland (Father?)
- Gerald Strickland (Brother)
- Irving "Kid" Tannen (Husband)
- Biff Tannen (Stepson)
- Gertrude Tannen (Mother-in-law?)
- Buford Tannen (Grandfather-in-law?)
- Beauregard Tannen (Great Grandfather-in-law?)