Fox, Charlotte Olivia (née Milligan) (1864–1916), ethnomusicologist, was born 17 March 1864 in Omagh, Co. Tyrone, the eldest child among five daughters and six sons (two of whom did not reach adulthood) of Seaton Forrest Milligan (1836–1916) of Glencar, Omagh, businessman, antiquarian, and writer, son of a linen manufacturer, and Charlotte Milligan (née Burns; d. 1916), of a farming family near Omagh. Her parents married in the Omagh Wesleyan Methodist chapel (1862). The family settled in Belfast where Hawkins, Ledlie & Ferguson, the retailers who employed her father, were situated in the Bank Buildings, Royal Avenue; his job was to open their wholesale side throughout Ulster and Connacht.
In 1866 their home was attacked during rioting and they returned to Omagh, initially to Gortmore near her maternal grandparents' farm until a new house (now a rectory) was built at Campsie. During the summers they lived in Bundoran, Co. Donegal. In the late 1870s Seaton Milligan became a managing director of the Bank Buildings, and in 1878 the family moved back to Belfast to 1 Royal Terrace, Lisburn Rd (opposite the present city hospital entrance, but latterly demolished). From Easter until Hallowe'en they resided at the seaside in north Co. Down, first in Angus Cottage, Donaghadee, and then, from 1893, in 2 Hamilton Villas, Ballyholme. The family moved permanently to ‘Ward Villa’, Bangor, about the turn of the century.
Charlotte showed an early musical talent and was tutored by a parish organist. Later she was sent to study for two years at the Frankfurt Conservatoire, at the Royal College of Music, London (piano and singing, September 1883–December 1884), and finally at the Milan Conservatoire. Her lasting contribution was, however, to traditional music. On 17 March 1892 in Belfast she married (in green velvet) Charles Fox, a London solicitor; they settled in London, where she became acquainted with members of the Irish Literary Society founded by W. B. Yeats (qv). Attempting an Irish music revival in tune with other aspects of the Irish cultural revival, she collected songs from oral tradition in various parts of Ireland (e.g. Waterford), and in 1905 founded the Irish Folk Song Society (an off-shoot of the Folk Song Society founded in 1898), serving as its honorary secretary.
She and her sister Alice Milligan (qv) were on the society's publications committee; many of the songs she collected were published in its journal, as well as many of her articles, notes, and reviews. The society also organised public events such as an annual St Patrick's Day concert in the Albert Hall of arrangements of folk music. She corresponded with others in the field and was encouraged by Henry Morris (qv) to collect songs in Irish from her native Tyrone, which she did, accompanied by Alice, in Binnyfreachan in 1910. She also collected tunes and published some arrangements (Four Irish songs . . . (c.1906)) with words written by Alice and by another sister, Mary Edith Wheeler (d. 1922); one of the latter's was ‘My singing bird’, popularised by The Dubliners in the 1960s. Other family collaborations were music written by Charlotte for a 1798 ballad ‘Mary Bannan’, published (1897) in Shan Van Vocht, the magazine founded by Alice, and music for a play by Alice, ‘The last feast of the fianna’, performed by the Irish Literary Theatre in the Gaiety, Dublin (February 1900).
Besides collecting (partly by phonograph), arranging, composing, publishing, and performing herself, she encouraged others to do so. Combing libraries for references to and manuscripts of Irish music, she discovered that a grandson of Edward Bunting (qv), Louis McRory, MD, then living in London, possessed many of Bunting's papers, on which she then based both her Songs of the Irish harpers (1910) – intended to encourage revival of the harp – and Annals of the Irish harpers (1911). A lecture tour of the USA followed publication, during which she located in Boston library the notebooks of 1,000 Irish songs collected by Dr Henry Hudson (d. 1889) (‘Concerning the William Elliot [recte Henry] Hudson collection of Irish folk songs’, Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, x (1912), 5–9).
Most of Fox's siblings had literary work published, and were also musical. Her brother Ernest Milligan (‘Will Carew’) (1878–1954) also wrote lyrics for the tunes that Fox collected, while her sisters Edith, Evelyn (1874–1902) and Kathleen (b. 1875) often sang them at public events in Belfast and elsewhere. Kathleen married Charlotte's brother-in-law Robert Fox and also lived in London. The youngest of the family, Charles F. Milligan (1888–1983), became like his father a director of the Bank Buildings, and was mayor of Bangor (1963–6). In 1913 Charlotte Fox's address was 46 Princes Square, Bayswater. During her final illness she was joined for her last few weeks by her sister Alice in Chepstow Place, London, where she died on 25 March 1916, in the same year as both her parents. She is buried in the Milligan family plot in Drumragh, Omagh.
A photographic full-length portrait of her is reproduced as a frontispiece in the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, xvi (1918). The Milligan estate holds some of her papers, and some letters from or concerning her are in the Central Library, Belfast (correspondence of F. J. Bigger (qv)). She bequeathed Bunting's MSS to QUB. Her father was vice-president of the RSAI (1901) and a fellow of the RIA, to which he donated some artifacts. A maternal uncle, a railway engineer, developed the Peruvian railway; Peruvian artifacts collected by him became part of the Grainger collection, now in MAGNI, Ulster Museum.