“ ‘Do you want a campaigner job taking on multinational corporations?’ ” Katchpole recited one afternoon last week. She turned away from her laptop. “People keep asking me what I am going to do next. I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not much of a policy wonk. But I am absolutely an activist at heart.”
Ever since Katchpole launched an online petition railing against Bank of America’s proposed debit card fees, the bushy-haired, tattooed member of the millennial generation has become a favorite among TV news show bookers and a hero among netizens. After Bank of America aborted its plan Tuesday to charge customers $5 a month to use their debit cards, Katchpole is now coping with the come-down. She finds herself ambivalent about all the attention and the David vs. Goliath story line. She also has more urgent worries emblematic of her generation: Starting in December, the art and architectural history major has to figure out a way to start paying off her student loans, which she says will require payments of at least $200 a month.
“I don’t know what I am going to do!” said Katchpole, a freelance account manager at a political consulting firm called Winning Over Washington. (Its main client is the progressive group MoveOn.org.) “I am going to have to defer my loans. I have no idea. Why should I be expected to pay them off now? Why are colleges charging interest on that stuff? Give us a break. Really.”
Katchpole’s sudden transformation into a guest on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” reveals how the Internet’s fame-making power works in unpredictable ways.
Katchpole hails from Cumberland, R.I., where her dad, Jim Katchpole, is a machinist and her mother, Kathy Katchpole, is a physical therapist’s assistant. (Kathy said the last name has British roots and has something to do with catching people who evade taxes.)
Molly Katchpole was on the high school debate team and wrote frequent letters to her local newspaper, the Valley Breeze. She slammed a state senator who proposed a bill mandating driver’s license tests to be in English only. She went off on a local father complaining about children being cut from middle school teams.
“I wrote the paper saying we had bigger things to worry about,” she says.
She enrolled at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., and spent summers interning at art museums in Providence, Boston and Washington — at the National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of Natural History.