Religion: believes in ghosts
Name: Nanette's mother
Classification: supporting character
Number of appearances: 1
Note: mother on burning steamship
Superman swam out into a stormy sea to rescue a burning steamship. As Superman arrived on the distressed steamship, the Clarion, passengers can be seen running and shouting. In panel 1 of page 3 of Action Comics #17, a woman wearing a blue dress with a red jacket cried out for her child: "My baby! Nanette! Where are you?"
This woman's cries, and the word balloons of others on the ship, illustrated the panicked state of the burning steamship's passengers.
In panel 3 on the same page, Superman finished climbing onto the steamship. He appeared, standing on a railing, in front of a number of passengers, including Nanette's mother. Nanette's mother blurted out, "It's a ghost!"
These are the only two panels in which Nanette's mother speaks. The back of her head and the top of her shoulders are apparently seen in the foreground of panel 1 on page 5. So, very little was ever revealed about Nanette's mother. She was merely a bit character used as a representative of the panicked "civilians" on board the steamship, all of whom were saved by Superman. The precise religious affiliation of Nanette's mother is indeterminate, but clearly she is a woman who cares deeply for her daughter and clearly she believes in ghosts. Superman doesn't really look much like a ghost, but this was the first thought out of this woman's mouth when she saw the strangely-clad super-hero.
Had this story taken place slightly later in Superman's career, an average American woman like Nanette's mother probably was would not likely have mistaken Superman for a ghost. But this story occurred only about a year after Superman's first published story. Many of his exploits were little publicized, and published photos of the hero were rare or non-existent. Superman at this point had only rarely operated outside of Metropolis. So it is easily conceivable that Nanette's mother didn't recognize him. But why she thought the obviously solid and human-appearing Superman was a ghost instead of a rescue worker or scuba diver or something else speaks to the woman's strong belief in ghosts.
This character is in the following story which has been indexed by this website:
Action Comics (vol. 1) #17 (Oct. 1939): "The Return of the Ultra-Humanite" (3-panel cameo)