Wait, She Was Famous?

I knew that “Martha G.” on my family tree had married Millard Fillmore Avery (1845-1930), but I didn’t know her maiden name. Searching in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, I quickly found their wedding announcement in the Portland Daily Press. Now I know that her maiden name was Moore.

An article about Martha Moore Avery, Portland Daily Press newspaper article 31 March 1880
Source: GenealogyBank, Portland Daily Press (Portland, Maine), 31 March 1880, page 2

Looking further in the old newspapers, I found her obituary

Wait – she was famous?

I assumed that this couple, like almost all of my early New England relatives, lived quiet, industrious lives out of the limelight.

An article about Martha Moore Avery, Boston Herald newspaper article 9 August 1929
Source: GenealogyBank, Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 9 August 1929, page 8

So, it was quite a surprise to find out more of her life story. Her obituary describes her early years as a Socialist activist, her conversion to Catholicism, and her work as a lecturer on both of these subjects.

Some genealogical information in the article includes:

  • She was born 6 April 1851 in Steuben, Maine.
  • She was married in 1880 to Millard Fillmore Avery.
  • Their daughter, Katharine, became a Sister of the Order of Notre-Dame and was known as Sister Mary Martha.
  • A description of her early New England ancestry.
  • Her date of death. This answers another question I had. One source said that she died in 1924 and another in 1929. Now I know that she died on 8 August 1929.

I found dozens of newspaper articles about her lectures and career.

There is also a lengthy article about her in Wikipedia which includes her photograph.

Photo: Martha Moore Avery, from Boston Partridge’s article “America's Troublemakers” published in Pearson’s Magazine (July 1908), page 22
Photo: Martha Moore Avery, from Boston Partridge’s article “America’s Troublemakers” published in Pearson’s Magazine (July 1908), page 22. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I also found another article about her career, published in 1968:

Genealogy Tip: Search the old newspapers for all of your relatives. You might discover there is a lot more to their stories then you thought.

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