Avery, Martha Moore

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AVERY, Martha Moore

Born 6 April 1851, Steuben, Maine; died 8 August 1929, Medford, Massachusetts

Daughter of Albion King Paris and Katherine Leighton Moore; married Millard Filmore Avery, 1880 (died 1890)

After her mother's death in 1864, Martha Moore Avery, the fourth of eight children, lived with her grandfather, Samuel Moore, a Maine politician, instead of with her father, a house builder. She attended the village school and a private girls' school. In 1880 she joined the Unitarian church where she met her husband. When her husband left home to become a traveling salesman in 1886, she and her daughter moved to Boston. Her husband died in 1890.

In Boston, influenced mainly by Dr. Charles D. Sherman, "a Master in Cosmic Law," Avery became much involved with political ideas and movements. In 1891 she joined the Socialist Labor Party, quickly attaining some importance in its ranks. During the 1890s, Avery became associated with another socialist, David Goldstein, a cigarmaker born in England. She founded the Karl Marx Class in 1898 (which in 1901 became the Boston School of Political Economy) with Goldstein as secretary. However, both Avery and Goldstein became increasingly disenchanted with socialism and, simultaneously, drawn to Catholicism.

After her daughter's conversion to Catholicism and entrance into the Congrégation de Notre Dame, as Sister St. Mary Martha in 1900, as a result of the girl's Quebec convent education, Avery herself became a Catholic in 1904, totally renouncing Marxism. Goldstein converted a year later. However, even before their conversions, they collaborated on Socialism: The Nation of Fatherless Children (1903), a critical exposition of the social and moral implications of socialism. Although the tone is strident in its Catholic bias, the content of the book reflects Avery's and Goldstein's intimate knowledge of the history and tactics of socialism. The authors' use of quotations from Marx and Engels, followed by refutations, works effectively. They take a strong stand against many socialist credos; in particular, they charge that the result of irresponsible sexual unions would be homeless children who would become wards of the state.

The result of Avery's second collaboration with Goldstein, Bolshevism: Its Cure (1919), is dedicated to the Knights of Columbus; it launches not only an assault against socialism but also a campaign for Catholicism and patriotism. Working from the teachings of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, the authors elaborate on the basic differences between Marxism and Catholicism; advocate support of trade unions and collective bargaining; and try to promote reform, but reform through faith in God and love of country rather than through socialism.

Avery turned more and more toward political activism. She and Goldstein took to the streets using the very tactics of the socialists. They founded the Catholic Truth Guild, a lay apostolate that preached Catholicism from auto vans, first in New England and then in other parts of the country. Avery was an active apostle on the streets of Boston until only a few days before her death.

Other Works:

The papers of Martha Moore Avery are collected at Xavier College, Sydney, Nova Scotia.


Carrigan, D. O., "A Forgotten Yankee Marxist," in NEQ (March 1969). Carrigan, D. O., "M. M. Avery: Crusader for Social Justice," in Cath-HistRev (April 1968). Goldstein, D., Autobiography of a Campaigner for Christ (1936).

Reference Works:

James, E. T. et all, eds., Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (article by J. P. Shenton, 1971).