Martin, George Madden

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MARTIN, George Madden

Born Georgia May Madden, 3 May 1866, Louisville, Kentucky; died 30 November 1946, Louisville, Kentucky

Daughter of Frank and Anne Mckenzie Madden; married Attwood Reading Martin, 1892

George Madden Martin received most of her education from private tutors. She taught at Wellseley School for two years before her marriage to Attwood Martin, who subsequently became a prominent businessman. Martin spent her life in Louisville, though she traveled widely.

In the 1890s, Martin became an active member of the women's "Author's Club" of Louisville, along with writers such as Annie Fellows Johnston, Alice Hegan Rice, and her own sister Eva. Martin's career began in 1895 with the publication of the story "Teckla's Lilies" in Harper's Weekly. She remained active as a writer well into the 1930s, publishing nine novels, a children's biography of Shakespeare's early years (A Warwickshire Lad, 1916), a collection of short stories (Children in the Mist, 1920), and a number of short stories.

Like many novels of the period, The House of Fulfilment (1904), Abbie Ann (1907), and Letitia: Nursery Corps, U.S. Army (1907) were first published serially. Martin's career in fiction virtually ended with the publication of the novel March On (1921), which reflected her involvement in political and social issues of World War I. Here she specifically focuses on the character of the "new woman" and the role she should play in preventing war. Martin's only subsequent novel, Made in America (1935), demonstrates her knowledge of politics and history.

Martin served in a number of elected and appointed offices during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1920, she began a 14-year term on the board of the Committee on Interracial Cooperation, of which she was a charter member. That same year, Martin published Children in the Mist, a collection of stories of black life in the South; here she clearly sympathizes with blacks and implicitly castigates whites for keeping them in a subordinate position.

In the 1930s, Martin was chairwoman of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, which objected to mob violence, advocating the solution of the problem of lynching through the abolishment of segregation and economic repression of blacks. However, the position taken by this organization was consistent with Martin's support of states' rights; it advocated an antilynching law that was designed to punish state officers and county governments that failed to prevent lynchings.

In a series of articles for the Atlantic Monthly (1924 -25) Martin explored her view of the role of the American woman in politics. Martin speaks of her personal experience as a woman, yet ironically she continues to use the masculine pseudonym under which she had always published. These articles demonstrate the paradoxes in Martin's political thinking. She was a strong supporter of the rights of blacks, yet consistently advocated strong states' rights. She was not active in the woman-suffrage movement, but urged greater involvement of women in government, chastising them for seeing the centralized federal government as the traditional southern father figure.

Although Martin was well known in her day and her books were usually reviewed favorably, her reputation must derive from her limited skill as a novelist. Her fiction is essentially realistic, with accurate details of daily life. Her simple plots are often too easily resolved; she is better with the episodic novel or short story. However, Martin confronts realistic social problems ranging from racial prejudice to the failure of the school system to reach the average child.

Unlike her friend Annie Fellows Johnston, Martin wrote primarily for adults; yet her greatest achievement is the creation of a child's perspective on life through an adult narrator who supplies the proper distance. Thus, her best-known work is Emmy Lou: Her Book and Heart (1902). Emmy Lou's misconceptions and confusions are both delightful and touching; no reader can forget her failure to understand the purpose of learning letters and numbers, or the well-meaning adults who surround her. Although Martin's subjects have limited appeal, her exploration of the emerging role of the "new woman" in realistic novels such as Selina (1914), and March On is historically significant.

Other Works:

The Angel of the Tenement (1897). Emmy Lou's Road to Grace (1916).


Reference works:


Other references:

Nation (31 Dec. 1914). NYT (3 Oct. 1920). Outlook (1 Oct. 1904).