Hamm, Margherita (1867–1907)

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Hamm, Margherita (1867–1907)

Canadian journalist and author. Name variations: Margaret Hamm. Born Margaret Hamm on April 29, 1867, in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada; died on December 17, 1907, in New York City; daughter of Rufus La Fayette Hamm (owner of a lumber business) and Martha Almenia (Spencer) Hamm; educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Carleton, New Brunswick; attended Emerson College of Oratory, 1889–90; married William E.S. Fales (a vice-consul), on October 14, 1893 (divorced 1902); married John Robert McMahon (a journalist), on August 1, 1902; children: one daughter, Arlina Douglas McMahon (b. 1903).

Margherita Arlina Hamm was born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, on April 29, 1867, one of six children of Martha Spencer Hamm and Rufus La Fayette Hamm. She was raised in the Episcopalian Church but educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Carleton, New Brunswick. While still young, her family moved to Bangor, Maine, where her father established a successful lumber business.

In her 20s, Hamm moved to Boston where she worked for the Boston Herald as a reporter before moving to New York City. Her journalism work at this time did not provide her with a secure income, and she took numerous special assignments from daily newspapers. She is said to have established her reputation by conducting interviews with the likes of Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine. She traveled throughout the United States as a correspondent for several New York newspapers.

Hamm married William E.S. Fales, then the U.S. vice-consul in Amoy, China, on October 14, 1893, and the couple traveled throughout Asia. When the Sino-Japanese war broke out in June of 1894 while they were in Korea, Hamm scored a journalistic coup by presenting her firsthand accounts of events to a variety of newspapers in America. Her stories included the attack on the palace at Seoul, the assassination of Queen Min of Korea, and the declaration of war. During this struggle, she also assisted with nursing activities and was commended by Clara Barton .

After the war, Hamm and her husband returned to America and made their home in Brooklyn, New York. Drawing on her vast travel experiences, Hamm delivered a series of lectures in various American cities on topics such as "Chinese Jurisprudence" and "Irrigation in the Far East." Continuing with her writing, Hamm contributed many magazine articles on Asia. She edited Journalist, a trade weekly from 1894 to 1895, and acted as assistant editor of Peterson's Magazine in 1898. She also headed the women's department of the New York Evening Mail and Express.

Like most Americans, Hamm's sympathies turned toward the insurgents in the Cuban uprising against Spanish domination after a visit to the West Indies in 1895, and in 1898 she left the Evening Mail to cover the Spanish-American war. During the conflict, she also volunteered on the nurses' staff of the women's auxiliary of the National Guard. She was recognized for her contributions by Cuban president Tomás Estrada Palma. After the war, she returned to journalism and traveled to England in 1901 to report on the coronation of King Edward VII. Hamm wrote several books, including three works relating to the Spanish-American War: Manila and the Philippines (1898), Puerto Rico and the West Indies (1899) and Dewey, the Defender (1899). Two of her more popular works were Eminent Actors in Their Homes (1902) and the two-volume Famous Families of New York (1902).

Hamm's marriage to Fales ended in divorce in 1902 and two days after the final decree, on August 1, 1902, she married John Robert McMahon, a fellow journalist. She died five years later, on December 17, 1907, at Woman's Hospital in New York City of pneumonia. She was survived by her second husband and her four-year-old daughter, Arlina Douglas McMahon .


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland

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