Martha Black

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Martha Louise Black
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Yukon
In office
Preceded by George Black
Succeeded by George Black
Personal details
Born Martha Louise Munger
(1866-02-24)February 24, 1866
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died October 31, 1957(1957-10-31) (aged 91)
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Political party Independent Conservative
  • Will Purdy (m. 1887)
  • George Black (m. 1904)
Children 3, Warren, Donald and Lyman Purdy
Alma mater Saint Mary's College

Martha Louise Munger Black OBE (February 24, 1866 – October 31, 1957) was a Canadian politician. Black was the second woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons.[1]

Martha was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of George and Susan Munger, a wealthy family. She was educated at Saint Mary's College, which was run by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Of the five children her mother had over four years, Martha was the only one to survive. She had two younger siblings, George Jr. and Belle. Her father operated a laundry that was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.

Martha married Will Purdy in 1887[2] and the couple raised two sons together, Warren and Donald. Martha and Will made plans to join the Klondike Gold Rush in 1899, but Will backed out, departing instead for Hawaii. Martha did not join Will in Hawaii, choosing to travel to the Klondike with her brother in 1898.

In 1898 she crossed the Chilkoot Pass into Canada, heading for the gold rush in the Klondike.[3] She gave birth to her and Will's third son, Lyman, in January 1899 in Dawson City.

Martha returned home to Chicago, and returned again to the Klondike in 1900. She earned a living by staking gold mining claims and running a sawmill and a gold ore-crushing plant. In 1904, she married George Black, who later became Commissioner of the Yukon from 1912–1916.

In the 1935 federal election, she was elected for the riding of Yukon as an Independent Conservative taking the place of her ill husband. She was the second woman ever to be elected to the House of Commons of Canada.

She published an autobiography, My Seventy Years, in 1938. This work was subsequently updated and republished in her lifetime as My Ninety Years and later further updated posthumously and republished in 1998 as Martha Black: Her Story from the Dawson Gold Fields to the Halls of Parliament.

Honours and awards[edit]

In 1917, she was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her series of lectures on the Yukon that she presented in Great Britain. In 1946, she was made an Officer of Order of the British Empire for her cultural and social contributions to the Yukon.

In 1986 a Canadian Coast Guard high-endurance multi-tasked vessel was given the name "Martha L. Black" in her honour. The vessel sails in the Quebec Region area.[4] In 1997, Canada Post issued a $0.45 stamp in her honour.


  1. ^ My Ninety Years by Martha Louise Black. Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, 1976, pg. 13.
  2. ^ My Ninety Years by Martha Louise Black. Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, 1976, pg. 13
  3. ^ ""Purdy, Mrs. M.", NWMP records at Chilkoot, Dawson City Museum Pan for Gold Database". Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  4. ^ Canadian Coast Guard Fleet in Quebec (2015-11-05). "CCGS Martha L Black". Retrieved 2017-01-13. 

External links[edit]