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NFRW: 1941 Martin Letter (pg. 1)

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This letter was found on eBay and a search for the subsequent page(s) is ongoing with the help of eBayers.

About Marion E. Martin [NFRW]
Bangor Daily News, Friday, March 07, 2008 - BDN Staff

By Jo Freeman
Special to the NEWS

The woman most responsible for creation of the National Federation of Republican Women in 1937 was Marion E. Martin of Maine. In 1944 she estimated that she could mobilize 1 million Republican women through the clubs in her federation. At its height the NFRW had 400,000 members, which made it the largest women’s political organization in the country

Martin spent her life in politics, where she was known for her thorough preparation and distinctive hats. She inherited her commitment to public service from her mother, who had worked for numerous causes and thought her daughter would make a fine legislator. In 1930 Martin was elected to the Maine House. She served two terms in the House and two in the Senate.

To better do her job, Martin took courses at the University of Maine between legislative sessions. When she found herself chairman of the Senate’s Legal Affairs Committee — the first nonlawyer to do so — she commuted to Connecticut to take law classes at Yale Law School. There, one of her professors recruited her to work for the Republican National Committee.

After the 1936 Democratic landslide there were only 89 Republicans in the U.S. House, 16 in the U.S. Senate, and six Republican governors. In only a few years the Republican Party had gone from the majority party to one that could barely qualify as serious opposition. The new RNC chairman, John D. M. Hamilton, decided to rebuild it into a "loyal opposition," with regular funding, professional staff and an ongoing program. In 1937 he asked the new national committeewoman from Maine to become the assistant chairman for women’s activities with the task of organizing Republican women.

Republican women’s clubs had been campaigning for their party for more than 50 years, but they went their own way and did not coordinate their work. After meeting with the other national committeewomen, Martin put together the National Federation of Women’s Republican Clubs with herself at its head and invited the existing clubs to join. Within a year clubs with 100,000 members had affiliated.

For the next 10 years Martin nursed the Federation, traveling widely, writing pamphlets and creating a structure through which every Republican woman who wanted to work could find a place in the party. She saw the clubs as a training ground for Republican women, teaching them political skills even while it put them to work for Republican candidates. She also used her position to lobby for women, urging Republican governors to appoint them to state offices, pushing state parties to give them more seats at national conventions, and urging women to run for office. By 1946, her federation had 400,000 members in its constituent clubs.

In the November elections that year the Republican Party gained control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1928. The new RNC chairman, Carroll Reece, fired Marion Martin. According to one report he "walked into Miss Martin’s office" and said: "You have enemies on the committee. I want harmony here; I will appreciate it if you would sever your connection with us as rapidly as possible." While Martin never publicly gave a reason for her sudden departure, she appeared to be a casualty of the GOP’s factional fights.

After Martin was fired, the NFWRC began to cut the umbilical cord to the RNC. In 1952, it reorganized and renamed itself the National Federation of Republican Women, with its own elected president and board of directors.

Respected in both parties, Martin was proposed to President Harry Truman for appointment to the Federal Communications Commission, which had to be bipartisan. However, the director of the Democratic Women’s Division, India Edwards, vetoed her because she didn’t want Truman’s first female appointee to be a Republican.

Instead Martin returned to Maine, where she served as commissioner of labor from 1947 until her retirement in 1972. She earned a reputation for her innovative approach to labor problems, and for championing programs to benefit women.

This piece is Chapter 8 of Jo Freeman’s new book, "We Will Be Heard: Women’s Struggles for Political Power in the United States," which will be published March 28 by Rowman & Littlefield. It is printed with her permission. Freeman is author of "A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics," "The Politics of Women’s Liberation," and "At Berkeley in the Sixties." She is the coeditor of "Waves of Protest" and editor of "Social Movements of the Sixties and Seventies" and five editions of "Women: A Feminist Perspective." For more information about the author, see www.jofreeman.com.

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