Martha Putney: Pioneer Educator and Historian

Written by Jae Jones

“I just decided I wasn’t going to accept [other people’s] classifications for me. I knew that somebody was going to open the door for me if I kept on pushing. ” – Martha Putney

Martha Settle Putney was an educator and historian. She was the daughter of Oliver and Ida Settle of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and she was one of eight children.

As a young woman, Putney encouraged black voters to vote for a candidate who she felt would be best in Congress. After her candidate won the election, he helped her receive a scholarship to college.  She later attended Howard University, where she received a bachelor’s degree and later a master’s in history. It was difficult for Putney to find a job in her field, so she worked as a clerk with the government’s War Manpower Commission.

In 1943, Putney joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. She entered the 35th Officer Candidate School(OCS) at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, where she was commissioned on July 7, 1943. After completing OCS, Putney was assigned as a Basic Training Company Officer at Fort Des Moines.

After the war, she returned to school on the G.I. Bill for her doctoral studies. After graduating, she taught at Bowie State College and then Howard University. After retiring, she wrote various books and articles, such as “Blacks in the United States Army: Portraits through History,” “Black Sailors: Afro-American Merchant Seamen and Whalemen prior to the Civil War,” and “When the Nation was in Need: Blacks in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.” She was one of four recipients of the 1999 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, which honored individuals who made contributions to society. She attributed her lifelong success to lessons in self-esteem that she picked up from her parents. Putney died on December 11, 2008, at the age of 92.



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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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