Black, Martha Louise

Martha Louise Black, née Munger, naturalist (b at Chicago, Ill 24 Feb 1866; d at Whitehorse, YT 1 Nov 1957). Despite her ladylike veneer, she was remarkably tough. In 1898 she abandoned Chicago society to join the Klondie Gold Rush. Fascinated by the North, Martha Black returned in 1901 to open a milling business and support her 3 sons by her first marriage. In 1904 she married George Black and instantly became a loyal Canadian Conservative.

When George Black was appointed commissioner of the Yukon (1912-18), Martha reigned as first lady. She followed Black to England during WWI; there she received an OBE for her aid to Yukon servicemen and became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her work with Yukon flora. When George Black was unable to defend his Commons seat in 1935, Martha ran instead. At 70, she campaigned the vast Yukon constituency - often on foot - to become the second woman ever elected to the Canadian Parliament. Martha Black had style and spirit; northerners appreciated these qualities and made her a legend.