Martha Rufner Maddox (abt 1864 – 1943)

Martha Maddox was an anchor in her Hartford community, determined to support the African American community in Hartford, especially the women and children.

Born in Lewiston, Virginia, Martha Harris was living in Leesburg, Virginia, in 1880. On October 3, 1887, she married John Henry Maddox, a barber, in Solano County, California. He died in 1901. Her daughter, Alta E. Maddox, was born in 1902 in California. In 1903 Martha Maddox moved across the country from California to Hartford and started a new life with her child. Martha did housework for various employers over the decades. In 1920 she lived in Hartford with her teenage daughter Josephine Yoncik, whose father was a white factory laborer. At this time Alta was likely attending college. She would graduate from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and work as a dressmaker in Hartford.

Even as a single, working mother with two young daughters, Maddox began to change her community. In 1904 she organized the beginners Sunday School for the Union Baptist Church, “making a house-to-house canvas to bring children to the school,” according to The Hartford Courant. She taught more than 600 children in 35 years, not missing more than 15 Sundays during that time. Her work was honored by the Courant in a 1939 article titled “Sunday School Post Held For 35 Years.”

Maddox was active in the political and social uplift of African Americans in Connecticut. She participated in the statewide organization, the Nutmeg State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, serving as the Church Relations Department Head in 1929. In 1939 she was the Vice President of the Women’s League, Inc., a significant African American organization in Hartford.

Back to: The Work Must Be Done: Women of Color and the Right to Vote

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