American interest in Our Martha

The work of the Friends and the co-operation of Brent Stevenson in re-erecting the statue of Martha Jane Bury (See our Archive section) has stirred interest from across the Atlantic.

British history scholar Barbara Blaszak “discovered” Martha Jane while working on the Co-operative Movement and its Women’s Guild in New York and she has been in touch with Friends chairman John East and local historians Tony Foster and Harold Heys.

Professor Blaszak said she was “absolutely delighted” to learn about our efforts to rehabilitate the cemetery. She and her husband had tried to find Martha’s grave when they visited Darwen a few years ago but were unsuccessful.

However, she was able to use archival material from “Darwen’s beautiful Carnegie library” to help her write an article for a scholarly journal and for the Dictionary of National Biography.

She wrote: “I always resented the way the Women’s Guild general secretary, Margaret Llewelyn Davies, wrote Martha out of Co-operative history after Martha died in the middle of a controversy the two women were having over divorce law reform and women’s suffrage. It seemed so cheap and catty, yet Davies’ reputation certainly hasn’t suffered in consequence. History is no fairer than life, is it?”

Harold sent her some photos and she told him how shocked she had been at the state of Darwen Cemetery. We’re doing our best, Barbara! But it ain’t easy.

FODC August 2011