Biographical Sketch of Martha Hutchings Griffith

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Martha Hutchings Griffith, 1842-1923

By Elliott Barrett, independent historian

Martha Hutchings was born in Hanover, Indiana, on November 29, 1842. In 1871, at the age of 29, she married Dr. Thomas Griffith. The couple moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana where they both practiced medicine. She was of English and Scotch decent, with her forebears having immigrated before the Revolutionary War. During her childhood, her father served in the Indiana state legislature and helped organize the Republican Party in the state.

Before marriage, her parents wished for better education privileges for their children. They moved to Vernon, Indiana where Martha attended Jennings Academy. While in college, Martha studied with black and white males and women. When the Civil War broke out, women began to do things they had never previously thought possible. The war created opportunities for the population; as a result, she did what was seen as completely taboo: she began to study medicine secretly for two years. When this information became known to the public, she was roundly condemned. Although she faced backlash from the public, she was indeed encouraged by her father to study both medicine and science.

In 1866, Martha Hastings entered the Woman's Medical College in Philadelphia. By 1870, she earned her medical diploma. She was the youngest woman to receive a medical diploma that was recognized by the medical profession in the state of Indiana. After her marriage, she began her practice in Darlington, Indiana. Additionally, she belonged to the Montgomery County and Medical societies. By the winter of 1877, she began post-graduate studies.

That following year, the Griffith family moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana where they both were active in medical practice and philanthropic work. Dr. Griffith was one of the

founding members of the Community Housing Association for Women and Girls and helped to organize the Crawfordsville Public Library and became the director of the Women's Franchise League. Other associations she was active in included serving as the director of the Indiana Federation of Women's Clubs in 1908 and she was enthusiastic about women's suffrage. She appeared at polls to vote but was not allowed to participate in this act. During her life time she had two children. Her son, following family tradition, became a physician. Sadly, however, her daughter died in childhood. She continued to practice medicine until she fell, which caused her to fracture her hip. Throughout her practice, she was known for her skill as a physician; she was considered the best of the early women doctors. After her fall, she never fully recovered and she died in 1923.

 

Crawfordsville (IN) Public library

Sources:

"Griffiths had Successful Medical Practice," Montgomery News, 1995, p. 8, clipping accessed at Crawfordsville Public Library (accessed July 26, 2018).

"Martha H. Griffith Oldest Physician Dies from Decline," Crawfordsville Journal, December 29, 1924. Clipping accessed at Crawfordsville Public Library (accessed July 26, 2018).

Barrett, Elliott J. "CPDL Ask a Librarian." Email. July 25, 2018

Dr. Martha Griffith. Photograph. From Crawfordsville Public Library (accessed July 26, 2018).

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