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Martha Munger Black

Photograph of Martha Munger Black


Adventurer, Member of Parliament

First woman Member of Parliament from the North


Being the second woman elected to the House of Commons in 1935, at the age of 70, was just one of the many adventures that Martha Munger Black experienced during her lifetime. She gave up the wealthy Chicago life she was born into to partake in the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898. She also gave up her wealthy husband, William Purdy, who was reluctant to venture into the Yukon's rugged northern terrain, a voyage that necessitated travelling 92 kilometres on foot over the Rocky Mountains through Chilkoot Pass.

Martha survived this treacherous journey, the outbreaks of typhoid fever and smallpox, and the crushing northern winter. Unable to afford a doctor, she gave birth to the couple's third son alone in a small log cabin in January 1899. She went on to form a gold-mining partnership and later a successful sawmill business in Dawson City. In 1904 she married George Black, who became commissioner of the Yukon Territory and an MP. In 1935 Martha herself was elected to Parliament, replacing her ill husband as the representative for the Yukon. Among the issues she pursued as an MP were public health, pensions for the blind and nature conservation.

Martha Munger Black, "Mother" of the Yukon, died there at the age of 91. Black Street in Whitehorse commemorates the accomplishments of the Blacks, as do two mountain peaks in the Yukon, named in their honour.


Bassett, Isabell. — The parlour rebellion: profiles in the struggle for women's rights. — Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, c1975. — 223 p. — ISBN 0771010966

Black, Martha Louise. — Martha Black. — Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, c1980. — 166 p. — ISBN 0882400622

Johnston, Jean. — Wilderness women. — Toronto: Peter Martin Associates Limited, c1973. — 242 p. — ISBN 0887780849

Martin, Carol. — Martha Black: Gold Rush Poineer.  — Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, c1996. — ISBN 1550542451

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