Heroes that History Won't Forget: Dr. Martha Putney

Living in a town with a long military history, stories of bravery and valor are common to hear but there are heroes whose stories haven’t been heard as often. This week, we have chosen to highlight Dr. Martha Settle Putney for both her military service and for her contributions to the recorded history of African Americans in the military.

Martha Putney, born in 1916, came from a close and hard working family in Pennsylvania. Her parents never stopped stressing the importance of education to her and her 7 siblings. In turn, they all graduated from high school and many went on to pursue higher education. In 1943, Martha was one of 40 African American women chosen to join the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp) and proudly served until the end of World War II.

She continued her education with the GI Bill and earned her doctorate in history and education from the University of Pennsylvania. She spent the rest of her life as an educator and writer, teaching at the college level. Her many books and articles brought to light the importance African Americans played in the military, and how integration in the services helped them establish a foot hold in middle class America.

Dr. Putney passed away in Washington D.C. at the age of 92. She was known as a tough and inspirational teacher who motivated her students to be the best. Her legacy of the recorded history of African American military members serves to highlight the stories that should not be forgotten, and will not be thanks to her efforts.

To learn more about Dr. Putney, be sure to watch or read the transcript of her interview for the Veterans History Project, an initiative with the Library of Congress that hopes to preserve the stories of those who have served.

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