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Martha C. Wells Papers

Identifier: M/A 0064

Description of Contents

Collection consists of loose and bound notes, clippings, handwritten cards, and pamphlets produced by Martha Wells between 1891 and 1917.


  • Creation: 1891 - 1917



The collection is available for use in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library during the department's open hours.


Martha C. Wells of 2500 Stevens Ave., was born in Kewanee, Illinois on April 4, 1847, and died on September 1, 1948 at the age of 101. She was the oldest woman in Minneapolis at that time. Wells graduated valedictorian of her class from Rockford College, Rockford, Illinois, in 1866, married in 1872, and in 1880 came to Minneapolis with her husband, Cyrus W. Wells, a prominent real estate developer. She was a charter member of the Monday Club and of the Minneapolis Women’s Club and was one of the organizers of the State Federation of Women's clubs. She also lectured for and served as literary director of the Merriam Park Women’s Club, the Merriam Park Study Club, and the Minneapolis Argosy Club.

A member of the Minnesota Historical Society, Wells founded the Minneapolis Primary Sunday School Teachers' Union in 1883 and formed the Tourist Club in 1891. She was the Tourist Club’s first president, and thereafter she was custodian of the Tourist Club and also on the program committee, coordinating many of its programs. The Tourist Club, which offered preparation for foreign travel through "mutual improvement and the study of countries and subjects of vital interest” assembled weekly at the public library and was comprised of 30 women who became members by application and vote only when there were vacancies. The Club followed the Woman’s Manual of Parliamentary Law, and the annual program included 26 meetings.

Wells also served as president of the fifth district, Minnesota Federation of Women’s clubs, from 1907 to 1909 and was its historian from 1919 to 1923. She was state DAR Regent in 1910, during which the Sibley House in Mendota was presented to the Daughters of the American Revolution. After her husband’s death (on October 29, 1916), she traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1925 as representative for the Minneapolis Republican Women’s Club to urge the national women’s clubs to address the psychological, political, economic, and social causes of war, and to unite in search of a permanent solution for world peace. She was honored with an honorary degree from Rockford College in 1936, and in 1940 feted by the Minnesota Federation of Women’s clubs for her "achievements and urged to continue work in upholding the standards of Americanism in the face of world disaster" and also encouraged to work on behalf of "the fundamentals of conservation." These are just a few of her many honors.

Wells was living with her daughter, Mrs. William B. Newhall (at 3120 James Avenue South), in 1948 when an explosion rocked a neighbor’s house and set fire to the Newhall residence. Wells was hospitalized for shock and returned to the rebuilt home, but her health declined thereafter.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Related Materials in Hennepin County Library Special Collections

Minnesota Historical Society (Minneapolis Primary Sunday School Teachers’ Union, P2335-1); and James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library (Woman’s World’s Fair Commission of the State of Minnesota. Hennepin County, SCMC M/A 2000.66.01; and Women's Literary Clubs Collection, M/A 2000.77.1 – “See also: VF Clubs and Organizations: Women’s Literary Clubs for article written by Ruth Thompson about the portfolio, May 22, 1950 Minneapolis Tribune). Biography vertical files (Martha Howard Wells).

Martha C. Wells Papers
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.