|Martha Blakeney Hodges|
Martha Blakeney attended college at a time when the world was at war. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, and the State Normal immediately mobilized the campus, with students taking over many of the tasks previously held by men. One of the most significant ways that the students participated in the war effort was to tend the college farm. Taking the lead from the Land Army of America, ten State Normal students calling themselves the “Farmerettes” stayed at school during the summers of 1918 and 1919 to harvest crops for use by the college. Donning overalls and straw hats, the young women milked cows, fed pigs, and pitched hay, ultimately producing 1100 bushels of wheat, 3000 gallons of beans and tomatoes, and 2000 bushels of corn. Martha Blakeney was one of those Farmerettes.
|The Campus "Farmerettes"|
After graduating from State Normal, she moved to Leaksville, North Carolina, and became a high school teacher and then the principal of Leaksville High School. It was there that she first saw Luther Hartwell Hodges, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who had returned to his old school to give the commencement speech. Luther Hodges, an American success story, was born in a log cabin in Virginia and rose to vice-president of manufacturing at Marshall Field and Company, before holding public office. He always remembered this significant evening and later remarked, “I looked down in the audience and saw a beautiful girl. I made up my mind that I was going to marry her.”
After retiring from Marshall Field in 1950, Luther Hodges served with the Marshall Plan Forces in Western Germany as Chief of the Industry Division and his family moved to Europe for several years and traveled extensively. In 1953, he became Lieutenant Governor and subsequently, the sixty-fourth Governor of North Carolina, and Martha Blakeney Hodges returned to the Governor’s Mansion that she had visited many years before.
|Blakeney at the Entrance of the Governor's Mansion|
|Enjoying a Chief Hobby - Gardening|
|Martha Blakeney Hodges - First Lady of North Carolina|
In 1961, Luther Hodges became the United States Secretary of Commerce under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and the family moved to the nation’s capital. Martha Blakeney Hodges became close to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, treating her like one of her own children. She considered her years in Washington D.C. as the most exciting of her life.
Maintaining a close relationship with The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Martha Blakeney Hodges visited often for reunions and events. She would strengthen this bond by becoming instrumental in the formation of the Friends of the Library and serving on the Board of Trustees and the Alumnae Association. In addition to working closely with the university, she also enjoyed her hobbies of painting, reading, bridge, gardening, and community volunteer work.
Tragically, Martha Blakeney Hodges lost her life in June of 1969 from injuries sustained in a house fire which occurred at their home in Chapel Hill. In the spring of 1970, her family established the Martha Blakeney Hodges Memorial Fund, earmarked to purchase material in the field of Southern History and biographies to enhance research efforts by graduate and undergraduate students. Each book added to the collection had a specifically designed bookplate.
In 2003, her children further honored her memory by pledging the largest gift ever given to Jackson Library for an endowment benefitting Special Collections and University Archives. In appreciation of this gift, and to honor her life-long dedication to the Library and to the university, the department became known as the “Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives.”