Martha Wren Gaines papers, 1962-1987

Emory University

Robert W. Woodruff Library

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322


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Descriptive Summary

Creator: Gaines, Martha Wren, 1939-1987.
Title: Martha Wren Gaines papers, 1962-1987
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 669
Extent: 16 linear feet (35 boxes), 2 oversized papers boxes and 1 oversized papers folder (OP), 1 oversized bound volumes (OBV), and AV Masters: 1.75 linear feet (2 boxes)
Abstract:Papers of Martha Wren Gaines, human rights and civil liberties activist, including correspondence, reports, printed material, clippings, audio-visual materials, and memorabilia.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on access

Special restrictions apply: some materials are restricted due to privacy concerns.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Related Materials in This Repository

Frances Freeborn Pauley papers, Eliza Pascall papers, Darlene Roth-White temporary collection, and Eleanor Richardson papers.


Gift, 1988.


[after identification of item(s)], Martha Wren Gaines papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Barbara J. Mann, February 1990.

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Collection Description

Biographical Note

Martha Jean Wren Gaines, human rights and civil liberties activist, was born May 20, 1939 in Thomson, Georgia, to Paul M. Wren, a carpenter, and Zada McTier Wren. She graduated in 1961 from the University of Georgia in Athens with a liberal arts degree in journalism.

In March 1961, Martha Gaines began work with the Smyrna Herald as the advertising manager. Her subsequent professional career included positions as Assistant to the Director of Public Information for the Georgia Department of Education (June 1962-October 1964), Coordinator of Information for the Metropolitan School Development Council of the Atlanta Public Schools (November 1964-November 1967), Associate Secretariat for Systems Design of the Georgia Manpower Planning Council (February 1969-May 1973), and Compliance Officer for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (October 1977-November 1987).

From May 1973 to October 1977, Martha Gaines was also involved in free-lance work as a writer, lecturer, and equal opportunity consultant for women and minority groups. She and Darlene Roth-White formed a consulting firm, Gaines and Roth-White, dedicated to feminist interests in developing affirmative action plans, compliance assistance, and management and leadership training.

Martha Gaines worked with and held leadership positions in many local, regional, and national organizations dedicated to the causes of human rights and civil liberties. She was especially active in the National Organization for Women (NOW), holding various offices including membership on the Board of Directors at the national level (1971-1973), Chair of the National Conference Resolutions Committee (1973), State Coordinator (1972-1974), Southern Regional Director (1976-1977), and one of the founders and president of the Atlanta Chapter (1969-1970).

As a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), both nationally and in Georgia, Martha Gaines served as a member of the Board of Directors (1975-1985?), was the first woman to serve two terms as State President, was President of the ACLU of Georgia Foundation (1985-?), and was also a member of the national ACLU Board of Directors (1980-?). In 1983 the ACLU of Georgia presented Martha Gaines with the Bill of Rights Award.

An ardent supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Martha Gaines was involved locally and nationally. She was a member of the ERA Ratification Council (1973-1975), a staff member for Georgians for the ERA (1976), and a member of ERA Georgia (1978-?).

Martha Gaines was an active supporter and consultant to the campaigns of several elected officials. She was also a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee (1974-1975). In 1974, Martha Gaines was the Democratic candidate for the State Senate from District 37 in Fulton County. Although she lost this bid, she received circa forty-five percent of the vote.

Martha Wren was married in 1966 to Joe Marion Gaines. Their daughter, Martha Kelly Gaines, was born October 28, 1966, and has also been involved in human rights causes and civil liberties issues. The Gaines's marriage ended in divorce. On November 29, 1987 Martha Wren Gaines died of cancer. Although Atlanta had been her home from college graduation until the time of her death, she was buried in Savannah Memorial Gardens in her hometown of Thomson, Georgia.

Scope and Content Note

The Martha Wren Gaines papers consist of a wide variety of material types including correspondence, reports, printed material, clippings, audio-visual materials, and memorabilia. This collection dates from 1962-1987, with the bulk of the papers dating from ca. 1969-1987.

This collection is strong in its representation of the women's movement. The National Organization for Women materials, the Equal Rights Amendment Campaign files, and the printed material in the Social Issues Subject Files devoted to the women's movement give an in-depth look at certain activities of the 1970s and 1980s in regard to ending sex discrimination in the United States.

While organization-related records make up most of this collection, there are relatively few materials relating to the personal life of Martha Gaines. Materials located in the personal and posthumous materials series are sketchy in their representation of her personal life, although more of such information can be gleaned from the employment applications and vitae found in the professional papers series.

Arrangement Note

Organized into six series: (1) Professional papers; (2) Organizational activities files; (3) Equal Rights Amendment campaign files; (4) Professional and organizational scrapbook material, 1965-1986; (5) Social issues subject files, 1967-1986; and (6) Personal and posthumous material, 1960-1987.

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