Martha Parsons

Martha Parsons

Induction Category:
Business & Labor

Born: 1869

Died: 1965

Inducted: 2010

Town: Enfield

When Martha Parsons was just 23 years old, she decided to leave her home, family, and friends to take a job with Landers, Frary & Clark Co. in New Britain, Conn. This represented a brave move for a young, single woman of her time but Parsons was strong and independent and welcomed what others might consider a challenge. In just twenty years, Parsons proved herself an asset to the Landers, Frary & Clark team and by 1912, was named executive secretary of the $2-million corporation, becoming the first female business executive in Connecticut’s history to earn her position on the basis of merit.

Parsons was born in Enfield, Conn., on December 6, 1869, the youngest of three daughters of John and Juliette Allen Parsons. She learned the importance of discipline and hard work at a very young age. When she was nearly eleven years old, Parsons’ father passed away and she and her sisters began working to help support the family. At Enfield High School, Parsons also demonstrated her strong work ethic. An outstanding student, she passed examinations in history, physical geography, arithmetic, and algebra, and earned certificates equal to today’s teaching certificate.

Upon leaving high school, Parsons studied stenography and spent the late 1880s and early 1890s as a stenographer for the Morgan Envelope Company in Springfield, Mass., earning between $10 and $12 per week. This was considered great money for a young woman, and, in 1893, when she was in the process of making her move to Landers, Frary & Clark, Morgan Envelope tried offering her an unheard of $16 per week to stay. But, Parsons took a chance and accepted a new stenography position in New Britain.

Parsons’ take-charge attitude so impressed her superiors at Landers, Frary & Clark that she was named Executive Secretary by 1912. Despite having earned her promotion, she was directed to sign her mail “M.A. Parsons” so that men would not know they were doing business with a woman. Parsons held this position until her retirement in 1919 at the age of 50. At this point, she moved back to her home in Enfield to live with her sisters. In 1928, Parsons hired Miss Ethel Rebecca Twining to live in the home and help with housekeeping. Parsons and Twining developed a strong friendship, which led Parsons to adopt Twining, and include her in her will. However, Twining passed before Parsons.

Throughout her life, Martha Parsons traveled extensively, invested her considerable wealth shrewdly, and remained active in civic and church matters. At the time of her death in 1965, she left her house to the historical society and set up a trust to maintain the estate. The home is now a museum open to the public and is a site on the Connecticut Women’s Heritage Trail.

During This Time
1800 - 1920: Industrialization & Reform