This Month in History

March is Women's History Month

Since the late 1960s, the study of history has expanded to include much more than the study of wars and important men. It has grown so that we now explore many facets of life and include a much broader swath of the population. To honor that spirit of inclusiveness, and because it is Women’s History Month, today’s subject is local Wilmingtonian, Martha Page Bellamy Knight King. 

In Wilmington, the Bellamy name evokes the Mansion at 5th and Market streets, and Martha was Dr. John D. Bellamy’s great-great-granddaughter. Although she inherited the Bellamy name, her branch of the family lived fairly modestly. Martha’s parents were William Walker Bellamy and Rachel Page Murrill. William grew up in Carolina Place and did not attend college. Mr. Bellamy worked in a shipyard at aged 18. Rachel grew up on a farm in Onslow County. After William and Rachel married, the couple rented a house on Orange Street. By 1940, when Martha was a teen, the family lived at 2017 Metts Avenue and Mr. Bellamy drove a truck for a wholesale bakery.  

Martha was born in 1925, just five years after women’s groups successfully campaigned to get the right to vote by Constitutional Amendment. During the 20th century, women’s opportunities and roles changed significantly. Women of Martha’s generation experienced changing marriage and divorce patterns, increased access to birth control and abortion, more educational choices, and – after the passage of the Civil Rights Act which helped create more equality for women in the workforce – increasing economic opportunities.

Martha King’s life story reflects those changes. Martha was better educated than both her parents.  She graduated from New Hanover High School in 1943. According to the yearbook, Martha was “nonchalant, witty, and gay,” and she’d “…never seen an unhappy day.” Bellamy went on to attend Mary Washington College. After she graduated, she worked for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad for a number of years. And, by the time Martha married, ideas about white women and work had changed from her mother’s day. While Martha’s mother, Rachel, does not seem to have worked outside the home, Martha continued to work for the ACL after she married photographer Peter Knight in 1948. During the course of their relationship, Martha worked for Pete’s photography business and as a clerk at the Carolinian Motel. The couple did not have any children, and they divorced in the early 1960s. 

Around that time, Martha began a long-time association with the Red Cross. Martha worked in the local chapter’s office by 1963, and she became acting executive director in November 1966. Martha became the permanent executive director in May 1967. She worked for the organization until 1982. At the same time as she was rising to managerial levels in the Red Cross, Martha remarried. In 1965, she wed Herman H. King. Although she went on to divorce from her second husband in the late 1970s, she kept the name King until she died in 1990.

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Previous Columns

January: Pembroke Jones and the Playground Movement
December: A Day's News, December 12, 1936
October: Fire Prevention Week, October 8 through 14, 1972
Life Around Wilmington, August 30, 1951
The Competition Heats Up June 18, 1884
The Kenan Memorial Fountain gets a facelift, April 14, 2005
Women’s History Month, March 8
January 2022: 
Two Brothers Honored on One Memorial Stone, January 30, 1917
October 3, 1961, the Battleship North Carolina arrives at its final mooring place
September 19, 1906
Exploring New Hanover County’s Green Book sites
A popularity contest, July 1915
The Competition Heats Up June 18, 1884
A New Hospital is dedicated, May 7, 1967
The First Earth Day, 1970
Women and the Wilmington Museum of Art
African Americans Working on the Railroad
January 2021: 
January 9, 1861

Martha Bellamy at the Beach

Martha Bellamy Knight King

Martha sitting on Pete Knight

Martha sitting on Pete Knight

Martha Bellamy at Lucile and Irving Craig’s house Christmas 1948

Martha Bellamy at Lucile and Irving Craig’s house Christmas 1948