Martha Mayer Emerson (1901-1997)
Martha Emerson (nee Mayer) was born on December 30, 1901 and raised in Frankfort, Germany. Her father, Otto Mayer, was a traveling salesman before being drafted into the German army during the First World War. After serving only six weeks Otto was killed at the front. Needing to support the family, Martha’s mother started her own wholesale business. At the age of 19, after finishing school, Martha joined her mother in the running of that business until 1935 at which time she took a job in another office. Her mother lost her business license in 1938 when the Nazis forbade all Jews from owning businesses. She would later be deported to a concentration camp in 1942 , perishing on the transport train.
Martha married her husband, Peter, in October of 1938 at the age of 36. In November of the same year he was arrested and taken to Dachau. Fortunately, Martha was able to get him released four weeks later using papers proving his military service during the First World War. Realizing the danger they were in in Germany, they decided to leave the country. On January 5, 1939, they boarded a passenger liner that took them to Kenya, Africa. They lived and worked – primarily farming – in Kenya until July 1948 when they finally moved to the United States. After a 47-day journey on a freightliner, they landed in New York City, and by November 1948 they had arrived and settled in Portland, Oregon.