Fredericka Martin

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Fredericka Imogene Martin (born June 2, 1905 in Cooperstown , New York , † October 4, 1992 in Cuernavaca , Mexico ) was an American nurse , writer and photographer . During the Spanish Civil War she was a senior member of an American medical unit of the International Brigades and later became involved as an advocate for the indigenous Alëut people .

Youth and education

Fredericka Freddie Imogene Martin was born on June 2, 1905 in Cooperstown, New York State. Her father died in an accident before she was born, and her mother remarried when Martin was five years old. The family then moved to Oneonta , New York, where Martin attended school. After graduating from high school , she joined the St. Margaret Episcopalian Order of Nuns in New Jersey . In 1925 she attended the nursing school at Christ Hospital in Jersey City and worked in a number of different hospitals. In 1929 Martin married Alexander Cohen from England. In the following years she became increasingly interested in trade union work and attended various political courses. She also learned both Russian and Yiddish languages.

Used in the Spanish Civil War

During a visit to Europe and the Soviet Union in 1935, the politically interested Martin became aware of the threat posed by the increasing spread of fascism and, on her return to Europe, she joined a medical aid organization for the support of Spanish democracy, the Medical Bureau and North American Committee Aid Spanish Democracy . This association not only supported Spain with donations, but also recruited medical staff for use in the Spanish civil war . On January 16, 1937, Martin left the United States for Spain on board the SS Parisas as a member of the first medical unit. Under the direction of surgeon Edward Barsky and as part of the International Brigades , Martin served as head nurse and administrative director of American hospitals in Spain during the Civil War. She returned to the United States in February 1938.

Commitment to the Alëuts

Martin divorced Cohen after her return from Spain and married the doctor Samuel Berenberg in 1940. Berenberg took a job on the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea in 1941 and, with the support of his wife, ran the Fish and Wildlife Hospital on St. Paul Island . During this work Martin came into contact with the indigenous population of the Alëuts and supported them as their spokeswoman and advocate in their struggle for self-determination and freedom. During the ten years that Martin spent in the Alëuts, a number of different articles and books were written, she translated various scriptures and published an Alëutic dictionary.

Retreat to Mexico

Martin returned to New York with her husband and newborn daughter Tobyanne. In 1950 the marriage ended in divorce and Martin moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico. The community became home to a number of American emigrants and Spanish exiles. Martin earned her living there for the next 40 years as a writer and Spanish teacher.

Martin received honorary citizenship of Saint Paul Island in 1986 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska . She died on October 4, 1992 in Cuernavaca.


  • Before the storm. A Year in the Pribilof Islands, 1941-1942. Edited by Raymond Hudson, University of Alaska Press 2010; ISBN 978-1-60223-076-7
  • Sea Bears. The Story Of The Fur Seal. Philadelphia 1960
  • Three Years of Pribil of Progress. 1950
  • Pribilof Sealers-Serfs of the North. 1948
  • The Wind is No River. (Unpublished manuscript)


  • Lini de Vries: Up to the Cellar. Minneapolis 1979
  • Marion Merriman Wachtel, Warren Lerude: American Commander in Spain. Reno 1986
  • Frances Patai: Heroines of the Good Fight: Testimonies of US Volunteer Nurses in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. In: Nursing History Review: Official Journal of the American Association for the History of Nursing. Vol. 3, 1995 p. 79-104

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