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Martha Atwell
Martha Nivin Atwell [1] [2]

(1900-09-12)September 12, 1900
DiedDecember 28, 1949(1949-12-28) (aged 49)
New York, New York [4]
Alma mater Mt. Holyoke College
New England Conservatory of Music
Eastman School of Music
OccupationRadio director

Martha Atwell (born Martha Nivin Atwell, September 12, 1900 – December 28, 1949) was an American radio director, known for her association with Frank and Anne Hummert.

Early life and career

Atwell was born in Bellevue, Pennsylvania, one of at least four children born to James R. Atwell and Bertha Nivin. [2] [5] [4]

After graduating from Bellevue High School, Atwell attended first Mt. Holyoke College and then the New England Conservatory of Music, where she became a member of the Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity for Women. Graduating in 1922, she was awarded a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music. [2]

While at Eastman, Atwell portrayed the title character in an ambitious production of Maeterlink's Sister Beatrice, a Play in Three Acts, staged by then-faculty member Rouben Mamoulian. [6] It was Mamoulian who suggested that Atwell switch her focus from music to drama. Taking his advice to heart, she soon became Mamoulian's assistant, and subsequently the scenarist of the Eastman Theater. With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, Atwell moved to New York, where she was signed as a director by the World Broadcasting System. [3] [7]

Atwell directed episodes of a number of popular radio serials. For the Hummerts, these include:

For other producers, she oversaw production of episodes of The Editor's Daughter, Hearts in Harmony, and Linda's First Love. Atwell rarely agreed to artists' special requests, running her productions according to the rules set down by the Hummerts. [8] She was also noted for her insistence on punctuality. [9] On the other hand, CBS vice president James Davidson Taylor, speaking in 1946, recalled how "wonderfully kind and helpful" Atwell had been during his early days as an aspiring announcer/producer. [10]

Personal life and death

Atwell never married. Her death appears to have been a suicide; she was discovered floating in a bathtub in her apartment. [8]


  1. ^ Mount Holyoke College, Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (1917). Annual Catalogue of the Mt. Holyoke Seminary and College in South Hadley, Mass. South Hadley, MS: Mount Holyoke College. p. 104.
  2. ^ a b c d Howes, Durward, ed. (1937). American Women : The Official Who's Who Among the Women of the Nation, Vol. II (1937-38). Los Angeles, CA: American Publications, Inc. p. 26. OCLC  435906904.
  3. ^ a b Stenhauser, S.H. (September 1, 1935). "Girl Director of Network Shows Started Out as Bellevue Child Actor; Martha Atwell Has Enviable Radio Career". The Pittburgh Press. p. 23. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Radio Writer Dead in Bath". New York Daily News. December 29, 1949. p. 16. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  5. ^ Ryan, Anna Elizabeth (December 31, 1916). "Large Social Affairs Planned to Take Place During Week; Engagements Announced". The Pittsburgh Sunday Post. p. 11. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  6. ^ Luening, Otto (1980). Odyssey of an American Composer : The Autobiography of Otto Luening. p. 271. ISBN  0-684-16496-5.
  7. ^ Driscoll, Charles B. "The World and All; More Autographs". Meriden Record. May 10, 1933. p.6. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Jim Cox (15 November 2005). Historical Dictionary of American Radio Soap Operas. Scarecrow Press. ISBN  978-0-8108-6523-5.
  9. ^ Joseph Julian (February 1975). This was radio: a personal memoir. Viking Press. ISBN  978-0-670-70299-2.
  10. ^ "Our Respects to – James Davidson Taylor". Broadcasting - Telecasting. January 28, 1946. p. 52. ProQuest  1014887956. Dave's first production assignment was on Mary, the Little French Princess, whose director, Martha Atwell, was 'wonderfully kind and helpful to me,' he says.