Duluth activist Martha Alworth diesMartha Butler Alworth was an intellectually energetic woman who never stopped wanting to learn, people who knew her said on Tuesday.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Martha Butler Alworth was an intellectually energetic woman who never stopped wanting to learn, people who knew her said on Tuesday.
A world traveler and a community and social activist who called Duluth home, Alworth died on Sunday at home. She was 87.
Alworth’s civic involvement included endowing the Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice at the College of St. Scholastica and establishing the Royal D. Alworth Jr. Institute for International Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The latter was named for her husband, who died in 1987.
Cindy Christian, director of the Royal D. Alworth Jr. Institute for the past three years, had known Martha Alworth since moving to Duluth about 20 years ago, she said. They first met when both participated in a group of people who were interested in the United Nations, she added.
“She was a very classy woman,” Christian said of Alworth. “She was friendly and funny. What was most striking about her is she never stopped wanting to learn. … That kind of intellectual curiosity fueled what we do here at the Alworth Institute.”
Alworth didn’t dictate policy at the institute or get involved in day-to-day operations, but she was active on the advisory board and in suggesting speakers to bring. Just two Thursdays ago she attended a “brown bag” lecture in which former institute director William Henderson returned from England to give a presentation, Christian said.
Another recent brown bag lecture Alworth attended was about Antarctica, Christian said. “That’s one place she hadn’t been,” she said. “It was probably about the only place.”
Tom Morgan, director of the Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice, said he first met Martha Alworth in the 1980s when she lent her support and financial help in establishing the Duluth International Peace Center, precursor to Duluth Sister Cities.
“I’ve always appreciated her progressive thinking and her commitment to social justice,” Morgan said.
Although Alworth was a wealthy woman, she was unpretentious, Morgan said.
“She didn’t flaunt her wealth,” Morgan said. “She didn’t flaunt it; instead, she made it work for the community.”
Alworth remained a great supporter of the College of St. Scholastica as trustee emerita, said Larry Goodwin, the college’s president.
“She was a great, vivacious lady and would always call things as she saw them,” Goodwin said. “She did a lot of good for us.”
Royal Alworth III said he would remember his mother’s “involvement in the community in a variety of capacities as a leader, and as a follower and as a passionate participant.”
Alworth noted his mother’s wide-ranging interests, from travel to international issues to peace and justice issues. “What you saw from mom out in public was the real thing,” he said. “She was the real deal.”
A native of Los Angeles, Martha Butler Alworth was born in 1925 and moved to Duluth with her sister and mother five years later. After early education in Switzerland and Italy, she graduated from Stanbrook Hall High School, a Catholic girls school that is now the main building of the St. Scholastica Monastery, and from Smith College in Massachusetts in 1947.
After spending two years in post-war Europe, she returned to Duluth, where she married Royal D. Alworth Jr. in 1949. They had six children.
Martha Alworth was one of the first lay members of the College of St. Scholastica Board and was on the board of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, the League of Women Voters, Junior League, Building for Women, Grandmothers for Peace and multiple Duluth civic and preservation committees. She received the Depot Foundation Arts and Culture Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. She was a charter member of University for Seniors, where she taught and attended classes and served on committees for 24 years.
A celebration of her life will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Harborside Ballroom of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.