I always liked the name Martha. Partly, it’s because my first girlfriend was named Martha. I used to serenade her with the song Martha My Dear by the Beatles [LISTEN], from the white album. It was only later I discovered that Martha was Paul McCartney’s English sheepdog.
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (pictured), of course, was the first First Lady of the United States, though she wasn’t so dubbed at the time. Martha is one of those classic girls’ names that, while extremely popular in the US in the 1880s (#14 in 1882), never lost at least a core of support; it didn’t leave the top 100 until 1966, and was still at #709 in 2010.
I’ve heard the slightly derisive term “being a Martha.” This referred to Luke 10:38-42 when Martha of Bethany and her sister Mary “offered hospitality to their friend Jesus…Mary sat and listened to him as he talked, but Martha objected to the fact that she was left with all the work. Jesus told Martha not to worry about small things, but to concentrate on what was important.” This proved to be an key concept in Christian hospitality; don’t NOT invite someone over, just because your home is not immaculate.
My daughter is fond of a PBS TV program called Martha Speaks, which “is an animated children’s television sitcom based on the 1992 children’s book of the same name by Susan Meddaugh about a talking dog named Martha…who is owned by ten-year-old Helen… When Helen feeds Martha some alphabet soup, the soup travels to her brain instead of her stomach, resulting in her ability to speak. The show focuses on synonyms and vocabulary, with each episode featuring an underlying theme illustrated with key words.” LISTEN to the opening title theme song, which features these lyrics: “Martha Speaks and speaks and speaks and speaks and…Communicates, enumerates, elucidates, exaggerates, indicates, and explicates, bloviates, and overstates and (pant, pant, pant) hyperventilates!” And here is a video guide to the episodes.