Martha Manheim was born August 20, 1924, in Campbell, Missouri. She grew up in Sikeston until about 1927, when she moved with her parents and four siblings to Flint, Michigan (where a customer of her father paid his bills in milk, to which she attributed her lifelong good teeth), then to Grand Rapids, where she graduated from South High School in 1942. She attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a B.A. in 1946. After a summer at the Bread Loaf School of English in Middlebury, Vermont, she returned to Ann Arbor, receiving a Master of Arts in English literature in 1947.
Moving to New York to find her fortune, she got a job in the advertising department of Harper and Brothers publishers, where she worked from 1947 to 1950. The desire to study literature did not vanish, however, as she attended another summer program in 1949, this time at the University of Birmingham’s program in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK. In 1950 she returned to New York to study comparative literature at Columbia University. She was at Columbia from 1950 to 1955, ultimately completing her PhD in 1978.
While at Columbia she served as press editor for the American Slavic Review, teaching courses at Columbia and at Brooklyn College, the latter a full-time position for the academic year 1954–55. Following her marriage to Michael Manheim in 1955, she moved to Delaware, and got a job teaching full time at Temple University in Philadelphia, until the birth of her first son, James Mark Manheim. Following the family’s move to Toledo, Ohio, she taught composition and Russian literature part time at a series of institutions, including the University of Toledo, Wayne State University, Defiance College, and Adrian College, finally taking a full-time position in the English Department of Siena Heights College, in Adrian, Michigan, from 1980 to 1987. Martha and Michael moved permanently to Strafford, Vermont, in 1991.
Martha’s scholarly publications were all on Russian and Soviet literature. She wrote her dissertation on 19th-century playwright Alexander Ostrovsky, and she published introductory articles on Russian and Soviet theater. Her papers presented at academic conferences include work on Ostrovsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Nikolay Nekrasov.
Since her retirement from Siena Heights in 1987 and subsequent move to Vermont, she contributed lavishly to the community and made lasting friendships with Straffordites from all walks of life. In the early 90s she worked for a Vermont adult literacy initiative, and for many years she contributed to ILEAD, the Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth, developing a following of retirees who would take any course she offered. She was active in local Strafford affairs, volunteering at the United Church of Strafford, the Morrill Memorial Harris Library, and the Town House Advisory Group, helping to oversee the restoration of the spire and the construction of state’s most beautiful and harmonious outhouse.
Her husband, Michael, died in January 2011. Martha died on December 11, 2022, and is survived by her son James Mark Manheim, her son Daniel Leonard Manheim, her grandson Marc Etienne Manheim, and many nephews, nieces, and extended relatives.