Our next Women’s History Month Wednesday Writer is Martha Reben! Reben (born Rebentisch) was an author who wrote The Healing Woods (1952), The Way of the Wilderness (1954), and A Sharing of Joy (1963). These were all memoirs of her experiences camping on the shore of Weller Pond in 1931 in an attempt to cure herself of tuberculosis.
Reben grew up in New York City; when she was six her mother died of tuberculosis. When she, too, became ill she was sent to cure in Pennsylvania, the Catskills and finally, in 1927, to Saranac Lake. However, after curing at Trudeau Sanatorium for three and a half years, and after three operations failed to cure her, she decided to follow her own desires, and hired a guide to take her camping in the wilderness.
Reben spotted an ad for a different type of cure in the local newspaper. Local boat builder and guide Fred Rice placed an advertisement seeking a patient to help guide into the woods for the fresh air cure. Rice was a firm believer in the curative powers of the Adirondack woods. He argued that TB patients who were spending their days in the village of Saranac Lake resting on cure porches would be better served by getting out in the woods.
Fred Rice did not expect such a young and frail woman to answer his ad, but he and his wife Kate agreed that five months of steady work was worth taking. Together Reben and Rice traveled eleven miles to Weller Pond to camp.
Convinced of the health benefits of the outdoor life, Reben never returned to the city. Her disease slowly improved, and she lived to age 58.
Reben is pictured here with her pet duck, Mr. Dooley. To learn more about Reben’s time curing in the woods, and her writings, visit our wiki!
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