Edna Mae Barnes Martin

Edna Mae Barnes Martin (1897-1974)

After the death of her 14-year-old daughter Doris in 1939, Edna Martin began a journey. It took her into deep depression and grief until she received what she thought was a call from God to open a day care center in the Martindale part of town in 1941. She rented a room on Roosevelt Avenue for $14 a month and began her ministry to the neighborhood. By 1945, it had grown to the point that local white Baptist churches, looking for their own avenues of ministry, decided to support her ministry and the East Side Christian Center was born.

The center continued to grow and Edna found herself crisscrossing the state to raise funds in churches where she was often the only Black person that day. When forced to move by the construction of I-70, a grant from the Lilly Foundation helped build a new center at 1946 Caroline Avenue in 1965. During the years of civil rights and Vietnam War protests, the center attracted many politically active young men and women to its work, but Edna tried to keep the center itself out of the politics in favor of continuing “to make a positive contribution toward making a reality that God’s earth, His power, and His glory be shared by all of His people.”

Edna was inducted into the Indiana Academy in 1972 along with Eugene Pulliam, Izler Solomon, Richard Lugar, and Eli Lilly, a recognition of the contribution of her center to the welfare of the city. She died two years later but the Center continues to serve the community. In 2002, the Indiana Historical Society published a book about her: Edna Mae Barnes Martin and the East Side Christian Center by Wilma Taylor.

Read more about Edna here.

Section 100, Lot 194; GPS (39.8141371, -86.1692825)