Martha Leslie Allen began working full time with the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press at the end of 1975. The previous year she had put together the first Directory of Women’s Media and Index of Media Report to Women. Fourteen more annual editions of the Directory would follow in the seventies and eighties, and resumed again annually in 2002-present.
From 1969 to 1975 Martha had been living in the South, working in the civil rights, peace, and women’s movement, first in Louisville, KY, and then in Memphis, TN. She worked for the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF) and later for Operation Freedom. Though active in several other progressive causes, media democracy issues became her primary focus.
In 1973, she founded and led the Women’s Media Project in Memphis, TN. That group negotiated with broadcasters for improved programming and coverage of women and improved employment of women at all levels. They were successful in reaching agreements with all three of the commercial television stations and several radio stations. Martha edited the Women’s Media Project Newsletter. She also spent some time producing a weekly alternative news and information program on WLYX Radio, Southwestern University, in Memphis. She joined a group of women working to develop a women’s cable channel. In the process of learning to use video equipment capable of providing programming for the channel, she began expanding her media efforts.
In 1975 Martha moved to Washington, DC, to work full-time with WIFP. From 1976 to 1983 she worked as the Associate Editor of Media Report to Women. In 1978, she began serving as the Associate Director of WIFP, and became the Director in 1985. Between 1978 and 1984, Martha worked on the coordination of seven annual conferences, held at the National Press Club, on “Planning a National and International communications System for Women.” The 1982 conference was co-sponsored with the International Women’s Tribune Centre and was attended by 124 media and media-concerned women from 32 countries.
Martha earned her Ph.D. in 1988 from Howard University in Washington, DC.
Martha speaks about media democracy issues at conferences, such as at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in San Antonio, TX, in 2005, and in 2009 in Boston. She also attends conferences related to media democracy, such as the National Conference for Media Reform (St. Louis, MO in 2005 & Memphis, TN in 2007) and the “Women, Action & the Media” Conference (Cambridge, MA in 2006). March 2014 she joined colleagues on a journalism panel at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in NY.