The Martha Hill papers span the years 1951-1985 and consist of correspondence, board meeting materials, dance program schedules and planning materials, personal remembrances, performance notes and appraisals, press releases and newspaper clippings, mainly relating to her work with the Association of American Dance Companies, the National Association of Regional Ballet and the American National Theatre and Academy, which was part of the U.S. State Department's Office of Cultural Presentations. The collection contains primary source material reflecting the history of government committees and nonprofit organizations devoted to promoting dance in the 20th century. Martha Hill served as a member of the board of directors of the Association of American Dance Companies (AADC) from its inception at the 1966 National Dance Conference through its dissolution in 1980. Included are materials from the original dance conference at which the Association was formed, along with materials from the American Symphony Orchestra League, upon which the AADC was modeled, as well as other organizational documents related to the founding and eventual demise of the organization. It includes Miss Hill's personal reflections, notes and appraisals of many different American regional and international ballet performances and organizations from the 1950s until the 1980s, as well as general office files relating to the Dance Division at The Juilliard School. The collection is mostly professional material, with a few items reflecting Miss Hill's work in the field of dance education.
Martha Hill, a pioneer in the field of dance instruction, served as the first director of dance at The Juilliard School from 1951 until 1985. Martha Hill was born in East Palestine, Ohio in 1900. Miss Hill (as she was known throughout her life) graduated from the Battle Creek (Michigan) Normal School of Physical Education in 1920, and taught ballet and Swedish gymnastics there and at Kansas State Teachers College. In 1926, Hill moved to New York City to study with Martha Graham and other dance teachers, and in 1927, Hill accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of Oregon, where she taught for two years. Among her students was Bessie Schonberg, who danced with the Martha Graham Dance Company and became an influential dance teacher at Sarah Lawrence College. Hill returned to New York in 1929, danced with the Martha Graham Dance Company and completed her bachelor's degree at Teachers College, Columbia University. She became the Director of Dance at New York University soon after, beginning work in the School of Education in 1930. When her teaching responsibilities increased, Miss Hill left the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1931 and, in 1932, was hired by Bennington College in Vermont to be Chairman of the Dance Department, serving until 1951 in both the NYU and Bennington College positions. She received a master's degree from NYU in 1941. At Bennington, Miss Hill founded the Bennington School of the Dance and its summer festival in 1934, and at Connecticut College, she started the School of the Dance in 1948 and also the American Dance Festival, which she co-directed until 1952. Among her Bennington College students was former First Lady Betty Ford, who later served with Hill on the board of directors of the Association of American Dance Companies. In Hill's obituary, the New York Times stated that such festivals "provided exposure and creative opportunities to major modern-dance choreographers at crucial times in their young careers." Participants included dancers Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman and Hanya Holm, and choreographers José Limón, Alwin Nikolais, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor and Alvin Ailey. Miss Hill became the first director of dance at The Juilliard School in 1951 and remained in that role until her retirement in 1985, when she was named Artistic Director, Emeritus. A major influence on several generations of dancers, Miss Hill taught dance at Juilliard until her death in 1995 at the age of 94. During her long career, Miss Hill served on a variety of boards and organizations committed to promoting dance and dance instruction in the United States, including the Association of American Dance Companies and the National Association for Regional Ballet. She worked with the American National Theatre and Academy's Board of Directors in the 1950s and 1960s, and the U.S. State Department's Office of Cultural Presentations in the 1960s. She served on the board of directors of the Association of American Dance Companies from its inception in 1966, received an award from that organization for her contributions to dance in 1975, and remained active in the AADC until its dissolution in 1980. Miss Hill also served on the board of directors of the National Association for Regional Ballet (which was later absorbed into the organization Regional Dance America) from 1966 until 1985. Miss Hill died in 1995 at her home in Brooklyn; she was married to Dr. Thurston Davies from 1952 until his death in 1961. She was survived by her brother, Lewis Hill, of Lake Alfred, Florida and step-daughter, Judith Dilts, of San Jose, California.