Martha Bates Hatfield was born February 22, 1888, in Osborne, Kansas. She was one of the four children of Jerome and Mable (Smith) Hatfield. Martha attended the Osborne schools and was known for her exceptional singing. Upon graduation she toured on the Chautauqua circuit and with concert companies. In 1909 she began dividing her time between teaching music in the Osborne schools and touring. Her fame as a singer continued to grow and in 1911 she was accepted into the Kansas City Conservatory. Martha studied at Kansas City for a year in operatic training under Ottley and Louie Collier Cranston. On April 16, 1912, she made her debut in Kansas City singing the lead role of, appropriately enough, the comic opera “Martha.” Her debut was a great success. “NEW SOPRANO MAKES A HIT;” “MISS HATFIELD SCORES;” ran the newspaper headlines.
“The inspiration that is inseparable from the debut of a talented singer was felt on both sides of the footlights,” wrote the Kansas City Star, “and Miss Martha Bates Hatfield, until last night wholly unknown to the public in Kansas City, won well-deserved applause.”
Now a full-fledged member of the Kansas City Grand Opera Company, Martha joined the company on tour and repeated her triumph in Chicago and Washington, D.C. After a year with the company Martha then joined the faculty at the State Normal College in Emporia, Kansas. From 1913 on she continued performing on the summer Chautauqua circuit, interrupting her schedule for special events such as performing at the dedication of the Osborne Carnegie Library in July 1913. Martha always made herself available to her hometown, whether singing at weddings or at teaching music at the local schools. In return for her generosity the ladies of the town organized a concert for Martha at the Militorium in Osborne.
“The Militorium was crowded last night at a complimentary concert given for Miss Martha Hatfield. The concert was hurriedly gotten up by the ladies of the town as an expression of appreciation for the untiring and generous assistance Miss Hatfield has always accorded musical circles in Osborne. Very little time could be spent in preparation for the event, as Miss Hatfield leaves for Kansas City Sunday night to pursue further musical studies. She has always been very generous with her talents and it is not recorded anywhere that she ever refused to assist at any public or private entertainment. The crowded house was a testimonial of the esteem in which she is held in Osborne. The program was charmingly given. Of course, the events of the evening were the musical numbers by the lady of honor. ‘The Garland of Old Fashioned Roses,’ by Miss Hatfield and chorus, from the ‘County Fair,’ given here a year ago, was very beautifully rendered. The musical numbers consisted of a selection by the Citizens’ Orchestra, piano solos by Misses Rochford and Ballou, solos by Mrs. W. A. Layton and Mr. Arthur Bell; a violin solo by Miss Mary Lough, an impersonation by Miss Marie Kelley, a duet by Miss Hatfield and Miss Powers, and a quartette composed of Mesdames W A. and W. H. Layton and Misses Hatfield and Powers. Aside from the other pieces in which Miss Hatfield assisted, she sang four solos in her artistic manner. There was a short sketch, “Dinner for One,” given by Mrs. W. H. Layton, Miss Irene Henshall and Messrs. Roy Hays and Allen Clark. Miss Henshall cleverly sang a couple of specialties accompanied by Mr. Clark on the piano.” — Osborne County Farmer, July 2, 1914.
Martha continued in lead roles of grand opera until 1918, when she gave up her operatic career to become a nurse during World War I. She was stationed in Kansas City to help with the influenza epidemic, awaiting the call to sail overseas with a Red Cross contingent, when she was herself stricken. She recovered but by then the war was over. In September 1920 Martha was again engaged at the State Normal School in Emporia as an instructor of voice, a position she held until 1926 when she was diagnosed with cancer. Martha returned to Osborne to rest at her parents’ home, where she died on October 12, 1926, at the age of thirty-eight. She was buried in the Osborne Cemetery.