In 1940, as 64 year old Martha Tracy approached the Woman’s Medical College (WMC) of Pennsylvania retirement age, a call came for her to serve the City of Philadelphia as Assistant Director of Health under her old friend Dr. Hubley R. Owen.
After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, she helped to organize Community Health Defense Squads for the City of Philadelphia in her capacity as Assistant Director of Health of the City of Philadelphia. Under her direction, a Civilian Defense Squad was organized in each defense zone of the city. It was necessary for her to address defense meetings at night after a full day in her office at City Hall. Coming home late one night, Tracy was chilled and later developed pneumonia.
In spite of all that modern medicine could offer her, Martha Tracy died nine days later, at the age of 66, the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania’s first casualty of World War II. In her eulogy for Tracy, longtime colleague Catherine MacFarlane said, “The department was short-handed. Dr. Tracy was overworked. ‘Orders, orders, orders’ she would whisper, ‘Please do something to make me forget the endless piles of orders coming over my desk.’ She gave her life for her country as truly as if she had been with MacArthur in the Philippines.”