Madeleine Martin's Experiences the Day of the Terrible Hurricane

September 21st is the 75th anniversary of the Hurricane of 1938 - a momentous storm that hit coastal New England hard with a particularly devastating impact on Rhode Island. The Providence Journal Rhode Island Room is hosting an exhibition on the storm and its impact through September 27th.

The Rhode Island Collection recently received a first hand account of the storm from Madeleine (Martin) Downs, the mother-in-law of our Adult Program Coordinator, Louise Moulton. Now 96 years old, she was just 21 years old at the time of the storm and working as a secretary for a political campaign in downtown Providence.  Her account of the storm as it built strength, the destruction it wrought and her escape from the tidal wave that rushed into downtown as she navigated around collapsing buildings and windswept debris is gripping.  

Below you'll find her typed narrative.  If you are interested in learning more about the hurricane, visit the PPL to check out the exhibition and borrow one of a number of film documentaries and published books on the topic.

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Kate Wells

As the Rhode Island Collection librarian at Providence Public Library, Kate Wells helps bring Rhode Island history to light by increasing access to the collection and providing research assistance to patrons. In the “Rhode Island Red” blog, Kate showcases interesting materials from the collection, provides research tip & techniques, and highlights local history. Feel free to contact her if you have any Rhode Island related questions; she is always happy to help. Email:


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