For the story behind Mrs. Davis, reporter, Bill Wundram has been kind enough to allow me to use excerpts from his November 22 article 'The Woman in the White Face'.
She was known not by her name, but by her face. For 50 years she was “the powder puff lady,” or “the clown woman,” or more starkly, the woman who always wore a white face.
She puzzled most everyone, but was a gentle friend to many. However and whatever, she was the Quad-Cities’ most unique personality.
Now, Martha Davis of
is dead at 90. Davenport
True to her wishes, she was laid to rest Saturday with her face in white makeup.
She was an enigma. Martha was a black woman who chose to cover her face in heavy white makeup. It was so thick that it often looked like white pancake batter was spread over her face. She would not bare her hands. Always, even on the hottest summer days, she wore white gloves.
She would shop at Walgreen’s or Aldi in white makeup, wearing one of her assortment of wigs — some flowing black, some curly, often an outrageous blonde. Often, her white cheeks were rouged in bright red. People stared, usually shocked, but Martha would shrug them off as if nothing about her was unusual.
Even after talking to dozens of people, mostly relatives, the reason for Martha’s white makeup is not clear. The riddle was buried with her Saturday at
Oakdale Cemetery, after services at Bethel AME Church, . Davenport
FAMILY MEMBERS agree that they don’t know why she chose to look white. They say it was her secret. One says it began in the late 1950s. Of all the reasons, the most logical one comes from her niece, Darlene: “She always wanted to be an angel. Angels are white, and that’s what she wanted to be, an angel.”
Martha’s sister, Lula Rose of
, says, “She just liked to do it; that’s what she wanted.” Rock Island
Those who knew her said that despite eccentricities, she was a good neighbor, a kindly person who loved to talk endlessly on the phone. One remembers seeing her, about 1990, at the old Fun Shop in
. She was buying makeup. Davenport
Her niece, Darlene, says, “Aunt Martha always said, ‘Promise, put me away right.’ ”
Darlene says she was put away right, in smooth white makeup and wearing a frosted blonde wig.