- "I'm a modern. I don't hanker for those days before the war. And I don't really want to spend the rest of my life among people who think me loud and opinionated and common."
- —Martha in 1923.[src]
BackgroundBorn sometime in the 1840s or early 1850s and possibly having one sister, Martha married Isidore Levinson, a wealthy self made dry goods merchant who lived in Cincinnati - as far as her daughter is aware, Martha did "not consider converting" to Judaism. At some point before or after Isidore's death, Martha obtained two houses, one in New York and another in Rhode Island, where she resided after her husband's death; whether she owned them and brought them as her dowry or whether she obtained them as the widow of Isidore is unknown. She is socially ambitious and looked down upon by New York society. After marriage, Martha gave Isidore two children: Cora, born in 1868, and Harold, born before or after Cora. In 1888, Martha brought Cora to London in order to find Cora a husband; later that same year Cora and Robert, then Viscount Downton, were married with Cora becoming Lady Downton. Robert had needed to marry an heiress in order to secure Downton's future, and he did not love Cora, but he did later fall in love with her. Cora brought a large fortune as a dowry, which Robert's father tied to the title in order to ensure that whoever becomes Lord Grantham can maintain the tradition. Eventually, after the death of Robert's father, Cora became Countess of Grantham. Cora has a strained relationship with her mother while Violet Crawley clashes with her when they are together. Cora and Violet disagree from time to time, but the thought of Martha coming to Downton when Cora was pregnant was enough for them to team up; Violet wrote to her and told her to "come and admire the baby" instead.
Mrs Levinson arrived by ship in Liverpool for a visit to Downton in 1920 with her lady's maid, Miss Reed, to attend the wedding of her eldest granddaughter Lady Mary Crawley and Matthew Crawley. She questioned the fairness of Matthew as a third cousin being next in line as heir to Robert Crawley, and thus to her late husband's money. Martha doesn't approve of the title being entailed for a male heir, which bypasses her granddaughters. It is however pointed out to her that as Matthew is marrying Mary, the point is irrelevant. She has visited Downton at least once before and knows Violet; on her visit in 1920, she met Sybil and Branson when they returned and, on her first meeting with the Dowager Countess in 1920, she sadly says "Oh dear, I'm afraid the war has made old women of both of us." to which Violet replies that she tends to "stay out of the sun" and asks Martha "how do you find Downton on your return?"; Martha claims it is "much the same. Perhaps too much the same." but that she "wouldn't want to cast a pall on the festivities.". Violet sarcastically replies that she could "never do that."  Violet and Martha talk about tradition. The dowager countess says that Americans don't care about it, but Martha says that Americans just don't give it power over them. Martha remarks that tradition and history led Europe into war, so Violet should let go of its hand. Violet mixes her metaphores and comments that Martha Levinson is like a homing pigeon that can always find the soft underbelly.Martha Levinson is very outspoken and gives her opinion frequently. Robert talks about her bringing up unpleasant things from the past and never letting them forget. Cora describes her as bringing drama with her. She talks frequently with the servants and seems to enjoy teasing young Alfred, the footman. When Alfred asks Miss Reed if she had been trying to find things out for Mrs. Levinson, Miss Reed informs him that there was no need, as she can read them all like the palm of her hand, and that she will not help them. This shows that Martha knew, long before she was told, that Downton was in trouble and needed money. When there is a disaster in the kitchen and Cora contemplates sending the guests home, Martha spontaneously organizes an "indoor picnic" and even sings. Even Carson much to his own chagrin, has to admit that the evening is a success. When Mary eventually asks her for the money to save Downton, she tells them that her husband has left her a generous allowance, but has tied up the capital. She offers to have them stay in her houses in New York and Newport, as well as adding to Cora's clothing allowance, but she says that she can do no more for them. She questions whether it is worth it to save Downton, as these old houses were meant for another age, and she believes in adapting to the future. She stays at Downton for a month, much longer than expected, and Robert and Violet repeatedly wonder when she will go.
Robert visits Martha and Harold in America in 1922 following the latter's getting involved in the Teapot Dome Scandal. Martha decided to travel to England in 1923, so she could "see another London Season before she dies". She was accompanied by her son and, by this time, Reed had just left her service, having handed in her notice after "having her head bitten off" one time to many by Martha.
They both attend Lady Rose MacClare's coming out ball before the Prince of Wales, King George V, and Queen Mary of Teck. Once again she matches wits with Violet. She, her son, and their fortune attract the attention of the bankrupt Lord Aysgarth and his daughter Madeleine.By this time, Martha knows several elderly rich widows looking for titled men to marry, and invited Lord Aysgarth to visit her in Newport so that she can introduce him to them. She is herself not interested in marrying him because she is, as she describes herself, a modern woman who is not interested in titles and she knows the English aristocracy and she would not fit well together. She only led Aysgarth on to liven her time. Aysgarth seemingly accepts her offer to visit Newport and meet her widow friends. Martha later runs into Violet, and tells her that her (Violet's) world is slipping further away whereas her own is coming closer and closer. She leaves Violet speechless, and rather sad.
2015 Christmas SpecialWhen Lady Edith Pelham marries Bertie, Martha is not in attendance, although she does write a heart warming letter expressing her pleasure that Edith has found happiness. At the end of the letter Lady Rosamund and Dowager Countess Violet both toast happily, meaning that Violet may have forgiven Martha for her tried statement.
- "Come war and peace, Downton still stands and the Crawleys are still in it!" - upon arriving in Downton in 1920.
- "Carson and Mrs Hughes - the world has moved on since we last met." - greeting Carson and Mrs Hughes in 1920.
- "My world is coming nearer. And your world - it's slipping further and further away!" - to Violet in 1923.
- "Mrs. Levinson drinks only boiled water. In England that is." -The maid Ms. Reed about Mrs. Levinson
- "It seems so strange to think of the English embracing change."
- "History and tradition took Europe into a world war. Maybe you should think about letting go of its hand."
- "What do you make of young Lochinvar, who has so ably carried off our granddaughter and our money?" - to Violet, a few hours after meeting Matthew
|Appearances and Mentions|
|Series 1||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7
|Series 2||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7||Episode 8||Christmas Special|
|Series 3||Episode 1
|Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6
|Episode 7||Episode 8||Christmas Special|
|Series 4||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7
|Episode 8||Christmas Special|
|Series 5||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7
|Episode 8||Christmas Special|
|Series 6||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7||Episode 8||Christmas Special|
- Cora, when Robert married her, in 1888, already had a fortune; if her father was alive, she would not have had a fortune and would have just been an heiress; this confirms that Isidore must have died before 1888
- Cora says "Oh, god" at the thought of her mother coming to visit.
- This link http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/78611/Downton-Abbey-Star-Praises-Amazing-Shirley-MacLaine shows that Allen Leech, who plays Branson, has at least one scene with Martha, confirming that Martha will meet Sybil and Branson
- This clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuqaCVc5VLo from The first episode of Series 3, reveals the former quotes and statements and confirms that Martha has visited Downton at least once before, has been affected by the war, and has met the Dowager Countess before, given that there is no introduction between them and she greets Violet by name.
- Downton Abbey Exclusive: Paul Giamatti Joins Season 4 Cast as Cora's Brother, Michael Ausiello, TV Line, 24th June, 2013.
- Episode 4.08
- Shirley MacLaine to return to Downton Abbey in series four, Alice Vincent, Telegraph, 4th March 2013, 11:15AM GMT.