Marfa Boretskaya, also known as Martha the Mayoress ( - Маrfa Posadnitsa), was the wife of Isaac Boretsky, Novgorod's posadnik in 1438-1439 and again in 1453. According to legend and historical tradition, she led the republic's struggle against Muscovy between her husband's death and the city's eventual annexation by Ivan III of Russia in 1478.
While she is referred to as Mayoress, this was in no way a formal office. Russians traditionally refer to the wife of certain officials by the feminine equivalent, hence the priest's (pop) wife may be referred to a "priestess" or a general's wife may be referred to a "general-ess" without it meaning that she herself exercised any actual power. In the case of Marfa, she may have been the focal point of the anti-Muscovite faction and had considerable charisma or influence as the matriarch of the clan, but never held actual office in Novgorod as they were confined to the male land-owners.
Little is known of Marfa's personal life. She was widowed at some time in the 1460s and remained one of the wealthiest Novgorodian landowners (based on the Pistsovye Knigi or land cadasters compiled by Muscovite officials beginning in the 1490s) until Ivan III's confiscations of land in the 1470s and 80s. It was probably to defend her wealth that she opposed the Muscovite grand princes who had sought to take over Novgorodian estates going back into the late 14th century.See Michael C. Paul, "Secular... Read More