Martha Graham was born in 1894 in Pennsylvania. She spent her teenage years in Los Angeles. In 1916, she joined a dance school. Graham was 22 when she started dancing, which is considered very late for a serious dancer.
Seven years after beginning her dance training, Graham moved to New York City. Graham danced, modeled, and taught dance classes to stay afloat. In 1926, she started her own company, the Martha Graham Dance Company. She also taught dance at Bennington College and New York University, and was a founder of the dance program at Julliard. She is considered one of the major creators of modern and experimental dance.
As a performance artist, Graham did not really come to her own until the 1940s, when her dramatic, angst-ridden dance dramas became popular. Graham's style of dance was unlike anything previously seen, with dramatic makeup, sculpted sets, and painful rountines.
Graham continued to dance on stage until 1968, well past the age of retirement for most dancers. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976. She died in 1991 at the age of 96.