Wilmot, Martha (1775–1873), diarist and travel writer, was born at Glanmire, Co. Cork, one of six daughters and three sons of Edward Wilmot, of Derbyshire, England, a former captain of the 40th Regiment of Foot, and port surveyor of the revenue board in Drogheda and Cork, and Martha Wilmot (née Moore), daughter of Rev. Charles Moore, of Innishannon, Co. Cork. Educated at home, after the death of one of her brothers in 1802, she was urged by her cousin Catherine Hamilton to visit the latter's friend, the Princess Dashkova of Russia (1743–1810), a captivating character who had helped stage the coup d'état that placed Catherine II the Great on the throne in 1762, and had been director of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in St Petersburg; Dashkova had spent seven months in Ireland (1779–80), and been elected an honorary member of the RIA in 1791, the first woman so honoured. In 1803 Martha embarked on a four-month voyage to Russia: journeying by road to Dublin, and by packet to Holyhead, she continued by stage to London, taking a ship from Gravesend, and passing through the Gulf of Finland. After arrival in St Petersburg, she travelled to Troitskoe, the country estate of the princess, south of Moscow. She participated in court life and became a close confidante of the princess, with whom she conversed daily on Russian history, politics, and art. While on an extended tour with the princess, she met Count Aleksei Orlov, the former general responsible for the murder of the deposed Tsar Peter III after the 1762 coup; he ordered his regiment to stage a fake battle in Martha's honour.
Besides keeping a diary and writing frequent letters home, Martha persuaded the princess to write an autobiographical memoir. Dashkova dedicated the work to her ‘young friend’, and granted the manuscript to Martha for publication. In 1805 Martha's sister Katherine Wilmot (qv) arrived at Troitskoe, under instruction to bring Martha home, but she too remained there as a guest for two years. Despite the distraction of frequent travels to Moscow, Martha transcribed a copy of Princess Dashkova's completed memoirs, while Katherine translated them from their original French. The sisters learned that they were in danger from the estranged daughter of the princess, Madame Shcherbenin, who was suspicious of their intentions, and Katherine departed Russia in 1807, bringing with her Martha's transcript of the memoirs. When hostilities broke out between England and Russia in 1808, Martha was forced to leave the country, despite the protests of the obsessive Dashkova, who gave her numerous gifts, including a fan belonging to the Empress Catherine, and a watch of Peter the Great. Wilmot left St Petersburg, but was stopped by customs officials who believed she was in possession of secret documents, and was detained on Kronstadt for five days, where, fearing for her safety, she reluctantly burned the original manuscript of Dashkova's memoirs, and some items of the princess's correspondence with Catherine II. Wilmot sailed on board the Maria on 26 October 1808, but when the ship was wrecked was forced to spend eight days on the small island of Stamieux, near Hamina, Finland; afterwards the passengers and crew remained on Aspo island for three weeks until a storm subsided. She eventually reached Harwich, England, on 26 December 1808, and returned to Cork in 1809.
During the following summer she went on a circular tour of the southwest of Ireland. In 1810 she was presented at the lord lieutenant's court in Dublin Castle; while in Dublin she met Sydney Owenson, the future Lady Morgan (qv). Later in 1810 she moved to Clifton in Derbyshire, to live with her parents. She married (1812) Rev. William Bradford; they had two daughters and one son, and lived at Sussex Downs, Storrington. Martha accompanied Katherine to France in 1817, and visited her in 1818 at Moulins. Shortly thereafter Martha's husband was appointed chaplain to the British embassy in Vienna, whither she travelled with her family in 1819. Moving in the cosmopolitan society of that city for the next ten years, they were friends of the British ambassador, Charles William, Lord Stewart (qv), and his wife. Wilmot toured Italy with her family (1820–21), recording her observations in a journal now held in the RIA. In 1829 she returned to Storrington on her husband's appointment as chaplain-in-ordinary to King George IV.
Wilmot's edition of the Princess Dashkova's memoirs finally appeared in two volumes in English in 1840 as Memoirs of the Princess Daschkaw, lady of honour to Catherine II, empress of all the Russias, written by herself: comprising letters of the empress, and other correspondence. Owing to strenuous opposition from the princess's brother, Simon Vorontsov, Martha had delayed publication until thirty years after Dashkova's death. Based on her own transcript and her sister Katherine's translation, Martha's edition represents a condensed, literary remodelling of the original; her text was later translated into Russian, French, German, and Czech. The manuscript of Martha's transcription, which includes revisions in Princess Dashkova's handwriting, was donated by Martha's daughter Catherine Brooke to the British Museum library; it was the basis for a new translation by Kyril Fitzlyon (1958). Another manuscript copy in Martha's hand, of an earlier draft, is held in St Petersburg.
On her husband's death in 1857, Wilmot returned to Ireland and lived for the remainder of her life with her daughter Catherine at Taney Hill house, Dublin. She died there 18 December 1873, and was buried in Storrington churchyard in England. The Marchioness of Londonderry (Edith Tempest-Vane Stewart) (qv) and H. Montgomery Hyde (qv) edited The Russian journals of Martha and Catherine Wilmot (1934), compiled from original diaries, letters, and notes held in the RIA library. They also edited More letters from Martha Wilmot: impressions of Vienna, 1819–1829 (1935), which includes extracts from Wilmot's travel journal in Italy and the Tyrol. Her papers in the RIA include some unpublished verse written while she was in Russia.