The Last Living Remnant of the 19th Century Passes Into History

Emma Martina Luigia Morano, the oldest person in the world, died today. Emma was born in Italy, on November 29, 1899, the oldest of nine children. She was the last person known to have been born in the 19th century still living.

Her life stretched across three centuries and two World Wars.

Emma in 1920s

The great tragedy of her life occurred during World War One, when the man she was in love with was killed. In 1926, she married Giovanni Martinuzzi after he threatened to kill her if she didn’t. He was abusive toward her, and they separated after their only child died in 1937, at six months of age. However, she did not divorce Martinuzzi and they remained legally married until his death in 1975. Emma never remarried; she was unable to forget her soldier that she had loved and lost, in the Great War.

Emma, age 114, sits beside a photograph of herself, circa 1930

She retired from a local jute factory the year before her estranged husband died. Emma had many years left in her life: in addition to her husband and son, she outlived her parents, five sisters, and three brothers.

She died at home in the small apartment that she had not left in 20 years, at age 117. The secret to her longevity, she said, was staying single, avoiding drugs, practicing a healthy diet (three eggs a day, and a glass of homemade brandy), and – most importantly – positive thinking.

Farewell, Emma!