Mary Patricia Burke Martin was born in Seattle, Washington on June 10, 1910 to Dr. Caleb Ellsworth Martin II and Miriam Gertrude (Carter) Martin.
Her father's father was also Dr. Caleb Ellsworth Martin from Ontario. Her mother's father was also a doctor; Dr. Robert M. Carter of Ontario. Mary also had three uncles who were medical doctors.
She was a student nurse at Fannie C. Paddock Memorial Hospital in Tacoma when she met her future husband, Niels Daniel Svinth, who was a patient. He had lost his left arm in a lumber mill accident. They had one child, Patricia Katherine Svinth, during their short marriage.