Farquharson, Mary (1901-1982)

  • By Eleanor Licata
  • Posted 12/06/2012
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 10264

Mary Farquharson, a lifelong activist for social justice issues, was a Social Democrat who served two terms in the Washington State Senate from 1934-1942. As part of a small but influential faction of leftwing radicals elected to the state legislature during the Great Depression, Farquharson fought to combat unemployment and economic dislocation. She advocated for a more cooperative and less competitive model of government organized around the principle of Production-For-Use. For these reasons, and because of her crusade to protect civil liberties and women's rights, she was often accused of being a "Red," but in fact, she was adamantly anti-Communist. A dedicated pacifist and Christian, she opposed all forms of militarism. Farquharson fought tenaciously against racial discrimination, working through the American Civil Liberties Union and the Fellowship of Reconciliation to oppose the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. She and her husband, Burt Farquharson (1895-1970), believed an educated and politically engaged public was essential to a functioning democracy, and to that end they worked their entire lives ceaselessly organizing through their many group affiliations. 

Early Years

Mary U. Nichols was born in 1901 into a middle-class, Presbyterian family in Tacoma, Washington. Although both of Mary's older brothers fought in World War I, Mary's mother was a staunch pacifist, a value she attributed to her Christian faith; she was unable to reconcile how a Christian could justify killing anyone. Mary attributed her own strong political and religious convictions to her early upbringing and "her family's consistent study, reflection and discussion of the implications for this world of Bible readings and the sermons at their Presbyterian Church" (Honig, "Remember Mary"). Mary recalls peace rallies that her mother took her to as a little girl and states in a 1980 interview that she can't recall a time when she wasn't interested in politics. In her family "things were discussed, issues were discussed, politics was discussed" (Farquaharson interviewed by Kathryn Hinsch).

In 1925, Mary Nichols graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in English. She married Frederick "Burt" Farquharson three years later, on June 22, 1928, at the University Presbyterian Church. Burt, a civil engineer and professor at the University of Washington, would make a name for himself through his studies on the Tacoma Narrows Suspension Bridge. He was also a World War I veteran, having served for over a year with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and two years with the British Royal Flying Corps. He also spent a year in a German prison camp. Mary and Burt never had children, but were bound by their shared conviction in finding peaceful solutions to conflict and a more equitable means of distributing wealth.

Running for Office

Although Mary had always maintained an active interest in politics, she had never considered the possibility of running for office until she was approached and encouraged in 1934 by some members of the Women's Legislative Council, mostly older women suffragists dismayed at the low percentage of women in office. Hesitant at first, Farquharson suggested to Burt the idea of her running for office. When he told her that he couldn't think of a good reason why not, she filed to run for a seat in the Senate in the 46th District (currently part of the 43rd District).

Having officially belonged to the Socialist Party from 1932 until 1934, Farquharson left it and ran as a Democrat, although she did not have the endorsement of the Democratic Party. She did have the full support of the Commonwealth Builders, later known as the Washington Commonwealth Federation, a group she and her husband helped to found that served as an umbrella organization for radical groups representing the unemployed, organized labor, and Democrats. She adopted their motto as her campaign platform: "Production-For-Use," as opposed to profit, that advocated a new economic model built around small groups acting cooperatively rather than competitively. She also campaigned on the idea of a unicameral legislature (with only one legislative body rather than two), which was in her opinion a more efficient, practical model of government. She would return to this theme of better-organized government throughout her two terms in office.

Running in a primarily Republican district against several strong opponents, Farquharson did not think she had much chance of winning and viewed her campaign as more of a "statement." Her biggest opponent was the well-known Republican incumbent E. L. Howard, owner of the Ford Agency and a board member of a local bank. Although she could have focused on the need to elect more women to office, she preferred to stick to the issues, pointing to E. L. Howard's previous record of supporting private and opposing public power, a big issue at the time. Prohibition had recently ended, and in a later oral history interview she conceded that some may have voted for her because she was a woman, since most people knew women drank less and took their work more seriously. However, Farquharson was not a proponent of women running for office unless first educated on the issues.

The Seattle Argus painted an unflattering portrait of Farquharson in an article noting her endorsement by The Commonwealth Builders and referring to her as the "spouting and vituperative wife of ranting radical U of W professor F. B. Farquharson" (The Argus September 15, 1934). But some of the calumny backfired. Farquharson recalls in a 1980 interview that the Republicans hired a woman to spread the news that she believed in such things as the redistribution of wealth. With Washington state crippled by the Great Depression and unemployment reaching record highs, Farquharson's message resonated with more people than expected. She won with a margin of just over 700 votes.

A Radical Time

Taking office in 1935, Farquharson found herself in a legislature dominated by Democrats in both houses, a trend that began when the Democrats took over the Washington State Legislature with Franklin D. Roosevelt's (1882-1945) election as president in 1932. That domination continued throughout the 1930s. The two terms that Farquharson served in office would be some of the most tumultuous in Washington state history; with the state budget in crises and the tax code in a state of flux, the mood among lawmakers was far from congenial. Even though 1935 saw only nine Republicans in the Senate and eight Republicans in the House, the Democrats were frequently split between conservatives, moderates, and liberals.

For the first time in history, there was a significant faction of leftwing radicals in office who veered to the left of the typical profile of previous politicians. "The newcomers were from all walks of life: Woodsmen and seamen, ne'er-do-wells ... Some of the freshmen were dead broke ..." (Cunningham, Seattle Times, May 4, 1979). And on their agenda were dismantling privileges for special interests; socializing banks, and electric and power companies; and eradicating hunger and unemployment. Although not formidable enough to pass much legislation, their presence shook the status quo and ushered forward more socially progressive legislation than any other period in Washington state history. Perhaps more effective than some of her leftwing contemporaries for her strong negotiating skills, Farquharson never let a difference of opinion stand in the way of her friendships or her goals. She was described as a woman of "regal bearing whose eyes showed a strong sense of determination" (Honig, "Remembering Mary," p. 3). By the end of her two terms, The Seattle Times would describe her as "brilliant, outspoken, crusading" (Honig, "Remembering Mary," p. 5). Mary Farquharson would become a key and influential player during this radical period in Washington state political history.

An Educator in Office

Farquharson believed in the power and necessity of education as the foundation of a functioning democracy. Without adequate education, "Ninety-five percent of the consuming public ... are misled into opposing their own interests" (Scott, "Mary Farquharson"). An educated and active public, according to Farquharson, is necessary for a society to enact meaningful change: "That is really what every informed citizen ought to do, educate yourself first, get informed, then agitate, get people stirred up a little bit, don't let them go to sleep, sink back into their own private little affairs, and organize, you've got to get organized, you can't do it just as an individual" (Farquaharson interviewed by Kathryn Hinsch, p. 25). It was at the group level that Farquharson saw change having the greatest effect in what she saw as a slow process, occurring gradually through "evolutionary rather than revolutionary means" (Farquaharson interviewed by Kathryn Hinsch, p. 25). The important difference, she maintained, is that whereas revolution relies on violence, evolution relies on education. Although, she added, hopefully this meaningful change will occur a little more quickly than evolution.

Farquharson was in a good position to advocate for meaningful educational change as chair of the Education Committee and Education Institutions Committee where she advocated for more funding for underprivileged students and rural schools. Although many of her bills during her first year in office did not pass, she played an instrumental role in pushing forward several key pieces of legislation such as the Library Bill, which provided more public funding for educational institutions. Ultimately, Governor Clarence Martin (1887-1955) vetoed the bill, causing Farquharson to lament in a letter to an Aberdeen librarian, "The really important questions are, where is the money going to, and also, why isn't there enough, in this richest county in the world for all the activities and projects that society needs to enrich its life?" (Farquharson to Florence Lewis, April 19, 1937).

A Woman Senator for Women's Rights

When Farquharson first took office in 1935, she was one of 11 women in the entire legislature. But she adamantly insisted that she felt no bias against her or preferential treatment toward her while in office. Indeed, if such bias existed, she didn't let it prevent her from serving on some of the most powerful committees in the Senate by the end of her first term, including the Appropriations, Judiciary, and Constitutional Review committees.

Still, throughout her two terms in office, Farquharson proved a staunch supporter of women's rights. In 1941, during her second term, she introduced an amendment aimed at giving a wife the same authority as her husband in delegating affairs of their estate, prompting a Seattle Times journalist to write, "The State Legislature's leading feminist -- dark-haired Senator Mary Farquharson ... is out to do battle for the ladies again" ("Equality for Wife," January 13, 1941). During the 1936 Seattle Post-Intelligencer strike, she organized several busloads of women to head down to Olympia in support of the striking union members. And when an increasing number of wives were laid off from their jobs as a means of fighting the rising unemployment of men, Farquharson again led a delegation in protest.

It was during the second session of her first term in 1937 that she was able to pass her most notable piece of legislation in support of women's rights, ultimately impacting thousands of lives and catching the attention of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962). Senate Bill 60 set a maximum workweek for domestic workers at 60 hours, and ensured that all of the hours that a domestic worker spent officially on the job were counted toward that maximum limit, providing for double pay in times of emergencies and overtime. The bill was also co-sponsored by activist community groups such as the YWCA's group of Industrial Girls. At the request of Anna Roosevelt Boettiger (1906-1975), Eleanor Roosevelt's daughter and associate editor of the Post-Intelligencer, The First Lady came to Seattle to speak to a crowd of thousands of women gathered at the Pacific Auditorium. Mary Farquharson spoke for 20 minutes on the passage of her bill, sharing the stage with Eleanor Roosevelt. It was an event she would describe as one of the highlights of her life.

Negotiating for Freedom

A strong advocate of civil rights, Farquharson played an instrumental role in the repeal of the criminal-syndicalism law, first passed in 1919, which made it a crime to advocate, teach, publish, or further in any way the use of force, violence, or sabotage to bring about political or social change. The law was frequently invoked to prosecute radicals such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies, and to justify federal and local raids on IWW offices.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was actively lobbying to repeal the criminal-syndicalism law, and Farquharson was active with the ACLU, helping to found the Seattle chapter in 1935 and serving as its chairman for a number of years. In 1937, the criminal-syndicalism law was in danger of stalling indefinitely in the Senate Rules Committee, but Farquharson, in a testament to her adroit leadership and negotiating skills, was able to convince enough conservative senators to move it out of committee and onto the floor for a last-minute vote. "More can be accomplished by negotiation and compromise than by attempted force and intimidation," Farquharson has stated. "The appeal to intelligence and to reason is stronger than to fancied fear" (Scott, "Mary Farquharson"). The repeal of the criminal-syndicalism law passed with 34 votes in favor and 10 opposed and was signed into law by Governor Martin.

It was Farquharson's persistent effort working as a state senator and as a representative of the ACLU that made her able to secure the release of Ray Becker, the last remaining incarcerated man convicted of murder in connection with the Centralia Armistice Day "massacre" of 1919. Because Becker saw taking parole as tantamount to admitting guilt, he served 20 years in prison. It took four years of lobbying on his behalf before Farquharson was able to convince Governor Martin to agree to commute Becker's sentence. He did so on the condition that Becker immediately leave the state. And so, on September 22, 1939, Farquharson and a fellow ACLU board member met Becker upon his release and drove him directly to Oregon.

An Anti-Communist Liberal

Although Farquharson was a firm believer in the right to speak, gather, and organize freely, she had a hard time justifying an extension of these liberties to Communists. Although she was often labeled as a "Red" for championing liberal policies, she was adamantly anti-Communist, complaining publicly and vociferously of what she saw as their deceitful practices and primary allegiance to a foreign government. She blamed them for what she saw as ruining the Teachers Union at the University of Washington. She refused to support King County sponsorship of the Washington State Guide because of undue Communist Party influence.

Mary and Burt Farquharson would eventually leave the Washington Commonwealth Federation because of Communist influence. And in 1941 Mary Farquharson proudly voted as a part of the block of 25 to unseat Senator Linus Westman of Snohomish County because of his brief membership in the Communist Party. Writing to Roger Baldwin (1884-1981), founder of the ACLU, Farquharson defended her decision to unseat Westman, claiming that protecting the Communist Party, which is based on "deceit and lies," actually undermines the rights of other groups. "The sooner CP [Communists Party] tactics are clarified the better off is the cause of civil liberties and all other liberal or radical issues" (Scott, "Mary Farquharson"). At times, some have observed, her anti-Communist stance could border on obsessive.

Re-Elected By A Razor Thin Margin

By 1938, at the end of Farquharson's first term in office, Washington state was still mired in opposing ideologies on the shape and direction of the tax structure. The graduated net income tax, approved by voters in 1932, was declared unconstitutional the following year. Thereafter it made consistent appearances on the ballot. With the newly implemented sales tax having passed in a tense and drawn-out extended session in 1937, and with the successful passage of the 40 mill property tax limit that severely limited the state's ability to raise money, Farquharson was set to face a hotly contested campaign.

Deciding to run for a second four-year term to save her seat, Farquharson campaigned again as a Democrat on the "Roosevelt Program for Washington," which included an increase in old age pensions, equalization of public schools funds, support for a strong Social Security Program, and of particular concern to Farquharson, a graduated net income tax. She noted in her campaign flyer that she was able to force the Senate Joint Resolution on the net income tax out of Conference Committee and onto the ballot.

The Communist Party filed a woman named Dorothy Butterworth to run against her. In her interview, Farquharson claimed that the only group the Communist Party hated more than the Republicans were the Democratic Socialists, stating, "they fought me pretty bitterly and I fought them equally" (Farquaharson interviewed by Kathryn Hinsch, p. 19).

Although Farquharson had the endorsement of future first-woman mayor of Seattle, Bertha Landes (1868-1943), the Democratic Party threw its official support behind a more conservative candidate and the Republicans backed Frank C. Jackson, originator of the successful 40 mill property tax limitation initiative. Farquharson found herself in a neck-and-neck race. It was only when a man from the organization Young Cincinnatus also filed to run, that the conservative vote was split, allowing Farquharson and Jackson to progress to the general election. When all the votes were accounted for, Farquharson won by a margin of a mere 70 votes.

Later, Farquharson would muse in a letter why anyone would want her job anyway, "With no income tax possible and with the property tax limitation tighter than ever with the legitimate demands for increased revenue greater than ever before -- school, social security, and the rest of it -- it looks like a desperately bad situation to me" (Farquharson to G. E. Goodspeed, November 30, 1938). However, many were happy with Mrs. Farquharson's re-election including chairman of the Washington State Tax Commission, H. H. Henneford, who sent his congratulations to Farquharson for defeating "that fine racketeer, Mr. Frank Jackson," stating that, "It is most comforting that the 46th district is to be represented by someone who thinks of the people and whose mind rises above property" (H. H. Henneford to Farquharson, November 19, 1938).

Reforming State Institutions

One issue of particular importance to Farquharson was improving Washington's reformatory institutions. During her second term, she served on the State Charitable Institutions Committee and pushed for the formation of an interim committee to investigate conditions at state charitable, penal, and reformatory institutions. In 1941, she managed to pass Senate Joint Resolution 18 calling for a committee to investigate and make recommendations for improvements to such institutions.

Farquharson chaired the committee, and it reported to the 1943 session of the legislature a need for better salaries and more training for penal institution personnel, maintaining that a good civil service system for employees is essential. Farquharson would later argue in an editorial in The Seattle Times that cutting spending on rehabilitation efforts is "penny-wise and pound-foolish" since ultimately, "Recidivism compounds the punishment to taxpayers" ("Juvenile-Rehabilitation Savings," September 7, 1960).

Updating Government's Machinery

Possessing a strong practical disposition, Farquharson viewed ineffectual government processes and policies as a major obstacle to effective lawmaking. She claimed the current legislative machinery was too easily manipulated by special interests and that the legislative sessions were not nearly long enough. She proposed a unicameral legislature (with only one legislative body) with one longer session as a possible solution. Farquharson stated in a campaign flyer, "If political democracy is going to continue, our machinery of government must be brought up to date ... . A One House Legislature ... with every member responsible for every vote, and with time enough to know what he is voting on ... is the most important step in making the will of the People effective" ("Re-elect Mary Farquharson").

Farquharson eventually opposed the Initiative process, arguing that it was too contradictory and inflexible for the complicated business of lawmaking. Serving on the Constitutional Review Committee, Farquharson advocated for the appointment of a "Hoover Commission" to analyze and compare the detailed and outdated Washington State Constitution with the model constitution proposed by the National Municipal League. As a senator, she introduced legislation creating a unicameral legislature every session that she served in office. Although it never passed, it became her hallmark piece of legislation.

Organizing Peaceful Resistance to the War

With the outbreak of World War II, the Farquharsons became increasingly involved in community groups advocating peaceful solutions to conflict. Farquharson saw peace as not just a nice idea, but the only workable solution: "The universe is made in such a way that only a sense of community, a feeling of recognition that we are party of each other will work. All wars are self-defeating. My philosophy is that you cannot overcome evil with more evil, but with good. It is not just a beautiful idea -- it is a practical idea. It is the only thing that will work" (Honig, "Remembering Mary," p. 8).

Both Mary and Burt Farquharson were active members of Fellowship of Reconciliation, since the early 1930s and later of the National Council for the Prevention of War. They frequently took opportunities to speak out against preparations for the war and voice their objections to compulsory conscription and military training. They were also very involved with the non-sectarian Church of the People, which was a center for peace and social justice activities in their own University District, where they worked closely with local activist and church spiritual leader Fred Shorter. Farquharson channeled her activist activities through her work with community groups, working to oppose military action abroad and discrimination against Japanese Americans at home.

Fighting Japanese American Internment

Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans on the West Coast were forced to evacuate their homes and neighborhoods and move into internment camps. Farquharson denounced Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which mandated the internment, as based on propaganda. Writing as a representative of the ACLU to The Seattle Times, she claimed the order was motivated by special-interest groups who had long wanted the Japanese removed. The Fellowship of Reconciliation issued a memorandum calling on all members in the Midwest and East Coast to sponsor Japanese American families who had volunteered to move to non-restricted areas. With the support of this organization and the Church of the People, Farquharson helped raise funds to buy Christmas gifts for children interned in the camps. She frequently delivered the gifts herself.

Following a visit to Camp Harmony in June of 1941, Farquharson remarked to a friend, "Physical conditions are bad, and of course mental and psychological effects are even worse ... . But if there is any way for me to be on the inside, helping to lift the load a little, I want to be there" (Farquharson to Miss Balch, June 1, 1942). Two years later, Farquharson would reflect deeply on the impact of the internment in a letter to a friend: "My sense of shame that this policy was put into effect is always renewed and made stronger when I visit one of the camps, but out of the tragedy has come greater friendship and understanding as far as some of us are concerned. It does seem true that many times we lose sight of the real values in life and the real meaning of it until some tragic situation makes us think more deeply than we have before" (Farquharson to Mr. Kanno, March 5, 1943).

Gordon Hirabayashi

University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi (1918-2012) remained in Seattle the day after all citizens of Japanese ancestry were ordered to evacuate to a nearby prison camp at the Puyallup Fair Grounds. After turning himself in to the FBI, Hirabayashi was convicted and sentenced to 90 days in prison. Working with the ACLU and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Farquharson played a pivotal role pushing his case all the way up the United States Supreme Court. She helped convince the ACLU to agree to underwrite all litigation expenses. His case was the first to challenge the expulsion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. At the time the Supreme Court upheld his conviction, but the fight to overturn it resumed in the 1980s, culminating in his judicial vindication.

By the end of Farquharson's second term, the United States was fully embroiled in World War II. Drained of enthusiasm to run another campaign and knowing that her pacifist stance was unpopular and would make another electoral victory unlikely, Farquharson decided to not run again. Instead, she thought she could be more useful continuing to fight for change through her many organizational affiliations.

Fighting Racism

Being out of public office had no effect on the pace of Farquharson's activism. In 1943, she organized the Northwest arm of the Pacific Coast Committee on American Principles and Fair Play, a group formed to combat the persisting racism toward Japanese Americans and to help protect their constitutional rights as citizens. To increase the credibility of the Fair Play Committee, Farquharson convinced prominent local citizens to join, then set about challenging baseless rumors that questioned the loyalty of Japanese Americans, such as the scientist falsely accused of purposefully poisoning yellow fever serums. Through the The Fair Play Committee she also lobbied on behalf of upstanding citizens such as one Dr. Suzuki, making sure he was reinstated into the King County Medical Society and that he and his family were safely resettled into new neighborhoods that were often less than welcoming.

Farquharson's activities fighting racial discrimination extended to include other racial groups as well. She became the first Northwest member of the National Board of the Urban League, serving as chairman of the Seattle League Membership Committee and spearheading its membership drive in 1949 to attract 1,000 new members. And in her role as field secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Farquharson began a letter-writing campaign to the Quaker Oats Company protesting their racist use of the "Aunt Jemima" image in their advertising.

A Christian Call for Aid

Following the end of World War II, Farquharson worked to promote international understanding, advocating for increased humanitarian aid to Central and Eastern Europe. In 1946 she served as the Northwest delegate to the national body of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1947, she traveled to a conference in Luxembourg for the Congress of Women's International League where she remained for six months. During her sojourn oversees, she witnessed wide-scale starvation and sickness in Germany and Eastern Europe, which depressed her greatly, causing her to intensify her pleas to Congress to send more aid and provisions. To Farquharson, more aid meant more stability, and therefore greater likelihood for lasting peace. She stated, "There can be no stability in the world with 60 million people in the heart of Europe starving, sick and bitter" (Honig, "Remembering Mary," p. 8).

While, adamantly opposed to Stalinism and Germany's military government, she maintained a strong conviction, rooted in her Christian faith, that everyone's fate is interdependent: "For Christianity a sense of mutuality, a feeling of oneness with all human beings, a realization that my welfare is bound to that of 'even the least of these, My brethren' -- these attitudes are the essence of loving one's neighbor and one's enemy" (Farquharson, Post Intelligencer, July 27, 1964). Speaking to a group of peace activists in Oregon after touring war-torn Germany, she pushed for more cooperation with former enemies and called for a reconciliation "built upon democratic, Christian, and scientific premises that people are the same the world over" (Honig, "Remembering Mary," p. 3). It was this same conviction that drove her during the height of the "Red Scare" to urge Congress to send more food and aid to China. Through a proliferation of letters, Farquharson argued that increased aid would have an ameliorating effect on conflict and Communism, instead of the opposite as many feared, ultimately allowing for the formation of a healthy democracy.

Halting Nuclear Arms

Outraged by the buildup of arms during the Cold War, Farquharson dedicated many letters and many of her later years to protesting the proliferation of nuclear arms. Through numerous letters and op-ed editorials to The Seattle Times and the Post Intelligencer, Farquharson argued that the effect of a nuclear-arms race was to stoke rather resolve tension on the world stage, since other countries would then feel the need to also demonstrate their arms power. There is nothing about Russia or China that frightened her more, she insisted in an editorial to The Seattle Times, than our own country's hunger to escalate the nuclear-arms race.

She wrote, "We are the most powerful and in the grip of a delusion that monstrous machines of death will give us security and will not destroy democracy" ("U.S. Dangerous?" November 24, 1966). Although Farquharson would remain active for the rest of her life in various women's groups such as the YWCA and the League of Women Voters, her primary concern until the end of her days remained preventing the build up of nuclear arms.

Nonstop Political Organizing

In 1950, Farquharson decided to run for the Senate for a third time. She campaigned on the idea of a graduated net income tax, but did not make it past the primary. Although she would never serve in public office again, she continued to influence public policy by putting her insider's knowledge of the political system to work and continuing her efforts to educate the public.

In 1960, she helped found and run a campaign along with the YWCA and University Unitarian Church to end capital punishment in Washington state, forming the State Information Committee on Capital Punishment. A letter signed by Mary Farquharson from the University Unitarian Church states in all capital letters the importance of an informed public: "If we are going to move in new directions that are constructive, intelligent, and purposeful we must rid ourselves of this ancient symbol of terror and destruction ... . INFORMATION IS ALL IMPORTANT. People do change their minds when they learn the facts" (University Unitarian Church Letter, UW Special Collections). Their initiative would not garner enough signatures in time to make it on the ballot, but that didn't stop Farquharson, who immediately started searching for an alternative route to getting a bill on the matter introduced in the legislature.

Farquharson continued her efforts to educate the public, serving as the Director of the Students-in-Industry project sponsored by YMCA-YWCA, where she hosted students from all over the United States to come to learn about issues of race, housing, labor, police, and local government in an evening educational program. She also served on the board of the Health and Welfare Council. And in 1951 she was appointed as an aide to the regional Wage Stabilization Board. Throughout her life she was involved with progressive groups such as the Washington Progressive League, the League of Women Voters Committee on Constitutional Revision, the United Farm Workers, and the Seattle Draft Counseling Committee, to name only a few.

Final Days

In her later years, physical ailments prevented Farquharson from making public appearances. Instead, she continued to voice her views through thousands of letters, over the course of her lifetime, to Seattle's daily papers and other progressive media around the country.

Farquharson lived for 55 years in her home in the University District of Seattle, many of those years with her husband, Burt, until he passed away in 1970. In one of her final public appearances, she hosted Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973), the first woman elected to Congress and another lifelong pacifist. Rankin was one of a few to vote against United States involvement in World Wars I and II.

In 1982, 12 years after the death of her husband, at the age of 81, Mary Farquharson passed away. She left 90 percent of her estate to the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Describing the organization in a letter to a friend, she recounted how many people called it, "radical" and "pacifist" (Farquharson to to Beatrice Meyer, July 31, 1944), labels tinged with implied disapproval but in which Farquharson clearly took pride.

They were labels that could easily also apply to Farquharson herself. It was working through the Fellowship of Reconciliation and other similar organizations that she was best able to employ her philosophy of activism working through numerous groups to create change on the issues she cared most about: civil liberties, race relations, and education around issues of peace and war. Farquharson's ceaseless crusade for change was fueled by a sense of urgency that bordered on fear of what would happen to a generation she described as "standing on the 'edge of the abyss'" (Farquharson to Beatrice Meyer, July 31, 1944) should the public remain uneducated and complacent. Clearly, Mary Farquharson was not about to idly stand by and find out. 


Mary Farquharson, "Juvenile-Rehabilitation Savings Are Not Real," The Seattle Times, September 7, 1960, p. 1; Mary Farquharson, "Japanese American Internment," Ibid., October 4, 1961, p. A-19; Mary Farquharson,"Multiplying Armaments and Rising Tensions," Ibid., October 1, 1959, p. 1; "Senate Fight Close in 46th," Ibid., November. 10, 1938, p. 18; "State Writers' Project Illegal: Solon Charges," Ibid., February 28, 1940, p. 1; "Equality for Wife in Property Sought," Ibid., January 13, 1941, p. 4;  "Starvation and Want Prevail in Germany, Says Seattleite," Ibid., January 19, 1947, p. 15; "Grain to Red China -- Politics of Suicide?" Ibid., April 23, 1962, p. 1; "U.S. 'Dangerous'?," Ibid., November 24, 1966, p. 1; "Mrs. Mary Farquharson Files: She Favors State Income Tax," Ibid., July 13, 1950, p. 10; "Mrs. Farquharson Appointed Aide to Wage Board," Ibid., October 19, 1951, p. 33; Ross Cunningham, "Saluting Olympia Radicals of the '30s," Ibid., May 4, 1979, p. A-13; "Radicals," The Argus, September 15, 1934, Vol. 41, p. 2; "Mary Farquaharson" interviewed by Kathryn Hinsch, November 5, 1980, Women in Washington State Legislature Oral History Program, Office of the Secretary of State, available at Washington State Historical Society (http://digitum.washingtonhistory.org/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/politics&CISOPTR=1019&REC=16); Brazier, Don, "History of the Washington Legislature 1854-1963," Washington State Legislature History of the State Legislature website accessed September 15, 2012 (http://www.leg.wa.gov/History/Legislative/Documents/HistoryOfTheLeg.pdf); Elected Washington Women, "Political Pioneers: The Women Lawmakers," October 1983, Washington State Legislature History of the State Legislature website accessed July 12, 2012 (http://www.leg.wa.gov/History/Legislative/Documents/PoliticalPioneers.pdf); "The History of Women in the Washington State Legislature" Washington State Legislature, Statistical Reports website accessed July 12, 2012(http://www.leg.wa.gov/LIC/Documents/Statistical%20Reports/History_  %20of_%20Women_%20in_%20the_%20Legislature.pdf); "Partial History of the FOR in the Pacific Northwest" Fellowship of Reconciliation Western Washington website accessed October 9, 2012 (http://www.wwfor.org/history/partial-history-of-the-for-in-the-pacific-northwest/); George Scott, "Mary Farquharson," Columbia Magazine, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Fall 2007) (http://columbia.washingtonhistory.org/magazine/articles/2007/0307/0307-a2.aspx); "Elections and Voting," Elections Results Search on Secretary of State website accessed October 20, 2012 (http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/results_search.aspx); "About Us," American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State website accessed October 24, 2012 (http://www.aclu-wa.org/about-us); Doug Honig, "The Union of Civil Liberties and Labor," American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State website accessed October 28, 2012 (http://www.aclu-wa.org/blog/union-civil-liberties-and-labor); "Essay: The I.W.W. in Washington," University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections accessed October 28, 2012 (http://content.lib.washington.edu/iwwweb/readIWW.html); "Senate Individual Committee Assignments 1935," Legislative Manual, State of Washington, 1935-1941, pp. 194-195, 208-209; Senate Journal of the Twenty-Fifth Legislature of the State of Washington at Olympia (Olympia: State Printing Plant, 1937), p. 264, 701, 713; Re-election pamphlet, 1950, finding aid, Mary U. 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