Mary Farquharson


Name Mary Farquharson
Born April 5 1901
Died September 1 1982
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Activist, Washington state senator, and organizer of support committee for Gordon Hirabayashi during World War II. Born Mary U. Nichols in Tacoma in 1901, she graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in English in 1925. She married Frederick Farquharson in 1928. He was a civil engineer who was a professor of engineering at the University of Washington. She and her husband became active in left politics in the 1930s. She was one of the founders of the Seattle chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1935 and both were active in the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

She was encouraged to enter politics by the Women's Legislative Council of Washington in 1934 and ran for a the state senate seat. Though previously a member of the Socialist Party, she ran as a Democrat and narrowly defeated an incumbent Republican, championing populist economic issues in the midst of the Depression. She was reelected by an even narrower margin in 1938. As a senator, she advocated a progressive state income tax, increased funding for education, and a unicameral legislature and was a key figure in the repeal of the state's criminal-syndaclism law and in establishing a maximum workweek for domestic servants. She opted not to seek reelection in 1942, knowing her anti-war views in the midst of World War II made her unelectable.

During the war, she spoke out against the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans and one of the organizers of the Pacific Coast Committee on American Principles and Fair Play in 1943. Acquainted with Gordon Hirabayashi through the University of Washington's YMCA, for which she served on the board, she sought him out after his initial arrest to express her support and suggest that he make his a test case. She organized a support committee for him, becoming its secretary-treasurer. The committee raised money for his test case, which became particularly significant when the ACLU refused to support him.

She ran for the state senate one more time in 1950, but was defeated in the primary, her last foray into electoral politics. She and her husband continued their activism after the war, becoming active in movements to outlaw capital punishment and to fight nuclear proliferation, until his passing in 1970. Upon her death twelve years later, she left 90% of her estate to the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

"Guide to the Mary Farquharson Papers Relating to the Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II 1942-1945." University of Washington Libraries.

Hirabayashi, Gordon, et. al. A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013.

Irons, Peter. Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Licata, Eleanor. "Farquharson, Mary (1901–1982)." HistoryLink.org.

"Mary Farquharson," Interviewed by Kathryn Hinsch, November 5, 1980. Women in Washington State Legislature Oral History Program, Office of Secretary of State Washington State Archives.

Scott, George W. "Mary Farquharson." Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History 21.3 (Fall 2007): 17–21.