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Mary Frances Farnham 1895 ~ 1943


Miss Mary Frances Farnham was born in South Bridgton, and was the daughter of the late William and Elizabeth (Fessenden) Farnham. After the death of her parents, in her early childhood, the late John Putnam Perley became her guardian and his house her home.

In 1863, after private study at home, she entered Bridgton Academy, of which the late Charles E. Hilton was principal. Here she spent two years in fitting for Mount Holyoke, and was graduated with honor from that well-known institution in 1868. Returning to South Bridgton, Miss Farnham spent several years of quiet usefulness in the home of her childhood. It was during these years that she served the town most faithfully as a conscientious member of the school committee, a superintendent of schools from 1887 to 1890. During the latter year the opportunity came to her which resulted in her accepting the vice-principalship of the Bloemhof School, in Stellenbosch (thirty miles from Cape Town), Cape of Good Hope. This is a large boarding and day .school for the daughters of European colonists and, under government supervision, prepares pupils for higher examinations and degrees of the University of the Cape of Good Hope. In addition to school duties much time was spent in working on the flora of the Cape and Stellenbosch districts of Cape Colony.

Leaving Africa in 1888 and visiting the Island of St Helena, on the way to Europe, she traveled extensively in that continent, remained a long time in London, and reached the United States the same year.

We next find Miss Farnham in the capacity of preceptress and teacher of English and history in Burr and Burton Seminary, Manchester, Vt.; then she accepted a similar position in the Forest Park University, St. Louis, Mo. Four years as preceptress of Fryeburg Academy, Fryeburg, Maine, followed, which brought her to 1895. While occupying these last three positions Miss Farnham was brought into contact with a very large number of boys and girls, and had the great privilege of training many for extended courses of study, as well as for business life.

In 1895-96 she was a student at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass. In addition to general work in colonial and United States history (also in literature and sociology), Miss Farnham has been carrying on a research course under the direction of Dr. Hart, in connection with the Historical Seminary, on documentary history of Maine. The result is a more complete set of documents from original sources conferring territory or jurisdiction than has yet been made. The work has been done in the archives of Maine and Massachusetts, the Harvard, Boston and Athenaeum Libraries. These studies were supplemented by courses at the Harvard Summer School, and by continued research work the following year.

In September, 1897, Miss Farnham came to the Pacific University, Forest Grove, Ore., as dean of women and instructor in English literature; in 1901 she was made full professor. Under the titles of "Farnham Papers," "Documentary History of Maine," second series, the Maine Historical Society published in two volumes the result of Miss Farnham's researches.

Miss Farnham is a Daughter of the American Revolution; for twelve years a member of the Young Women's Christian Association Board of Oregon, and until the establishment of the Territorial Board of the Pacific Northwest; for fourteen years vice-president of the missionary boards of the Congregational Church of Oregon; is a director of the Oregon Audubon Society of Oregon; for eight years secretary of the Civic Improvement Society of Forest Grove; in the work of the Oregon Federation of Women's Clubs, Miss Farnham is vice-chair-man of the trustees of the Scholarship Loan Fund; she is also the club representative of the Department of School Patrons of the National Educational Association, and is chairman of the joint committee for Oregon; she had a place on the programme of that department at the recent convention in San Francisco, a discussion of the topic, "The Cooperation of Informed Citizens."

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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