Collection Summary

Creator: Farmer, Frances
Title: Addendum to the Frances Farmer Papers [a]
Accession: MSS 93-1a
Parent Collection: The Papers of Frances Farmer
Description: 3 items
Location: SC - Basement
Photograph Collection: View 6 digitized photographs
Digitized Content: 6 objects
Use Restrictions: There are no restrictions.

Collection Description & Arrangement

This addition to the Frances Farmer papers contains three items found on the VLL shelves in Special Collections in December 2007 and added to her collection in January of 2008.

Biographical & Historical Information

Frances Farmer was born in Keysville, Virginia on December 9th, 1909, but she spent most of her younger years in Richmond, where she moved with her family in 1915. She attended John Marshall High School (1923-1927), and then studied at Westhampton College, where she majored in history and had considerable success in the debating society. After her junior year of college she enrolled at T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond and received her LL.B. in 1933. The only female in her law class, she graduated with honors and was awarded the O.H. Berry Medal, given to the "best all-around graduate in law." She passed the State Bar Examination in December of the same year.

In October of 1931, Frances Farmer began to work for Dr. Ray Doubles, Dean of the University of Richmond Law School as part-time secretary, a position she kept after her graduation. Despite her outstanding academic record, she learned that good positions for female lawyers were extremely difficult to find at that time.

Meanwhile she became very active in Richmond community affairs. She held a number of offices in the Richmond Branch of University Women (AAUW) (1934-36) and was secretary of the Virginia Consumers' League (1935), the Virginia Social Science Association (1935), and the Virginia Women's Council of Legislative Chairmen of States Organizations (1936). She was also member of the Board of Directors of the Richmond League of Women Voters and the local Y.M.C.A.

Farmer's experience as law librarian began when she entered law school and became the assistant law librarian, in addition to secretary to the dean. In 1934, in the absence of the law librarian, she undertook all the administrative work of the library, including accessioning, selecting and purchasing books, keeping financial records, etc. After completing a course in law library administration at the School of Library Service at Columbia University, she was appointed Law Librarian at the University of Richmond in 1938. In that year she joined the American Association of Law Libraries and became a member of the Committee on the Library Journal (1938).

In July 1942, Farmer accepted the position of senior cataloguer and executive secretary at the University of Virginia Law Library with an annual salary of $2400.00. At that time the library had fewer than 40,000 books, all of them uncataloged, and she was hired to carry out the cataloguing project and to begin a purchase program. In 1943 she began teaching legal bibliography and the following year was appointed Law Librarian. Under her leadership the library grew to 100,000 cataloged volumes by the early 1950s.

Because state funding was never adequate for the growth of a major law library, at the outset Farmer sought the support of the Law School Alumni Association which she found willing to match or exceed state money. Thus began a life long partnership which helped to make the Law Library one of the top ten in the nation. In return Farmer gave unstintingly to the Alumni Association, masterminding and for many years overseeing the annual spring alumni weekend and serving sixteen years as secretary/treasurer of the Association.

Farmer eventually gained faculty status at the Law School, making her its first female law professor. She was also active in professional organizations. She had lifetime membership in the American Association of Law Libraries which she served as president in 1959-60. In addition, she was a member of the Virginia State Bar and the State Bar Association, was active in University of Richmond alumni groups, and held membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Coif. She was a consultant to many U.S. law libraries and to the government law library in Nigeria. In February-March of 1975 she was one of the three American law librarians who served as faculty members of the First Conference of Law Librarians in Nigeria, at the Nigerian Law School on Victoria Island, in Lagos. She was active in promoting interest in microforms for law libraries and was appointed by the Attorney General of Virginia in 1976 to explore computerized legal research for Virginia lawyers and public officials.

She retired in August of 1976, and became library consultant to the Center of Oceans Law and Policy at the Law School. The same year she was designated Professor Emerita by the Board of Visitors of the University, and her alma mater awarded her an honorary degree in recognition of her outstanding achievements in law librarianship.
Farmer co-wrote with Ray Doubles a Manual of Legal Bibliography (The Michie Company, 1947) and edited The Wilson Reader (Oceana Publications, 1956). In retirement she compiled an oral history of the second century of the Law School.

A Law School Alumni Association resolution recognizing Frances Farmer's contributions at the 30-year mark stated, "As a result of her creative mind, an inexhaustible supply of energy, resourcefulness and ability, and her indomitable spirit, the Law Library at the University of Virginia has grown and prospered."

Frances Farmer died in Charlottesville on September 13, 1993.

Acquisition Information

Date Received 2007
Donor Information This addition to the Frances Farmer papers contains three items found on the VLL shelves in Special Collections in December 2007 and added to her collection in January of 2008.

Content List

  • 1959-1960; AALL. Papers concerning Frances Farmer term as President of the American Association of Law Libraries
  • 1975; Law Librarians Workshop, Lagos, Nigeria. Scrapbook with letters, photos, memorabilia
  • 1970, May; Letter from Wallace M. McClure to Frances Farmer re: presenting membership card in Woodrow Wilson Club at Harvard University to the Library

Associated People

Use Policy

Access There are no restrictions.
Use Restrictions There are no restrictions.
Preferred Citation
Unless otherwise stated, digital materials in our collections are available for use under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 License (CC-BY-4.0). For Use and Citation guidelines, see Special Collections Use Policy.