Iowa Women's Archives
MARIAN FARQUHAR (1917-2006)
Marian Farquhar, missionary to Sudan, was born near College Springs in Page County, Iowa, in 1917. Farquhar graduated from Amity High School in College Springs, Iowa, in 1935 and attended Tarkio College in Tarkio, Missouri. During her college years, she taught primary grades at Coburg and New Market, Iowa. After she received her BA in 1940, Farquhar taught high school English in Elliott and Atlantic, Iowa, for three years. During the summer of 1940 she worked at a Fresh Air camp in the Chicago area.
By 1943, Farquhar was determined to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a missionary. As a child she had heard missionaries at her church speak about their work. In addition, two of her sister’s college friends recounted stories of their parents, who were missionaries in Sudan. Farquhar was accepted for a tour of duty in Africa and trained at the Kennedy School of Missions in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Biblical Seminary in New York. She sailed for Sudan in the summer of 1945.
In the usual five-year tours of duty, Farquhar worked in Nasir, a settlement in southern Sudan close to the Ethiopian border. Her goal was to persuade the Nuers to allow their daughters to be educated. She taught the girls in a three-room thatched school created by her predecessor, Blanche Soule. While teaching, she developed a series of primers for educating Nuers to read and write. Nearly every literate Nuer learned from the books that she created. Farquhar remained in Sudan until 1964, when the Sudanese government expelled all missionaries. She proceeded to teach English as a second language in Hong Kong for 18 months and then taught English for ten years in Dembi Dollo, Ethiopia. Farquhar was forced out of Ethiopia by Marxists in 1977 and returned home for two years before she was able to travel back to Sudan. From 1979-1982, she worked with the Wycliffe Bible Translators to create an eight-book series of primers for Nuer children in first through third grades..
In 1983, Farquhar retired to her family’s farm in Iowa. She returned to Africa from 1986 to 1987 to contribute to a Presbyterian hymnal for Nuers, and then again in 1988 and 1989 to assist the Wycliffe Bible Translators with a further project. In 1993 she moved to the United Presbyterian Home in Washington, Iowa. In January 1994 she went to Nairobi, Kenya, to work for three months with Nuer evangelists and to help Wycliffe Bible Translators with the translation of a Nuer Old Testament. While in her eighties, she helped Sudanese immigrants in Iowa, Omaha, and elsewhere to adjust to their new lives and used the primers she created to teach them to read and write. Farquahar died in 2006.
Scope and Content Note
The Marian Farquhar papers date from 1902 to 2006 and measure 2 linear feet. The papers are arranged in eight series: Biographical Information, Mission Career, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Historical and Religious Background, Newsletters, Correspondence, Newspaper Clippings, and Photographs.
The Biographical Information series (1902-2006) consists of information about Farquhar’s life, education, and travel experiences. Various permits and licenses from the Sudanese and Ethiopian governments, Farquhar’s passports, and grade reports belonging to Jennie Wylie, Farquhar’s mother, can be found in this series. Also included are materials concerning Farquhar’s tenure at the Elliot Consolidated and Atlantic schools, such as teaching contracts, student handbooks, and school newspapers. Photocopies of Farquhar’s diaries, which include daily accounts of her life as a student from eighth grade through college and her first years as a teacher in the United States, can also be found in this series. A scrapbook containing clippings related to Farquhar’s 1957-1958 furlough and her parents’ 50th anniversary completes the series.
The Mission Career series (1939-1995) contains information relating to Farquhar’s work as a missionary and teacher in various schools in Sudan, Hong Kong, and Ethiopia. Materials from her time in Nasir, Sudan, provide information about the American Mission Upper Nile (the organization that oversaw the mission in Nasir) such as meeting minutes, the organization’s constitution, and internal correspondence reacting to the 1959 Non-Governmental Schools Ordinance in Sudan. Also included are reports to the Sudanese government and various mission organizations regarding the girls’ school established by Blanche Soule and the mission school established under Farquhar. Also included within the series is information on the Bethel Evangelical Secondary School (BESS), including copies of the BESS Gazette (the school newspaper headed by Farquhar) and student handbooks. General information on the True Light School in Hong Kong completes the series.
Information about Farquhar’s translation work can be found in the Wycliffe Bible Translatorsseries (ca. 1980- 1995), which includes photocopies of the primer series she helped to develop, as well as many individual Bible passages translated into the Nuer language and a pronunciation guide. Her work testing these materials in Nasir is represented in the series by her progress reports to the Wycliffe Bible Translators’ Summer Institute of Learning. Also contained within this series is an audiocassette tape containing song and speech in the Nuer language, as well as a sermon in English on the importance of foreign missions. Some of Farquhar’s primers have been digitized as part of the Nuer Field Notes digital archive, which was created by Marion Frank-Wilson of Indiana University and Edward Miner of the University of Iowa as part of the Indiana University Digital Library Program (IUDLP). The collection may be accessed online through the IUDLP’s main page.
The Historical and Religious Background series (1951-2001) encompasses the history surrounding civil war, famine, genocide, missions, and religious persecution in Africa during and after Farquhar’s work there. The series includes a draft of a 1992 African mission history, as well as several reports by Paul Hopkins, the Presbyterian Church (USA) liason to the Middle East and Sudan, detailing the condition of missions in Egypt and Sudan and the background of the Sudanese Civil War. Among the government documents in this series are copies of the 1962 Missionary Societies Act (which required all missionaries to register with and be monitored by the Sudanese government), a 1964 statement by the Sudanese Minister of the Interior regarding the expulsion of Christian missionaries from Sudan, and an official statement on the situation in Sudan by the United States government. Also included within the series are reactions to the actions of the Sudanese government by groups such as the South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (a rebel group that fought for the liberation of South Sudan from control by the North) and the Christian church in Sudan. Various articles, fact sheets, and maps of the area, as well as a bibliography of materials on Sudanese history, round out the series.
The Newsletters series (1961-2000) consists of a variety of publications by religious and secular organizations in China, Sudan, Ethiopia, and the United States. These newsletters deal mainly with human rights, current events, and missionary activities. The bulk of the Correspondence series (1940-2004) consists of a mission newsletter (including photocopies as well as most of the originals), which Farquhar wrote between 1945 and 1995 to keep her acquaintances up to date on her mission work, prayer requests, and travel. A more personal newsletter sent out only to close friends and family is also contained within the series. Other correspondence includes her exchanges with the Board of Foreign Missions regarding her acceptance into the mission field, mission letters received from her colleagues, and the original 1964 letter informing Christian missionaries in Sudan of their immediate expulsion.
The collection’s Newspaper Clippings (1980-2004) cover Farquhar’s work as a missionary and with Sudanese refugees in Iowa, as well as topics related to warfare, famine, child slavery, and religious conflict in Ethiopia and Sudan. Color snapshots, black and white photographs, and color slides make up the collection’s Photographs (1948-1999) series. The majority of the photographs portray Farquhar’s life and work in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Hong Kong. While Farquhar appears in some of the snapshots, the majority depict Farquhar’s students and mission colleagues. The color slides were taken in Sudan, Ethiopia, and China between the late 1950s and the mid-1980s. They showcase native culture in Africa, city life in Ethiopia, and Farquhar’s travels to Hong Kong.
For more information about this collection contact the Iowa Women's Archives.
Iowa Women’s Archives, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City IA 52242.
Page created April 2007.