Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding Aid to the Brownie Mary Collection, 1981-2001, SFH 379
SFH 379  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Overview
Table of contents What's This?
Contains news clippings, flyers, and brochures about Rathbun, the cannabis brownies she served to people with AIDS and other serious illnesses, and the medical marijuana legalization movement; awards, some photographs, and items including her signature vest.
Mary Jane Rathbun, popularly known as Brownie Mary, was a medical marijuana activist. Born in 1922, she arrived in San Francisco from Minnesota in the late 1940s. She was briefly married and had a daughter who died in a vehicle accident in 1974. She worked as a waitress and began a side cottage business of selling cannabis brownies, baking them in her kitchen, posting flyers for "magically delicious...original recipe brownies," and selling them from a basket in her Castro neighborhood. Rathbun was described as grandmotherly, and she wore a marijuana-themed vest and pendant. With no grandchildren of her own, she called the patients with AIDS that she befriended her "adopted kids." She was twice arrested in San Francisco for possession, receiving community service. This led to volunteering with the Shanti Project, launching her career as an AIDS activist. She volunteered with and delivered her special brownies to San Francisco General Hospital's Ward 86, the AIDS outpatient clinic. Rathbun was arrested a third time in Sonoma County in 1992; the charges were dropped.
3 boxes, 2 oversized flat boxes, 1 framed art piece (2.1 cubic feet)
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.
The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Collections that are stored off site should be requested 48 hours in advance.