Scope and Contents
Title: Brownie Mary Collection
Date (inclusive): 1981-2001
Collection Identifier: SFH 379
Rathbun, Mary (Mary Jane), 1922-1999
3 boxes, 2 oversized flat boxes, 1 framed art piece
(2.1 cubic feet)
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA, 94102
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
The collection is stored on site.
Language of Materials:
Collection materials are in
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.
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.
[Identification of item], Brownie Mary Collection (SFH 379), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Collection received in 3 accessions, from 2000 to 2001. Bulk of collection was collected by Mary Rathbun, turned over to Beth
Moore, and donated by Karen Masonheimer. Shirt and vest, framed proclamation, oversized photograph, and carved wooden keepsake
box with trinkets donated by Larry W. Bittner as executor of the estate of Mary Rathbun. Charcoal portrait and stuffed bear
donated by Beverly Baber.
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.
In 1991, San Franciscan's passed Proposition P, which urged state lawmakers to legalize use of medical marijuana. California
voters passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996. Rathbun appeared on the cover of
Newsweek (Nov. 1,1993), and she co-wrote a book with Dennis Peron, founder of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. In 1997, she
and Peron were honored as Grand Marshals of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. Mayor Willie L. Brown proclaimed May 2, 1999
as Brownie Mary Day, honoring her for her years of compassionate care of people suffering from illness. Rathbun died of a
heart attack at age 77 in 1999.
Scope and Contents
Collection has news clippings, flyers, and brochures about Rathbun, her cannabis brownies, and the medical marijuana legalization
movement; awards, some photographs, and items including her signature vest. A copy of her cookbook and some handwritten cookie
recipes are included; the brownie recipe is not included. Records of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club are not included.
Death Experience, by Penny King, 1981, (autographed by author, #2 of 5), added to library catalog.
Tami J. Suzuki
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Rathbun, Mary (Mary Jane), 1922-1999 -- Archives
Marijuana -- Law and Legislation -- California
Marijuana -- Law and Legislation-- California -- San Francisco
Marijuana -- Therapeutic use -- Recipes