Mary Davidson

Mary Davidson died on May 26. She was 88. A memorial service is planned for early July in Lawrence.

She was born February 11, 1926 in St. Louis, the daughter of Sylvester Charles Rieser and Blanche Caroline Adams Rieser. She graduated from University City High School, attended Drury College, and graduated from Washington University in 1947. She earned a Master’s Degree from Washington University in 1949, and in 1981, a Ph.D from the University of Kansas.

In 1949, she married Jack Davidson who died in 2010. They met as graduate students at Washington University, working in the Student Committee for the Admission of Negroes (SCAN). They also worked with the Congress for Racial Equality, a non-violent group which opened many downtown lunch counters and the public swimming pools in St. Louis.

The couple lived and worked in Rio de Janeiro and Lillestrom, Norway from 1953 to 1957. Their first child, John, was born in Norway. Three more sons, Ken, Tom, and Jim were born in upstate New York. In 1966 the family moved to Lawrence, where she finished her graduate work in English Literature. She has published articles on Henry Green, Tom
Stoppard, and Caryl Churchill and reviews of plays and books.

Mary was also very active in politics. She was a supporter and activist on equal rights for women; simple equality on racial, gender, sexual orientation and religious preference; public transportation in Lawrence; public education in Lawrence; open and accessible government; separation of church and state; and individual liberty. She served as president of the Douglas County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, on the board of the League of Women Voters, and was honored for her activism by the state legislature of Kansas. In 2000, she was a delegate to the Democratic Party Convention.

Her opposition to invasive spying by government and frequent violations of civil liberties earned her the Helen Fluker Open and Accessible Government Award in 2005. At the award ceremony her work at the ACLU and her involvement with the League of Women Voters, the National Organization for Women, and the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice were highlighted. She continued to work on social justice and against war during all of her years.

Mary was preceded in death by her husband and her younger brother. She is survived by her cousin Kevin O’Morrison, 98, of Edmond, WA; her niece Anne Rieser of St. Louis; her nephew David Rieser of St. Louis; her brother’s wife Jerene Rieser of Frontenac, MO; by four sons, John Pirnie Davidson III and his wife, Shirley Schaeffer, Scarsdale, New York; Ken
Davidson and his wife, Monica Davidson, Ottawa, KS; Tom Davidson and his wife, Diane Davidson, Lexington, MA; and Jim Davidson and his wife Mylisa Millerd, Lawrence, KS; by six grandchildren, Jessica, Julia, Anna, Nathan, Owen, Alice.

The family and her friends know better than to send flowers. Donations to charities may be made in her name in place of flowers. A suggested charity is Lawrence Visiting Nurses Hospice.

Online condolences may be sent at

Messages & Condolences

From Tolly Wildcat...

So sad to lose this witty, wonderful friend. You livened our days in the KU English Department with your wit and perspective in newsletters and conversations, really listened to the ideas in my dissertation and added a book you knew would help. You helped edit my articles, always encouraging me. Always seeking justice.
We loved your Christmas parties, your wonderful cookies and punch(!), your gatherings of the two KU departments you and Jack were in, and the amazing conversations we heard and overheard there from the Physics and Astrophysics and the English Department folks. Ice cores to test the temperature polar ice would melt, Was the shuttle schedule rushed? etc.
We will join your family and friends at your memorial this in july, and we send our thoughts and hope for peace to your family….love from tolly and wayne wildcat

From Jim Davidson...

The family is planning a memorial service on Saturday 5 July from 2 to 4 pm at Ecumenical Campus Ministries. Everyone in the family is grateful for the kind words that have been left here for us. Thank you.

From Laura Routh...

Deepest condolences to all Mary’s family. She was valiant and extraordinarily smart woman, and i admired her enormously. She was a staunch supporter of community efforts to reform the Lawrence Police Department, and I am grateful for her mentoring and guidance. I will miss her.

From J.J. Sedelmaier...

My wife Patrice and I never had the pleasure of knowing Mary, but we do know her son John and are clearly aware of what she meant to him. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the entire Davidson family.

From Burt Morey...

Ken and Family. Sorry for your loss. Your mother was quite a person. She did much for the sake of others.

From Colby Kullman...

What an honor to go all through my doctoral program with you, to sit at dinner in your lovely house with
William S. Borroughs next to me, and to share our common passion for theatre. I shall miss you, dear friend. Blessings!

From Pat Kehde...

Mary’s death is a great loss for Lawrence, because of her commitment to justice and equality and a great loss personally to so many of us who benefited from her incisive wit and clear-eyed insights to people, history and literature.

From Phil Minkin...

Mary was an inspiration to all who knew her. Her fortitude, strength and wisdom made her the kind of person it was a pleasure to work with.
She will certainly be missed.

From Jeannette Shawl...

I will miss this grand woman. Rest in peace, Mary.

From Steve Shawl...

A great lady in so many ways. So wonderful to have known her and to have had Jack as a colleague. The end of an era.

From Dinah Lovitch...

May she rest in peace.

Messages are closed.