Partner Helen Stanley Johnson

Queer Places:
Exmoor Farm, 751 Boston Post Rd, Weston, MA 02493
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
3 Concord Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138
Ashby Pasture, 70 Simonds Rd, Ashby, MA 01431
274 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02116
Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138

Marion Blanchard Farnsworth (1889 - February 26, 1978) was a Boston philanthropist and farmer.

Marion Blanchard Farnsworth graduated from Radcliffe College in 1912. Farnsworth spent five years volunteering part-time in the outpatient department of the Massachusetts General Hospital and living with her widowed father at their Cambridge home. Following the remarriage of her father, Marion got her own apartment at 3 Concord Ave, Cambridge, overlooking the Cambridge Common. Her father, Charles H. Farnsworth, founder and president of First National Stores, did not want his only child living alone. So Jenny Kroll, who worked at the Red Cross with Marion, became her companion.

In 1917, she joined the American Red Cross, Boston Metropolitan Chapter, as District Supervisor of the Home Service Department. She soon met Dr. Douglas Thom, who was starting a clinic for children called the Habit Clinic at the South End Settlement House, and was so impressed with his work that she became a life-long supporter. Marion met Helen Stanley Johnson in Boston in 1920 while working for the Red Cross. The two young, well-educated women had both lost their mothers, and each of their fathers had remarried. Both were deeply involved in social work and interested in social change. In 1921, Marion and Helen quit their jobs to travel to Europe together. They spent several months in Exmoor, England, exploring the countryside on horseback. They were especially fond of the Exmoor ponies, a small but rugged native breed. Finally Charles Farnsworth inquired when his daughter and her friend were coming home. Marion replied "We’ll come home when you buy us a farm!" On May 5, 1922 Marion became the new owner of the old Harrington Farm (also spelled Herrington) on what was then called Central Avenue. It consisted of a historic house, barn, outbuildings, and 48 acres of land with meadows, pine forest, and an apple orchard. The plan was to raise chickens and horses and to start an egg business. Because the young women had loved Exmoor in Devonshire so much, they decided to call their new home Exmoor Farm. They arranged to ship the two horses they had been riding in England. These were believed to be the first Exmoor ponies to arrive in America.

On February 12, 1933, Marion Blanchard Farnsworth’s father died suddenly at his home in Brookline. Shortly after the death of her father, Marion purchased a second working farm, at 70 Simonds Rd, Ashby, a small Massachusetts town near the New Hampshire border. Ashby Pasture was 1500 feet higher in elevation than Exmoor. Marion and her companion, Helen Stanley Johnson, spent summers there with their adopted children, dogs, and horses, to escape the heat and mosquitoes and to lead the simple village life they loved.

In 1935 Marion Farnsworth hired noted Boston architect Eleanor Raymond to draw up plans for several additions to the rear of Exmoor Farm, an historic house, and to move the farm near the pines, about 575 feet further back from the noisy traffic of the Post Road.

In May 1940, Marion Farnsworth legally adopted a baby girl whom she called Sarah Anne Farnsworth, known as Sally (1939-2015). She was able to do this with the help of her old friend Dr. Thom, with whom she had started the Habit Clinic at the South End Settlement House back in the 1920s. When Marion and Helen decided they would like to adopt a little girl, Dr. Thom found them a lovely newborn baby whose parents were living in Boston and were unable to care for her. When Sally died in 2015, her obituary presented her as "the daughter of the late 'Aunts', Marion Blanchard Farnsworth Boynton and Helen Stanley Johnson of Weston, MA."

After selling their farm in Weston in 1954, Marion and Helen both moved back to Boston, each to her own apartment in the Back Bay. Marion took a large apartment at 274 Beacon St, Boston, overlooking the Charles River. Helen took an apartment in the same neighborhood. Then in 1958, at age 69, Marion Farnsworth surprised everybody and married Alvah Richardson Boynton (1892-1974) of Duxbury. A stockbroker, Boynton was Marion’s financial advisor. She had known him since childhood and remembered that as a little girl she used to push him around Cambridge in his baby carriage. The wedding took place on October 1, 1958, at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Weston. Several of her friends and family felt that Alvah had married Marion for her money and had taken advantage of her. Marion moved to Alvah’s home on Cranberry Lane in Duxbury but kept her Boston apartment at 274 Beacon Street and her remaining property in Weston and Ashby.

Marion’s health deteriorated gradually after her move to Duxbury with her new husband. She had trouble remembering things and found it increasingly more difficult to function. Then in November 1968, she had a stroke. She became a resident of nearby Newfield House. Marion Farnsworth Boynton died on February 26, 1978. Alvah predeceased her in 1974. She is buried in the Farnsworth family lot. Her life companion Helen is buried in Weston, where Marion and Helen lived together for many years.


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