Frances Farmer studied at Westhampton College, where she majored in history, and she then enrolled at T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, where she received her LL.B. in 1933. The only female in her law class, she graduated with honors and was awarded the O.H. Berry Medal, given to the "best all-around graduate in law." Despite her outstanding academic record, she learned that good positions for female lawyers were extremely difficult to find at that time. Farmer's experience as law librarian began when she entered law school and became the assistant law librarian, in addition to secretary to the dean from 1933-38. In 1934, in the absence of the law librarian, she undertook all the administrative work of the library, including accessioning, selecting and purchasing books and keeping financial records. After completing a course in law library administration at the School of Library Service at Columbia University, she was appointed Law Librarian at the University of Richmond in 1938. In that year she joined the American Association of Law Libraries and became a member of the Committee on the Library Journal (1938). In July 1942, Farmer accepted the position of senior cataloguer and executive secretary at the University of Virginia Law Library. At that time the library had fewer than 40,000 books, all of them uncataloged, and she was hired to carry out the cataloguing project and to begin a purchase program. In 1943 she began teaching legal bibliography and the following year was appointed Law Librarian. Under her leadership the library grew to 100,000 cataloged volumes by the early 1950s.
Because state funding was never adequate for the growth of a major law library, at the outset Farmer sought the support of the Law School Alumni Association which she found willing to match or exceed state money. Thus began a life-long partnership which helped to make the Law Library one of the top ten in the nation. In return Farmer gave unstintingly to the Alumni Association, masterminding and for many years overseeing the annual spring alumni weekend and serving sixteen years as secretary/treasurer of the Association. Farmer eventually gained faculty status at the Law School, making her its first female law professor. She was also active in many organizations, including the American Association of Law Libraries, which she served as president in 1959-60; the Virginia State Bar Association; University of Richmond alumni groups; Phi Beta Kappa; and Order of the Coif. She was a consultant to many U.S. law libraries and to the government law library in Nigeria. She retired in August of 1976, and became library consultant to the Center of Oceans Law and Policy at the Law School. The same year she was designated Professor Emerita by the Board of Visitors of the University, and her alma mater awarded her an honorary degree in recognition of her outstanding achievements in law librarianship. In retirement she compiled an oral history of the second century of the Law School. A Law School Alumni Association resolution recognizing Frances Farmer's contributions at the 30-year mark stated, "As a result of her creative mind, an inexhaustible supply of energy, resourcefulness and ability, and her indomitable spirit, the Law Library at the University of Virginia has grown and prospered." Frances Farmer died in 1993.
Manual of Legal Bibliography (with M. Ray Doubles) (Michie, 1947).
The Wilson Reader (editor) (Oceana, 1956).
The Revival of the University of Virginia Law Library in Wartime, 38 Law Libr. J. 30-37 (1945).
The Reading Guide, 42 Law Libr. J. 134-139 (1949).
Can the Usual Library Routines Be Adapted to the Smaller Libraries?, 47 Law Libr. J. 328-329 (1954).
Alumni Gift Promotion, 48 Law Libr. J. 316-319 (1955).
On the Gentle Art of Librating, 52 Law Libr. J. 127-130 (1959).
Address, 40 Law Libr J. 132-134 (1947).
Fifty-year Cumulative Index of the Handbook and Proceedings of the Association of American Law Schools, 1900-1950 (with Kenneth R. Redden) (AALS, 1954).
Certification and Education of Law Libraries: A Panel (chairman), 52 Law Libr. J. 391-417 (1959).
President’s Newsletter (American Association of Law Libraries, 1959-60).
Law School Libraries (moderator), 58 Law Libr. J. 387-407 (1965).
Miles Price as Teacher, 62 Law Libr. J. 23 (1969).
Expanding Use of Microform in Law Libraries (co-chairman with Julius J. Marke and Erwin C. Surrency) (Trans-Media, 1973).
Law Libraries and Miniaturization (co-moderator with Julius J. Marke), 66 Law Libr. J. 395-404 (1973).
Review of Veaner & Mechler, eds., Microform Market Place 1974/1975, and International Microforms in Print 1974/1975, 68 Law Libr. J. 116-117 (1975).
Review of Wilkinson, Serving Justice, 68 Law Libr. J. 207 (1975).
The Gentleman of Midmont, Va. L. Sch. Rep., Summer 1983, at 18-19.