In some ways Philadelphia in 1971 wasn’t all that different from Philadelphia today. Well, the Flyers were totally different in the 70s than they are today. You could find kids playing kickball in the streets, streets littered with trash and abandoned cars. Depending on which neighborhood you visit, those streets don’t look much different in 2017.
Back in the 70s state hospitals were still very much in business. And in Philadelphia, one of the largest employers in the city was the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry, or just Byberry as the locals called it.
Dr. Lois Farquharson was a psychiatrist working at Byberry. She and her partner, Gloria Burnette, had recently moved to Philadelphia from New Jersey and shortly after Lois took up residency as a doctor at Byberry she got Gloria a job there as an aide. Although Philadelphia celebrated our first Pride Parade in the summer of 1972, the culture of the city wasn’t entirely accepting of LGBTQ. Lois and Gloria were subjected to scrutiny, even harassment, especially by a colleague, Dr. Leon Weingrad. Weingrad was also their neighbor at the upscale Society Hill Towers.
One hot summer day in August, 1971, Gloria had enough. She followed Dr. Weingrad through the parking lot of their apartment complex and shot him three times at close range. But it was Lois who did the time; Lois who wasn’t at the scene, Lois whom Gloria insisted was innocent of this crime. Gloria pulled the trigger, but Lois was sentenced to life in prison.
Lois Farquharson was 48 years old when she entered Muncy Correctional Institute for Women back in 1973. And she was 91 when she passed away in January 2017, denied appeals and denied pardons, even as recently as 2014 when she was88 years old.
Why was this woman sentenced to life in prison when someone else planned the murder and pulled the trigger? In part one we discuss the relationship between Gloria, Lois and Leon, the trials and Lois’ time at Muncy. Next week in part two we talk with someone form the Fight for Lifers group, an organization associated with Reconstruction, Inc., dedicated to improving the quality of life for inmates serving life sentences in Pennsylvania.
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Thanks to Emmy Cerra for the music in this episode. You can find out more about Emmy on her website – emmycerra.com – and download her music on iTunes.
In Memory of Lois Farquharson, and in tribute to the Lady Lifers.