Emerald O'Leary

  • Wednesday January 11, 2017
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September 8, 1947 �" December 19, 2016

Emerald O'Leary (aka Mary Anderson) of San Francisco, formerly of Ireland and London, passed away December 19 at Laguna Honda Hospice after a more than five-year battle with metastatic cancer of the breast and bone. O'Leary was an accomplished artist, actor, poet, writer, and executive assistant during her 28 years in San Francisco.

Born September 8, 1947 in London to Irish-born Molly O'Leary and an Irishman named Walsh who had another family, her mother scrambled to conceal that she was "illegitimate" as they said at the time (or more commonly, "a bastard"), by calling her Mary Anderson. Molly O'Leary then changed her own name to Anderson as to appear married. As a child she lived with her mother, a civil servant, in Brixton until she was 12, when they moved to Dublin. In high school Mary got a job as a reporter at the Irish Independent, and continued to work as a journalist off and on for much of her life.

In 1970 she was one of 12 women to found the Irish Women's Liberation Movement, and one of two women whose legal action forced the Irish government to change the law to include women on juries. She was also very involved in the push to make contraception legal for women in Ireland.

In her 30s she left Ireland to join a traveling theater troupe in Fort Worth, Texas. There she took the stage name Emerald O'Leary and made it legal and permanent shortly after. She soon moved to New York where she did some stage work and also found employment with the Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency. She came to San Francisco in 1989, appeared in several small theater productions, wrote poetry, sold a few paintings, worked for UCSF and other institutions, and eventually joined City of Refuge UCC Church, originally of San Francisco but now located in Oakland. Her memorial service will be January 14 at 1 p.m. at City of Refuge, 8400 Enterprise Way in Oakland.