Frances Farmer described life as a "powder keg" and her mother its "fuse."
Lillian Farmer was born in the Oregon Territory in 1874. In 1905 she married, for the second time, Frances' father, Ernest. It was not a happy marriage and it ended in divorce in 1932.
Frances wrote in her autobiography, Will There Really Be a Morning?, that her mother "stormed through life making it her personal warpath." Frances describes her mother as neurotic and mean-spirited, a woman embarrassed by overt displays of affection. Lillian was bossy and difficult to get along with, according to her daughter. Lillian would threaten suicide when her children misbehaved.
Lillian Farmer was also somewhat of a social activist. She formed the "Mothers Want to Know Why Club" which among other activities sent letters to newspapers exposing the use of food substitutes in various bakeries around the Seattle area. She took a passionate interest in the field of "dietetics" and was well-regarded as knowledgeable about matters related to nutrition.
Frances names her mother as the person most responsible for her confinement in a mental institution during much of the 1940s. From Will There Really Be a Morning?,
Who was responsible for [my] pain? Certainly I contributed to my agonies, but there was another villain...There is a Jewish saying, 'God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers,' and whether I was justified or not, I held mine accountable as the main root of my despair.
Frances would eventually reject and disown Lillian. She inidicates that she felt psychological relief when informed of her mother's death in 1955.