Mary Dickson

  • Role: journalist, playwright, and activist
  • Contact Information: (801) 232-3471; missmaryslc@gmail.com (preferred)
  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

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Mary Dickson grew up in Salt Lake City, and for many decades did not connect her family and communities’ health impacts to nuclear weapons tests, having been told by the government that “there was no danger.” In the 1980’s she worked at a local PBS station and was a volunteer editor of The Desert Sun, Utah’s Peace News. She began interviewing downwinders in Utah, including those who were protesting continued underground testing in Nevada. After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer herself, and learning more about how widespread fallout was across the country – and how hard it hit Salt Lake City — she realized that she and her community members were also downwinders of testing in Nevada. It was after this that she started organizing in her community, gathering information and data about others impacted by testing, organizing public hearings and testimony, and speaking publicly.

Successes

  • Speaking and presenting across the country and internationally, including at the “International Conference on the Victims of Nuclear Weapons” in Japan in 2015. 
  • Writing an award-winning play titled Exposed, based on her and her sister’s story of exposure and illness, which has been performed and read across the country. 
  • In 2007, Mary worked with community members and advocacy organizations to stop a proposed simulated test called “Divine Strake” at the Nevada National Security Site because of the possibility of radioactive contamination of communities downwind. 
  • Mary has successfully advocated for public hearings on the impacts of nuclear testing, including a July 2004 hearing on RECA held in Salt Lake City National Academies of Science Board on Radiation Effects Research. The board, which was holding its final public hearing on whether to expand federal compensation for those who got sick and lost loved ones as a result of fallout from nuclear testing, heard testimony from downwinders in Utah as well as experts from across the country.
  • Mary was recognized in 2013 by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability for her lifetime work on behalf of downwinders.

For more information on Mary’s personal story and activism, see her interview with the Utah Downwinders Archive here.

Current Projects

  • Mary is working with various nuclear weapons groups, such as NSquare and WAND, to stage productions of “Exposed” in Washington, DC and possibly New York City to raise awareness of the human costs of the Cold War.
  • Supporting H.R. 3783 and S. 947, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019. This legislation would expand the downwinder communities eligible for compensation and increase the amount of compensation available. At the moment she is focusing on lobbying Sen. Romney to co-sponsor S.947. An important part of this work is simply educating members of Congress about the impacts of nuclear testing, as many elected officials, even in Utah, are unaware of these issues.

Opportunities for Collaboration

  • Mary is interested in collaborating with other groups and activists on RECA expansion and supporting H.R. 3783 and S. 947. She is interested in working both with other frontline communities and nuclear policy organizations to increase public awareness of the human costs of the Cold War arms race. 
  • In general, Mary is interested in connecting more with national/DC based organizations and building collaborative relationships. She hopes to be able to share information from the grassroots, so that these two communities can collaborate on policy work.

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