Stanley Ann Dunham

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Ann Dunham

Stanley Ann Dunham (November 29, 1942 – November 7, 1995) was the wife of Barak Obama Sr. and the mother of President Barack Obama, and Maya Soetoro. She was the daughter of Stanley Armour Dunham and Madelyn Dunham. Stanley Ann Dunham was involved with community organizing in Africa and Asia.[1]

Early life

Stanley Ann dunham was born in wichita. After leaving Kansas when she was a youngster, she and her parents lived in Berkeley, California, for two years, Ponca City, Oklahoma, for two years, and Wichita Falls, Texas., for three years before they ventured to the Seattle area[2]. Her parents named her Stanley because her father had wanted a boy.[3]



The Dunhams moved to a bigger opportunity in 1955 -- a large store in downtown Seattle called Standard-Grunbaum Furniture at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Pine Street. "First in Furniture, Second at Pine," read the Yellow Pages ad in the Seattle telephone directory.

But consistent with the 1950s, there were undercurrents of turmoil. In 1955, the chairman of the Mercer Island school board, John Stenhouse, testified before the House Un-American Activities Subcommittee that he had been a member of the Communist Party USA.

At Mercer High School, two teachers -- Val Foubert and Jim Wichterman -- generated regular parental thunderstorms by teaching their students to challenge societal norms and question all manner of authority. Foubert taught English. His texts included "Atlas Shrugged," "The Organization Man," "The Hidden Persuaders," "1984" and the writings of H.L. Mencken.

Wichterman taught philosophy. The hallway between the two classes was known as "anarchy alley," and students pondered the challenging notions of Wichterman's teachings, including such philosophers as Sartre and Kierkegaard. He also touched the societal third rail of the 1950s: He questioned the existence of God. And he didn't stop there.
"I had them read 'The Communist Manifesto,' and the parents went nuts," said Wichterman, adding that parents also didn't want any discussions about "anything to do with sex," religion and theology. The parental protests were known as "mothers' marches."
"The kids started questioning things that their folks thought shouldn't be questioned -- religion, politics, parental authority," said John Hunt, a classmate. "And a lot of parents didn't like that, and they tried to get them [Wichterman and Foubert] fired."

Madelyn and Stanley shed their Methodist and Baptist upbringing and began attending Sunday services at the East Shore Unitarian Church in nearby Bellevue.

"In the 1950s, this was sometimes known as 'the little Red church on the hill,' " said Peter Luton, the church's senior minister, referring to the effects of McCarthyism[4].


In 1960, Stanley Ann's senior year, she learned her father had found a better opportunity -- another furniture store, this one in Hawaii.

Stanley Ann began classes at the University of Hawaii in 1960, and shortly after that, her seattle friend Maxine Box received a letter saying that her friend had fallen in love with a grad student. He was black, from Kenya and named Obama. The couple met in a Russian class[5].

About that same time, another letter crossed the Pacific, this one heading to Africa. It was from Barak Obama to his mother, Sarah Hussein Onyango Obama.

Though the letter didn't go into great detail, it said he had met a young woman named Ann (not Stanley). There wasn't much on how they met or what the attraction was, but he announced their plans to wed.

Stanley Ann's prospective father-in-law was furious. He wrote the Dunhams "this long, nasty letter saying that he didn't approve of the marriage," Obama recounted his mother telling him in "Dreams." "He didn't want the Obama blood sullied by a white woman."

Stanley Ann, relationship with Barak Obama introduced her to a new circle-graduate students from the University of Hawaii.

They spent weekends listening to jazz, drinking beer and debating politics and world affairs.

Neil Abercrombie, later a Democratic Party congressman from Hawaii who was part of those regular gatherings.

While Obama was impatient and energized, Stanley Ann, whom Abercrombie described as "the original feminist," was endlessly patient but quietly passionate in her arguments. She was the only woman in the group.

"I think she was attracted to his powerful personality," Abercrombie said, "and he was attracted to her beauty and her calmness."

Six months after they wed, Barack Obama, was born at Kapiolani Medical Center, August 4, 1961[6].


After Barak Obama Sr. was accepted to study at Harvard, Stanley Ann disappeared from the University of Hawaii student gatherings, but she did not accompany her husband to Harvard. Neil Abercrombie said he rarely saw her after that.

Ann, dropped out of school to take care of her baby. Her husband finished his degree, graduating in June 1962, after three years in Hawaii, as a Phi Beta Kappa straight-A student. Then, before the month was out, he took off, leaving behind his still-teenage wife and namesake child. He did not return for 10 years, and then only briefly. A story in the Star-Bulletin on the day he left, June 22, said Obama planned a several-weeks grand tour of mainland universities before he arrived at Harvard to study economics on a graduate faculty fellowship.

The story did not mention that he had a wife and an infant son[7].

There remains some speculation that the marriage of Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann was never officially formalized.

No official records have ever been produced showing that a legal ceremony took place. No wedding certificate or photograph of a ceremony for Dunham and Obama Sr. have ever been found or published. In his book, Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage, former Time magazine contributing editor Christopher Andersen elaborates: "There were certainly no witnesses ([to the alleged civil marriage ceremony])-no family members were present, and none of their friends at the university had the slightest inkling that they were even engaged." Andersen further quoted Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), a self-described friend of Barack Obama Sr. and Anna Dunham in 1961, as saying that "nobody" was invited to the wedding ceremony.[8]

Still, Stanley Ann filed for divorce in 1964 and remarried two years later, when her son was 5. The senior Obama finished his work at Harvard and returned to Kenya, where he hoped to realize his big dreams of taking a place in the Kenyan government[9].

Teritary Education

Dunham came back to Hawaii to pursue graduate studies where she eventually earned a PhD in anthropology and went on to be employed on development projects in Indonesia and around the world helping impoverished women obtain microfinance. When she returned to Indonesia in 1977 for her Masters' fieldwork, the young Barack Obama stayed in the United States with his grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Armour Dunham.[10]


  1. Washington Times: Obama's Sister Debuts as Campaigner, May 12, 2007
  2. Washington P August 22, 2008
  3. Times website: The Story of Barack Obama's Mother
  4. Chicago Tribune March 27 2007
  5. Washington Post August 22, 2008
  6. Chicago Tribune March 27 2007
  7. Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, August 22, 2008
  8. Aaron Klein, Brenda Elliott, The Manchurian President (Washington, DC: WND Books, 2010) pp. 65-66
  9. Chicago Tribune March 27 2007
  10. New York Times: A Free-Spirited Wanderer Who Set Obama’s Path, March 14, 2008