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Mary Dickson




(801) 232-3471

Salt Lake City, Utah


Mary Dickson


Award-winning writer/playwright Mary Dickson is an American downwinder and thyroid cancer survivor who is an internationally recognized advocate for radiation exposed individuals who have suffered due to harms they endured from nuclear weapons testing in the U.S.  She 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 was a volunteer editor of The Desert Sun, Utah’s Peace News, while working for a local PBS station. She began interviewing downwinders in Utah, including those who were protesting continued underground testing in Nevada. After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1985, 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, writing articles and op-eds, organizing and testifying at public hearings, and speaking publicly about the human toll of nuclear testing.


  • She continues to participate in panels and academies around the country and internationally via Zoom to share her story and increase awareness of the U.S. program of nuclear testing and its consequences for millions of Americans. 

  • She is working with a nationwide coalition of affected community members and allied organizations to pass bills before the U.S. Congress  that would expand and extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, enacted in 1990 to provide partial restitution to victims of nuclear testing. She has lobbied and participated in calls to Members of the U.S. House and Senate.


  • Speaking and presenting at symposia, conferences and forums across the country and internationally, including at the “World Forum on Survivors of Nuclear Weapons" in Japan in 2015 and in 2021.  

  • She most recently spoke at the opening session of the ICAN conference during a Nuclear Ban Week in Vienna, Austria.  

  • Writing an award-winning play titled Exposed, combining her and her sister’s story of exposure and illness with powerful documentation, which received critical acclaim when it premiered in 2007 in Salt Lake City, and has subsequently toured universities and venues as a staged reading  across the country. 

  • 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. 

  • She also worked on getting January 27 declared by Congress as a National Day of Remembrance for Downwinders. 

  • She has worked to get the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act expanded, including helping to get resolutions passed by the Utah State Legislature and Salt Lake City Council in support of expanding of RECA and lobbying elected officials in D.C.. 

  • She 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 in the Downwinders of Utah Archive here.


  • Mary is interested in collaborating with other groups and activists on RECA expansion and extension and on collaboration with other survivors and activists internationally to share stories about the human health consequences of nuclear weapons. 

  • 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.  

  • She also is interested in working with educators on getting the issue included in curricula. 

  • 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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