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Dorothy Freeman collection

Identifier: MC041

Scope and Content Note

The Dorothy Freeman Collection contains several series of material related to the biologist, conservationist, and writer Rachel Carson. Included are two series of correspondence: Dorothy Freeman's Letters to Rachel Carson (1954-1964) and Rachel Carson's Letters to Dorothy Freeman (1952-1964).

The Dorothy Freeman Collection also contains a variety of other materials related to the life and career of Rachel Carson. Included are early drafts of some of Carson's writings-a portion of the manuscript of The Edge of the Sea and drafts of four chapters for the book Silent Spring; speeches and papers, including a copy of the paper Carson presented at the AAAS Symposium held in Boston in December, 1953; text and recording of a speech made before the Women's National Press Club in December, 1962; and a transcript of her statement before the Subcommittee on Reorganization and International Organizations of the Committee on Government Operations on June 4, 1963. Some of Carson's research materials are also included, as well as book reviews, magazine articles and newspaper clippings relating to the life and work of Rachel Carson.

Also housed in this collection are some of Dorothy Freeman's writings. Included are drafts of short stories, notes and notebooks she kept, primarily recording observations of the natural world. Freeman wrote a number of short pieces about Rachel Carson, and later gave talks to local clubs about Carson. The collection includes typed transcripts and handwritten notes pertaining to these talks and a large body of correspondence between Dorothy and her friends.

In addition, the collection contains a variety of family materials, including letters and diaries written by George "Fred" Murdock, Dorothy Freeman's father, when he was serving with the YMCA in Europe (1918-1919); letters written by Stanley Freeman Jr. when he was a student at Bates College (1943-1944; 1946-1948); diaries kept by Dorothy Freeman (1938-1966); diaries kept by Stanley Freeman Sr. (1961-1964); and correspondence between several family members including Dorothy, Stanley Freeman Sr. and Madeleine and Stanley Freeman Jr.

The collection also contains a few photographs, primarily of the Freeman family and a few of Rachel Carson.


  • 1891 - 2012
  • Majority of material found within 1952 - 1977


Access Restrictions

For Dorothy Freeman letters, or other Freeman materials, copyright and literary rights are owned by the Freeman family. Researchers may quote portions of the Freeman letters in unpublished papers prepared as part of the academic and related programs of Bates College and make photocopies of up to ten letters for research purposes only without the written consent of the family. Researchers must contact Martha Freeman, 22 Hancock Street, Unit 208, Portland, Maine 04101 for all other requests to photocopy, quote from, or publish this material.

For Rachel Carson letters, copyright and literary rights are owned by the Carson Estate. Researcher must contact Frances Collin, Trustee u-w-o Rachel Carson, PO Box 33, Wayne, PA 19087-0033 for permission to photocopy, quote from, or publish this material.

Use Restrictions

The collection is the physical property of Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library. Bates College holds literary rights only for material created by College personnel working on official behalf of the College, or for material which was given to the College with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication or other purposes that exceed fair use.

Historical Note

The collection documents the friendship of Dorothy Freeman and Rachel Carson. In the summer of 1951, Stanley Freeman Sr., Dorothy Freeman's husband, was given a copy of Rachel Carson's book The Sea Around Us for his birthday, and that summer the family took turns reading it aloud to each other. In 1952, when Dorothy Freeman learned Carson was building a cottage on Southport she wrote to Carson. That winter, the two women exchanged letters. The following summer, 1953, the Freemans met Rachel Carson and began what would become, for Rachel and Dorothy, a profound and intimate friendship. Dorothy was 55 years old; Rachel was 46. These letters document this friendship.

During the twelve years they knew each other, Carson wrote two books, The Edge of the Sea and Silent Spring. These letters provide details about these writing projects, as well as details of everyday life, friends, and associates. Rachel and Dorothy shared many things but most especially they shared a deep connection and an uninhibited appreciation of the natural world-its beauty and power-and often their letters are filled with their observations.

Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1960 and for four years she battled the disease. The letters also provide details about the progression of the disease and the ways in which the two friends chose to confront the inevitable.

While Carson and the Freeman's summered on Southport, their primary residences were in Silver Spring, Maryland and West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. They wrote to each other frequently, sometimes several times in a single day, and they also spoke often on the telephone. In writing, they often mailed several letters together, sometimes one letter was meant for sharing with family while another letter was to be read alone. These private letters they called "apples". They named and made private references to some of their letters, such as "the hyacinth letter" and "the butterfly letter". Other letters were designated "for the strongbox" which signified the letter was to be destroyed. Both Carson and Freeman did destroy some correspondence.

Prior to her death, Rachel arranged for Dorothy's letters to be returned. Consequently, both Rachel's and Dorothy's letters to each other are part of same collection-the Dorothy Freeman Collection.

These letters were kept by the family after Dorothy died in 1978. Martha Freeman, granddaughter to Dorothy Freeman, published the bulk of these letters in 1995. The Freeman family also provided access to the letters to Linda Lear for her biography of Rachel Carson. In November 1997, Stanley Freeman Jr. donated these letters, along with a variety of other materials which together constitute the Dorothy Freeman Collection, to Bates College.

Dorothy Murdoch Freeman (1898-1978)

Dorothy Murdoch was born in Somerville, Massachusetts. She grew up in the coastal town of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Her mother's family (Whitney) was one of the first families to settle in Southport (in the 1880's) and Dorothy and her family spent their summers there. From 1916-1919 Dorothy attended the Framingham State Normal School. She taught home economics in high school until 1921 when she found a job with the Massachusetts Cooperative Extension Service in Amherst. In 1924 she became a regional director of 4H. Dorothy married Stanley Freeman in 1924. Stanley Freeman was studying animal nutrition at the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now University of Massachusetts) and when he graduated he found a job as an agricultural agent. Since married women were prohibited from teaching, Dorothy resigned her job. Stanley Jr., their only child, was born in 1926. Stan Sr. began working for the Wirthmore Feed Company and rose to become manager of the service department. Stanley Jr. attended Bates College (Class 1947), interrupting his study when he joined the Navy. Stanley Jr. married Madeleine Richard, (Bates Class 1947) in 1948. They had two children-Martha, born in 1953, and Richard, born in 1955. Stanley Freeman Sr. died in January 1964. Rachel Carson died in April 1964. In 1968, Dorothy married Arthur Rand. In 1970 Arthur Rand died. Dorothy Murdoch Freeman Rand died in August 1978.

Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

This biographical note courtesy of Linda Lear, author of Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (1997).

Rachel Carson was a biologist, ecologist, and science writer. Born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, she won scholarships to attend Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College), intending to major in English, but was inspired to become one of a handful of science majors, graduating in 1929. She received an MA in zoology in 1932 from The Johns Hopkins University, and taught there and at the University of Maryland Dental School while she finished her studies.

Carson saw the sea for the first time as a graduate student at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and continued her studies there for the next decade. She found employment as a free-lance writer for the Baltimore Sun, won a part time position at the Bureau of Fisheries as a writer of radio scripts, and was appointed aquatic biologist there in 1936 as one of the first two women scientists hired by the Bureau. In 1939 the Bureau was reorganized into the new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Carson worked her way up the bureaucracy primarily as an editor rather than a field scientist. In 1949 she became Editor-in-Chief of all U.S. Fish and Wildlife publications, retiring in 1952 to devote herself to her writing.

She published Under the Sea Wind in 1941 which was critically acclaimed but eclipsed by World War II, and a decade later followed it with The Sea Around Us which brought her international acclaim as a best-selling science writer. She was awarded the National Book Award in non-fiction, the John Burroughs Medal, and the medal of the American Geographic Society. A Guggenheim Fellowship supported her research for the final volume of her sea trilogy, The Edge of the Sea, which like her previous book was serialized in The New Yorker and also made the best-seller lists.

Carson made her home in Silver Spring, Maryland but in 1952 built a cottage on the Sheepscot River on Southport Island, Maine. The following summer she met Dorothy and Stanley Freeman, neighbors on Southport, and a deep friendship was forged. She dedicated The Edge of the Sea, published in 1955, to the Freemans. Carson spent every subsequent summer through 1963 in Southport at her cottage.

Although she was committed to numerous other projects, the misuse of pesticides dominated Carson's thinking after 1957. Unsuccessful in trying to interest other writers to examine the subject, Silent Spring was published in 1962 after four years of grinding research. It was serialized in The New Yorker, read by President John F. Kennedy, and initiated a national controversy over the use of chemical pesticides, particularly DDT. Carson was attacked by government scientists, the chemical industry, and many in the health and food industries as an extremist and an alarmist. But her findings were vindicated by a report issued by the President's Science Advisory Committee in 1963. She testified before the U.S. Senate on two occasions in July 1963, recommending the creation of an independent regulatory agency to oversee the use of pesticides. Although DDT was not banned in the U.S. until 1972, Carson's work initiated the contemporary environmental movement and aroused public opinion to a variety of environmental concerns.

Silent Spring was an act of courage on two levels: during its writing Carson battled a rapidly metastasizing breast cancer; at the same time, she dared to take on the scientific and governmental establishment to warn the public about a pernicious danger. Hers was a singular testament to the power of the committed individual to bring about change. Rachel Carson died in April 1964 in Silver Spring, Maryland at the age of 56.

Works Consulted

Freeman, Martha, ed. Always Rachel : The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995.

Lear, Linda. Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1997.

Lear, Linda. Dorothy Murdock Freeman Rand: A Chronology of Her Life and Friendship with Rachel Carson. [Unpublished: 1993].


24.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Correspondence and other material documenting the close friendship between ecologist, biologist and author Rachel Carson and her summer neighbor Dorothy Freeman from their first meeting to Carson's death in 1964. Their letters portray in great detail the genesis of their friendship and of Carson's work, including the conception, creation, and impact of Silent Spring which exposed the dangers of pesticides. The letters also discuss details of everyday life, friends, and associates; The Edge of the Sea (which Carson dedicated to Dorothy and her husband Stan); and the progression of Carson's breast cancer (diagnosed in 1960). The collection also contains early drafts of some of Carson's writings, speeches, and research materials; some of Dorothy Freeman's writings, including drafts of short stories, observations of the natural world, and notes pertaining to talks she gave about Rachel Carson; and a variety of Freeman family materials, including letters written by Stanley Freeman, Jr. when he was a student at Bates College (1944-1948) and diaries kept by Dorothy and her husband, Stanley Freeman, Sr.

Organization and Arrangement

Organized in eight series: I. Letters of Dorothy Freeman to Rachel Carson (1954-1964); II. Letters of Rachel Carson to Dorothy Freeman (1952-1964); III. Rachel Carson materials (1937-1982); IV. Dorothy Freeman materials (1927-1991); V. Freeman family material (1891-1979); VI. Photographs (1924-1971); VII. Always Rachel material and VIII. Restricted material (1952-1964)

Acquisition and Custody Information

Gift of Stanley Freeman, Jr., 1997. Additional family material was received in 1999. Seven letters from Dorothy Freeman to Jean Reller were received from Linda Lear in 2000 and 2001. Stanley Freeman, Jr. gave his letters from World War II in 2001 and additional Dorothy Freeman "Round robin" correspondence in 2003. Accession No.: 98-001.

General Physical Description note

24 linear feet; 1 oversize box

Guide to the Dorothy Freeman collection, 1891-2012
Edited Full Draft
Kurt Kuss
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in: English
Edition statement

Repository Details

Part of the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library Repository

70 Campus Avenue
Lewiston Maine 04240 United States of America