Bates hosts reception to celebrate Carson letters gift

To celebrate the significant gift of a series of letters written by the late environmentalist Rachel Carson, Bates hosts a reception with speakers Saturday, Oct. 17, from 4-6 p.m. in the George and Helen Ladd Library. The public is invited to attend free of charge.

The letters are part of the Dorothy Freeman Collection donated to the college in January 1998 by Stanley Freeman Jr., a 1947 alumnus of Bates, and his Orono family. The letters are now available to researchers in the Ladd Library special collections.

Speakers include Martha Freeman, editor of Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964, who will discuss the letters written and exchanged by her grandmother and Carson. Robert Chute, professor emeritus of biology at Bates and noted poet, will discuss Carson’s influence as an environmentalist.

Carson (1907-1964) was a prominent figure in the development of the environmental movement in the United States. A biologist and writer, Carson is best remembered for the publication of Silent Spring (1962), a book that exposed the hazards of the widespread use of pesticides and insecticides. A best seller, the book aroused public opinion and sparked a national debate that helped to initiate state and federal legislation.

She joined the federal Bureau of Fisheries in 1936 and became editor-in chief of its publications in 1940 when it was reorganized into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 1951, Carson published The Sea Around Us, winner of the National Book Award. Shortly thereafter, she resigned from the service to devote herself to writing full time.

Dorothy Freeman met Carson in 1952 shortly after Carson built a summer cottage on Southport along the Maine coast. Freeman and her husband summered on property adjacent to Carson.

Freeman and Carson developed an enduring and intimate friendship. Their letters document this relationship, including their mutual interests, struggles and deep love of the natural world, as well as Carson’s development as a writer and her long battle with cancer. Before Carson died in 1964, she made arrangements for Freeman’s letters to be returned to her. Consequently, both sides of the correspondence are included in the Bates collection, and the two series are now available for research.

The Rachel Carson Letters to Dorothy Freeman (1952-64) includes 543 letters. The Dorothy Freeman Letters to Rachel Carson (1954-64) contains 188 letters. Slightly more than half of these letters were published in Martha Freeman’s book. Stanley Freeman Jr. and his wife, Madeleine Richard Freeman, both members of the Bates class of 1947, are the parents of Martha Freeman.

For more information about the collection, call the Bates College special collections at 207-786-6272.

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