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Dorcas Brigham Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00041

Scope and Contents

The Dorcas Brigham papers consist of biographical material which includes newspaper clippings, photographs, and career summaries. The correspondence was written by Brigham to Kate Mott Greene Stephenson between 1934 and 1967 and chronicles their friendship.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1914 - 1986
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1924-1967


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Dorcas Brigham was a member of the Class of 1918, and a member of the Smith College faculty. After graduating and spending time in Florida, Brigham returned to Smith to do graduate work in 1923, and stayed almost twenty-five years . She taught Botany until her retirement in 1947.

Brigham was born on May 18, 1896, in Newtonville, Massachusetts, but spent most of her childhood in Springfield, Massachusetts. While a student at Smith she was house president, a student adviser, a member of Psi Kappa Psi, played halfback on the field hockey team, was class treasurer her Sophomore year and contributed to the war effort by chairing the Supply Committee of the Smith College Relief Unit. She was also on the Senior Dramatics Costume Committee.

When she graduated she spent her winters in Florida working in an orange grove and an herbarium. She spent her summers in Alexandria Bay, located in the Thousand Islands of New York State. When she returned in 1923, she studied and taught botany. She eventually became an associate professor in the Botony Department. She wrote several popular articles for the Gardeners' Chronicle of America, was a member of the Highlands Biological Foundation, Highlands-Cashiers Garden Club, National Horticultural Society, Massachusetts Horticultural Society, American Rock Garden Society, American Association of University Professors, and the American Amaryllis Society. During World War II she "helped locally to promote interest in house gardening." In 1928 she left Smith for a year to teach horticulture at the Lawthorpe School of Landscape Architecture in Groton, Massachusetts. There she met her future business partner, Dorthea Wallace Ward. In the spring of 1929 Brigham located a 25-acre farm about five miles away from the college in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. Together they moved into an 18th century farmhouse, and began to develop the land. They soon turned the farm into a business. Although it started as a roadside flower stand, it eventually became the Village Hill Nursery. The nursery was a center of horicultural supplies and knowledge for the area. They raised pigs, cows, and chickens on the farm, becoming virtually self-sufficient. Both women lectured locally on rock gardens, herbs and various botanical issues and interests. When Ward married in 1939, Brigham sold off the animals, but expanded the nursery, building a greenhouse, putting in a pond, and a massive grape arbor. She began working there full-time when she retired in 1947. In 1955 she was honored by the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts for her "unselfish, untiring efforts in furthering the interest in and knowledge of unusual plants…" Birgham stayed in Williamsburg year-round until the 1950s, then took a house in Mount Dora, Florida, where she founded the area's first Audubon Society and became the namesake for a nature preserve on lake Gertrude. She still returned to Massachusetts in the summer months, but spent most of the year in Florida until her death on February 14, 1986.

At Smith she not only taught botany, but she oversaw the care and identifucation of the many varieties of trees on the campus, (and designed a garden room in Capen House). When Brigham began her career, L. Clark Seelye had left office only four years before. When she died in 1986 Mary Maples Dunn was the College's president.


0.229 linear feet (1 container)

Language of Materials



Professor of Botany. Collection contains biographical material, correspondence with Kate Mott Greene Stephenson, photographs, and printed material about Village Hill Nursery.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Dorcas Brigham Papers were donated over a period of time to the Smith College Archives from a variety of sources.

Related Material

  1. Class of 1918 Records
  2. Kate Mott Greene Stephenson Papers

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to the Dorcas Brigham Papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Laura Finkel; revised by Melvin Carlson, Jr.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2018-11-01: Containers added and finding aid updated as part of College Archives survey

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063