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Rachel Carson and the Veery

Welcome to the third episode of BirdNote Presents, our new podcast for extended features and special series.


Rachel Carson is known best for writing Silent Spring. It’s a condemnation of DDT and other toxic pesticides and how they hurt the environment. When the book was published in 1962, it was full of new information that shocked most Americans. Silent Spring led to a radical shift in national pesticide policies, and the book has been credited with sparking the modern environmental movement.

But before all that, Carson built a summer house. It was at the edge of a cliff on the coast of Maine, on a little island called Southport. And it was on that island that Carson met Dorothy Freeman.

This is the story of Carson and Freeman’s relationship. It grew from their shared love for the natural world — and one species of bird in particular: the Veery, a kind of thrush. Plain looking as it is, the Veery has a beautiful song. And that song matters to Rachel and Dorothy. It's an expression of the wonder they experience in nature — and in each other.

This story was based on the scholarship of Lida Maxwell. She wrote about Carson and Freeman in the paper Queer/Love/Bird Extinction: Rachel Carson's Silent Spring as a Work of Love, published in Political Theory.


Learn more about Rachel Carson and her passion for conservation:

Rachel Carson and Silent Spring 

50th Anniversary of Silent Spring

Rachel Carson’s Muse

Read more of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman's letters in the book Always, Rachel

Listen to the Veery:

Three Brown Thrushes

Exquisite Thrush Songs

For more special features from BirdNote, please subscribe to BirdNote Presents wherever you get your podcasts.

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Thanks to Bates College Library and the Freeman family for allowing us to use several unpublished letters from their archives.

Dorothy Freeman and Rachel Carson © Stan Freeman

The Freeman cottage in Southport © Stan Freeman

Dorothy Freeman and Rachel Carson reading together © Stan Freeman

Veery © Andrew Weitzel