Ethel Cutler Freeman was an amateur Seminole specialist and research associate with the American Museum of Natural History. Her papers also reflect field work among the Arapaho, Shoshoni, Navaho, Pueblo, Hopi, Kickapoo, and people of the Virgin Islands, the Bahama Islands, and Haiti, and the music and chants of Africa, including those of the Maasai, Zulu, and Pygmies. A small amount of material relates to the Hoover Commission on Indian Affairs, of which Freeman was a member. Correspondents include several Seminole Indians and government officials, personal acquaintances, organizations, and associates of the American Museum of Natural History.
Scope and Contents:
These papers reflect the anthropological interests of Ethel Cutler Freeman. The papers in this collection include her notes and diaries, published articles, unfinished manuscripts, and source materials. The bulk of the collection is material relating to the Seminole Indians of Florida.
Mrs. Freeman also made several trips to the Southwest and Mexico to study such tribes as the Arapaho, Shoshone, Navajo, Pueblo, and Hopi. There is substantial information from these studies included in this collection. She also made less extensive studies of various other cultures in the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and Haiti. In 1950, she studied tribal music and chants of several African tribes and the material from these studies forms the major portion of Series 7.
The collection also contains several sound recordings made by Freeman and numerous photographs, negatives, and slides. During rehousing, additional materials including index cards and notebooks from field trips were located and incorporated into the collection. A small amount of material relates to the Hoover Commission on Indian Affairs, of which Freeman was a member.
Correspondents include several Seminole Indians and government officials, personal acquaintances, organizations, and associates of the American Museum of Natural History as well as Dean Amadon, Richard Archbold, Conrad M. Arensberg, Dana W. Atchley, Jacques Barzun, Ruth Benedict, Leonard J. Brass, Louis Capron, Frances Densmore, Margery S. Douglas, John W. Griffin, A.J. Hanna, Ronald F. Lee, Margaret Mead, Robert Cushman Murphy, Kenneth W. Porter, Harry L. Shapiro, Howard Sharp, Frank Speck, Charlton W. Tebean, and Clark Wissler.
Although the majority of the collection spans the years 1934 to 1972, there are some items with dates that fall outside of this range. Some published materials are dated as early as 1822 and one note is dated 1975 and was added to the collection after Freeman's death in 1972. The folders containing these items have been dated accordingly, but these outlier dates have not affected the dates of the sub-series or series.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or National Anthropological Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.
The collection is arranged into 15 series: (1) Biographical information and miscellaneous personal papers, 1939-1971; (2) Correspondence, 1936-1972; (3) Manuscripts, 1936-1971; (4) Source Material, 1934-1970; (5) Seminole Indians, 1934-1972; (6) North American Indians, 1936-1971; (7) Cultures other than North American Indian, 1943-1970; (8) Meetings, 1956-1968; (9) Printed materials, 1936-1972; (10) Pamphlets, 1935-1970; (11) Population and Material Culture, 1939, 1951-1963; (12) Sound recordings, 1940-1958, 1969-1970; (13) Lists of Photographs, 1939-1970; (14) Photographs, 1936-1971; (15) Index Cards, undated
Ethel Cutler Freeman was born in 1886 in Morristown, New Jersey. Freeman was the daughter of a prosperous family, which gave her the opportunity to study abroad in England at Mademoiselle Marie Souvestre's Academy for girls. After studying in England, Freeman returned to the United States and was married to Leon S. Freeman, a New York broker, in 1909.
By 1934, Freeman had become bored with the typical social activities available to her; while discussing the matter with a friend, Marcellus Hartley Dodge, she described herself as having a "brain full of cobwebs." Dodge, a former trustee at Columbia University, suggested that Freeman enroll in some courses at Columbia. Acting on Dodge's advice, Freeman started taking graduate courses in psychology and sociology at Columbia University, but soon became fascinated with anthropology. During her studies at Columbia, Freeman spent time in the western United States studying the Arapaho and Shoshone while her husband recuperated from a horse riding accident; it was at this point that she developed a taste for field work and an interest in Native American cultures. After completing her studies, Freeman decided that she wanted to study the Seminole people of Florida, near whom she and her family owned a winter home in Naples.
Back on the East Coast, Freeman met Dr. Clark Wissler, then Curator of the Indian Division of the American Museum of Natural History. Wissler was supportive of Freeman's aspirations to continue her anthropological studies, but balked at her expressed interest in the Seminole, whom at that time had a reputation for not being open to contact with outsiders. Undaunted, Freeman contacted W. Stanley Hansen, the man in charge of Seminole settlement; after repeated correspondence with Hansen convinced him she was no mere hobbyist, he agreed to help her make connections within the Seminole community.
Freeman made two visits to the Big Cypress Reservation for the American Museum of Natural History with a government representative before taking her 14-year-old daughter, Condict, and 12-year-old son, Leon Jr., for an extended stay with a group of Seminoles at the heart of the Everglades in February of 1940. After that first winter stay with the Seminoles, Freeman spent virtually every winter living within their remote communities and studying their culture. Over time, Dr. Wissler became impressed by Freeman's thorough and insightful reports and analysis of her findings among the Seminoles and got the American Museum of Natural History to back her winter field studies. Eventually Freeman's work gained her a reputation for being an expert on Seminole culture, which often placed her in the role of consultant to government agencies on issues dealing with Seminole and broader Native American concerns.
As a result of her long acquaintance with the Seminoles, Freeman also became interested in how different groups of Native Americans and other cultures adapted to changes brought about by contact with modern society. Freeman made several trips to the Southwestern United States and Mexico to study such tribes as the Arapaho, Shoshone, Navajo, Pueblo, Choctaw, and Hopi; she also made less extensive studies of various other cultures in the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and Haiti. In 1950, Freeman went to Africa to study tribal music and chants of several tribes. Much later, in 1968, the American Museum of Natural History sent Freeman to Portugal to study local costumes.
In the 1940s, Freeman took part in publishing studies for the Department of Agriculture about the Seminoles and worked as an advocate for the Navajo, who at that time were in tense relations with the United States government over their living conditions. From 1947 to 1957, Freeman worked as a representative for the American Civil Liberties Union on the National Coordinating Committee for Indian Affairs; she also was a member of the Indian Rights Committee for the American Civil Liberties Union from 1946 to 1966. From 1948 to 1950, Freeman served as a member of the Hoover Commission for Reorganization of Government within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Throughout her studies in the field and her activities as an advocate for Native American rights, Freeman published her work frequently and gave many talks at a variety of conferences and special events. In 1964, Freeman traveled to Moscow to deliver her paper, "The Correlation between Directed Culture Change and Self Determination," at the 7th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences; she attended the same conference series the following year in Japan to deliver another paper, entitled "Lawlessness in an Indian Tribe as a Microcosm of a World Trend." Freeman continued visiting and studying the Seminoles in Florida late into her career, making her last visit the year before her death.
Ethel Cutler Freeman died on July 14th, 1972.
Letter to Mrs. Margaret Blaker, Archivist at the Smithsonian Institution's Anthropological Archives; Washington, D.C. from Ethel Cutler Freeman. Dated April 24, 1972. Located in vertical files, folders on Ethel Cutler Freeman, in the reading room of the National Anthropological Archives.
"Morristown Anthropologist; Mrs. Leon Freeman Likes Seminole Indians." Newark Sunday News, February 16, 1947.
"New Vernon Woman, Indian Authority." The Morris Observer, October 13, 1955.
"She's 'Hooked' On Seminole Indians: Leading Authority On That World." Daily Record, March 6, 1970.
"The Sentinel Visits--Indian Authority Mrs. Leon Freeman: Who Is Now Working To Rescue A Nation." Sunday Sentinel, February 2, 1947.
1886 -- Born in Morristown, New Jersey.
1909 -- Married Leon S. Freeman.
1934 -- Began taking graduate courses at Columbia University in philosophy before changing to anthropology.
1936 -- Field work with the Arapaho and Shoshone.
1938 -- Joined American Anthropological Association. First became associated with American Museum of Natural History.
1939-1943 -- Winter field work with Florida Seminoles.
1940-1948 -- Special Field Assistant, American Museum of Natural History.
1943 -- Joined American Ethnological Society.
1944 -- Field work in Mexico searching for a lost tribe of Seminoles; studied the Mascogas, Papagos, and Kickapoo.
1945 -- Field work in New Mexico, studying the Pueblo and Navajo.
1946 -- Joined the Society of Women Geographers. Field work with the Navajo, Papago, and Hopi.
1946-1948 -- Winter field work with Florida Seminoles.
1947 -- Field work with the Navajo, Papago, and Pueblo.
1947-1957 -- Represented the American Civil Liberties Union on the National Coordinating Committee for Indian Affairs.
1947-1966 -- Member Indian Rights Committee, American Civil Liberties Union.
1948 -- Appointed first female trustee of the American Institute of Anthropology. Became Field Associate, American Museum of Natural History.
1948-1950 -- Member Hoover Commission for Reorganization of Government – Bureau of Indian Affairs.
1949 -- Field work in the Bahamas, studying native culture.
1950 -- Field work in Africa, studying the Zulu, Masai, and pygmy peoples.
1951 -- Winter field work with Florida Seminoles.
1952 -- Field work studying native cultures of the Virgin Islands and Haiti.
1953-1955 -- Winter field work with Florida Seminoles.
1955-1957 -- Acting Chairman, American Civil Liberties Union.
1957 -- Field work studying Mexican Seminoles.
1957-1958 -- Winter field work with Florida Seminoles.
1959 -- Attended annual meeting of American Anthropological Association in Mexico City.
1960-1965 -- Winter field work with Florida Seminoles.
1963 -- Field work in Oklahoma, studying Seminoles.
1964 -- Presented paper, "The Correlation between Directed Culture Change and Self Determination" VII International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Moscow.
1968 -- Studied costumes of Portugal for American Museum of Natural History.
1965 -- Presented paper, "Lawlessness in an Indian Tribe as a Microcosm of a World Trend" VIII International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan.
1970-1971 -- Winter field work with Florida Seminoles.
1972 -- Field work in Portugal and the Azores. Died, July 14.
1942 -- Freeman, Ethel Cutler. "We Live with the Seminoles," Natural History 49, no. 4 (April 1942): 226-236.
1944 -- Freeman, Ethel Cutler. "The Seminole Woman of the Big Cypress and Her Influence in Modern Life," América Indígena 4, no. 2 (April 1944), 123-128.
1960 -- Freeman, Ethel Cutler. "Culture Stability and Change among the Seminoles of Florida." In Men and Cultures: Selected Papers of the Fifth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Philadelphia, September 1-9, 1956, edited by Anthony F.C. Wallace, 249-254. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1960. Freeman, Ethel Cutler. "Directed Culture-Change and Selfdetermination in Superordinate and Subordinate Societies," Proceedings of the 7th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences 4, Moscow (August 1964), 85-90.
1961 -- Freeman, Ethel Cutler. "The Happy Life in the City of Ghosts: An Analysis of a Mikasuki Myth," The Florida Anthropologist 14, nos. 1-2 (March-June 1961), 23-36.
1964 -- Freeman, Ethel Cutler. "Directed Culture-Change and Selfdetermination in Superordinate and Subordinate Societies," Proceedings of the 7th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences 4, Moscow (August 1964), 85-90.
1965 -- Freeman, Ethel Cutler. "Two Types of Cultural Response to External Pressures Among the Florida Seminoles," Anthropological Quarterly 38, no. 2 (April 1965), 55-61.
1968 -- Freeman, Ethel Cutler. "Lawlessness in an Indian Tribe as a Microcosm of a World Trend," Proceedings of the VIIIth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, 1968, Tokyo and Kyoto (Tokyo: Science Council of Japan, 1968) 191-193.
Photo lot 62, W. Stanley Hanson photographs of Seminole Indians in Florida, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
Objects donated by Ethel Cutler Freeman held in Department of Anthropology collections in accession 319549.
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation also holds an Ethel Cutler Freeman collection.
Film materials were transfered to the Human Studies Film Archive under the accession numbers HSFA 1986.11.8 (African footage) and HSFA 1986.11.9 (Seminole footage).
The papers of Ethel Cutler Freeman were left to the National Anthropological Archives by the terms of her will. Her son, Leon Freeman, Jr., donated the collection to NAA in August 1972.
By Ethel Freeman's instructions, the collection was restricted for ten years dating from the receipt and signing of the release forms on October 12, 1972. Literary property rights to the unpublished materials in the collection were donated to the National Anthropological Archives.
Access to the Ethel Cutler Freeman papers requires an appointment.
Seminole recordings cannot be accessed without the permission of the Seminole Tribe.