Dorcas Brigham 1914
Dorcas Brigham 1914

Dorcas Brigham graduated from Smith College in 1918 and returned for graduate studies in 1923 and stayed for almost twenty-five years.  She was an associate professor of botany until she retired in 1947. She wrote 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 Dorcas supervised a 50’ x 50’ Victory Garden maintained by the Smith College faculty and took care of a 60’ x 120’ demonstration garden for the Faculty Club. She organized the Smith Unit – 15 Smith students who farmed from June to Sept. at Amherst State College.[1]

In addition to teaching, Dorcas oversaw the care and identification of the many varieties of trees on the Smith campus. In 1934 she along with her horticultural class designed and planted a garden room addition to the Capen Garden – a beautiful garden designed as a series of outdoor rooms. This garden is still used today by horticultural students as a work space and horticultural laboratory.

“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 horticultural supplies and knowledge for the area. Both women lectured locally on rock gardens, herbs and various botanical issues and interests.”[2] Dorcas developed the scented geranium Dorcas Brigham Lime which is still available today.

After Dorthea married in 1939, Dorcas began expanding the nursery and worked there full time until 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…”[3]

Dorcas was an active member of the Dana community.  She was treasurer of her class; captain of the hockey team (her team won the 1914 Sports Day with an impressive score of 8-2); and a member Tau Kappa Delta, the student council.


 [1] “Alumnae Notes.” Dana Hall Bulletin. V.5 (Nov. 30, 1943): 30. Print.
[2] “Dorcas Brigham Papers, 1918-1986 (Bulk: 1924-1967).” Smith College Archives. Five College Archives & Manuscript
. Web. 9 May 2012.
[3] Ibid.
Dorcas Brigham. Photograph.1914 Class Book. Nina Heald Webber 1949 Archives, Dana Hall School, Wellesley, MA.
Pam Kaplan
March 2012
Dana Women in Science Display