25 August 2009

I love you, Dolly Freed

I've been a huge fan of Dolly Freed since reading Possum Living: How To Live Well Without A Job and With (almost) No Money a few years ago. Dolly wrote it when she was 18. She describes her life since dropping out of grade 7 and living with her dad on a half-acre lot outside of Philadelphia, raising and foraging much of their food. I knew there had been a documentary made about her but had not been able to find it at the library or online, until today (Oh, happy day). Unfortunately, the free download of her book is no longer available*, but there is a new updated version being released in January.

I was very interested to see what Dolly and her family and house look like, and I have to say they are all much more normal than I expected. She even looks like me (er, what I looked like when I was 19). I would love to know what became of Dolly, and I suppose I will have to read the updated book to find out.

Dolly and her dad don't quite live within the letter of the law, and certainly don't comply with modern building codes, and they have chosen to live without a lot of stuff, but appear to be more content than most with their lives. They're more hillbilly than hippie, but in full possession of their teeth, and with a very deliberate approach to living. Dolly was an unschooler before the term was even invented.

If you google Dolly Freed or Possum Living you'll find she has a lot of admirers and folks who see her approach as reasonable. I expect lots of people will be forced into a possum lifestyle over the next few years as we start really hitting limits and some might even enjoy it.

Update: I did find a video online which shows a much more recent Dolly giving some tongue-in-cheek outdoor tips. She doesn't look quite like I expected.

Update (2): I found the following paragraph from the new introduction to the updated version of her book, which is on the publisher's web site.
Following her success as an author, Dolly Freed grew up to be a NASA aerospace engineer. She put herself through college after she aced the SATs with an education she received from the public library. She has also been an environmental educator, business owner, and college professor. She lives in Texas with her husband and two children.
*Update (3): The older version of the book is actually still available at the Internet Archive online here and I've updated the link in the text above. Thanks to commenter Anonymous for the tip.

So now you know what became of Dolly Freed.


  1. Thank you very much for putting all this information together! I live in Germany and read the online version of Dolly´s Possum lving and loved it. I wondered what has become of Dolly and your video-link was great to watch :-). The idea of Possum-Life is a timeless classic and Dolly´s explanations on this lifestyle (Diogenes, trust your own instincts and her thought about killing animals for food) are still up to date and after reading thelast page of her book one feels like after a trip to the woods with a good friend.
    I hope your site will be available for a long time.
    Best wishes from Frankfurt, Susanne

  2. Thank you from Canada! Based on the number of people who are arriving at my blog from a "Dolly Freed" or "Possum Living" google search, I think the re-release of her book will do well. I look forward to reading her book again as I also felt like I had spent time with a smart and funny friend after reading it online.

  3. Due to a recent (6 months ago now) job loss I started thinking about Possum Living which I had found at a garage sale 10 or so years ago. I found your blog through a search for Dolly. Thanks for the P.L. video and the update video, where she apparently turned out like the rest of us, having multiple careers and being overweight....thanks again, and your blog is very interesting.

  4. thank you--a real inspiration!

  5. I just found the wonderful 'Possum Living', and was looking for more info about the author. A quick google search turns up this documentary. Yay!

  6. Forgot to add, the version I'm reading is hosted on the Internet Archive, at http://web.archive.org/web/20061224164602/http://www.f4.ca/text/possumliving.htm

  7. Anonymous - Thanks so much for the link to her book. You made my day! I hadn't heard of the Internet Archive before so I never thought to look there.

    I will update the post with this info.

    Bev (very happy to be able to read the book again)

  8. Thank you for sharing this information, i really appreciate it.
    Kind regards Stina Herberg

  9. Happy to be of help to possums!

  10. Hi -- if you're interested, there's a new story about Dolly Freed at www.paige-williams.com -- enjoy!

  11. Well, now I know whatever happened to Dolly Freed. Thanks so much for sharing that!

  12. I had never heard of Dolly Freed until this morning when I heard Paige Williams interviewed on an NPR station Ms. Wiliams also commented above.) I came on-line and found your blog with the video. Completely charming and, well, absolutely on target. Dolly was ahead of her time. As it happens, I have a job that I like and I like to work. But there is a lot we can all learn from Dolly - working or not.

  13. I really do think that the solution to many of the world's problems is a widespread move towards possum-ish downward mobility a la Dolly Freed and I'm so glad her story is getting so much interest lately.

    Do read the book, she's a fabulous writer; funny and smart.


  14. I've been a huge fan of Dolly Freed and Possum Living since I first read the book in the late 1970s. I'm thrilled the books is out again and just ordered the new version. I had never seen the video until now. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  15. I found Possum Living online a few years ago as well, and I'm so happy to find a link to it to read online again! Thank you so much!

    It is interesting to find out what happened to her, isn't it?

    http://theskepticalhousewife.blogspot.com (I'm adding that because the link on my name takes you to my "other" two blogs, not that one).

  16. I have never read the book but after reading the Paige Williams interview, I find it sad that Dolly changed so much. her father frank had the right idea, too bad no one else did. It seemed like the devil got a hold of dolly and everyone else, can't blame them though, it's hard to adapt to a nature lifestyle in a modernize world. I don't want to die alone like her father Frank nor do I want to join a cult like the people of Jonestown. Sometimes you just have to make do with what you have even if it means a bit of cheating a horrible economic system.

  17. Do read the book and Dolly's blog http://possumliving.net/blog/. I don't think she's changed that much and I expect she's still living just the way she wants.



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