Finding Dolly Freed

For those of you who don't know the name Dolly Freed, you might be interested in learning a little about her. If you know the name you most likely have read her book, entitled Possum Living, and you may be interested to know she has finally resurfaced, sort of.


Dolly was born circa 1960 and lived in Florida for her first eight years. Her parents divorced around 1974 and she quit school (encouraged by her dad because he knew she was the self-educating kind) with a 7th grade education. Her mother Marie kept Dolly's younger brother Carl, and remarried. Her father, Frank, found himself an unemployed “electronics technician” and circumstances led he and Dolly to a ½ acre lot outside of Philadelphia, where the majority of her book takes place.


Dolly and her father lived on that ½ acre for five years making very little money, yet living very well because of their self-sufficient and extremely frugal lifestyle. Her book detailing the experience was published in 1978, and has since become a homesteading and self-sufficient lifestyle underground classic.

I came across a digital copy online a few years ago and enjoyed the storyline as much as the frugal tips and recipes. She wrote the book with a refreshingly open, street (and garden) smart and occasionally precocious point of view, no doubt a reflection of her self schooling. It is a gem of a read, even the long pork part.


After a short documentary by Nancy Schreiber and an appearance on the Merv Griffin Show she for the most part disappeared. As the years passed speculation swirled about her whereabouts, if she was still alive and if Dolly Freed was even her real name.

A top Amazon reviewer claims to be her brother, while it seems her mother stuck with her candle making business. But not a word from Dolly.


After 30 years the long out of print Possum Living is being reprinted by Tin House Books, with an afterword by Dolly herself. According to the About Dolly section of the web page promoting the reprint “Following her success as an author, Dolly Freed grew up to become a NASA aerospace engineer. She aced the SATs with an education she received from the public library and put herself through college. She’s been an environmental educator, business owner, and college professor. She now lives in Texas with her husband and two children.”

The contact page even gives an email address for her, and the site says a blog is coming soon. Considering all of that I would consider Dolly “lost' no longer.


  1. Thanks for the interesting post, it peaked my interest and now I will have to read the book.

  2. Thank you, I hope you enjoy the book. I got my copy free online but now that the book is being republished most of those sources have been shut down.

  3. You can still find the book at:

    I'm also a huge fan and blogged about her a little while ago. I can't believe how many people are googling "Dolly Freed" or "Possum Living".

  4. Thanks for adding the link. Maybe this enonomy is causing the surge of renewed interest.

  5. Paige Williams found her. There's more to the story.

    But I'd ignore her father's legal advice. Throwing a brick through a window isn't all that colorful.

  6. Thanks for adding the site, that was an interesting read. I didn't think her real name was Dolly Freed.

  7. Please don't download digital copies of the book, especially if you claim to be a fan, since it is a violation of Dolly's copyright. Spend a few sheckles and buy the book.

    By the way, the documentry can be found on YouTube by searching on "Possum Living".

  8. I'm comfortable with my decision to read an archived copy of her 30+ year old book which was not available for love nor money at the time.

    This will not prevent me from buying the book now that it is out again, on the contrary, I'm more enthusiastic than ever, as I expect any other readers to be.

  9. I just finished reading Possum Living & found it very enjoyable. I esp enjoyed her recent comments & seeing life from her grown up perspective. What a wonderful & inspirational lady she turned out to be. I totally agree with her goals of kindness, getting the most out of life & thriftiness. Thanks so much Dolly for your honesty.

  10. I still have my original copy of "Possum Living" that I purchased in the early 1970's. I encourage everyone to read this special little gem of a book. No surprise to me that Dolly excelled within her adult life. She was an intelligent young woman with a talent for self-sufficiency.

  11. I still have my original copy of "Possum Living". I remember reading it when I was 17 years old. Dolly was a resourceful young woman and it doesn't surprise me that she went onto to finish her education. She affected my life. I became more thrifty, raised rabbits, preserved food by canning and food hydration, cut up my own meat, grew a big garden and shopped the local thrift stores. I'm still following this way of life although I wouldn't have to now. I think if more people would embrace this way of life there would be less waste in the world. Every time you buy or donate to thrift stores you are recycling unwanted goods. Every time you choose to can your own fruit, vegetables and meat you can say you know what is in your food and where it came from. It is a healthier way of living. I"m looking forward to purchasing the new edition of the book. I was not aware that it was back in print.


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