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Dorothy Clarke Wilson papers

Identifier: 0394

Collection Scope and Content

This collection consists of two series. Series 1 contains articles about and interviews with Wilson, typescripts of some of the author's writings and one of her poems, her autobiography (74 pages), and copies of her writings published in pamphlets and periodicals. In addition there is a large collection of personal scrapbooks documenting her published works from 1933 to 1949, as well as a scrapbook chronicling a trip to India in 1950. Series 2 consists of a number of decorative objects and textiles that Wilson brought back from her travels to India, including pieces in brass, wood, silver, and silk.


  • 1926-1990s



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Curator of the Maine Women Writers Collection.

Biographical/Historical Note

Dorothy Clarke Wilson was born on May 9, 1904, in Gardiner, daughter of Rev. Lewis H. and Flora Cross Clarke. Valedictorian of her graduating class at Cony High School in Augusta, Wilson entered Bates College at the age of 17, and there had two life-changing experiences. One was meeting her future husband, Elwin Wilson, a fellow student. The other was winning an essay contest her senior year with her piece "Arbitration Instead of War," which focused her outlook on social issues and sparked her lifelong interest in peace activism. Wilson was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Bates in 1925 and married Elwin Wilson a few weeks later, on August 31st. The couple lived for a year in Princeton, New Jersey. Wilson's professional writing career began in 1928, when a play she had written for her husband's parish was accepted for publication. She was a prolific author who published 25 books and scores of essays, stories, poems, and plays, with a special focus on biographies and religious novels and plays. Her books have appealed to generations of American and international readers. Prince of Egypt (1949), perhaps her best-known work, sold more than 500,000 copies in paperback. It won the Westminster prize of $7,500.00 as the best religious novel of its year, and was a primary source for the film The Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Also well-known are her biographies of important women, including Dorothea Dix, Elizabeth Blackwell, Alice and Edith Roosevelt, Dolly Madison, and Martha Washington. Mrs. Wilson wrote about missionaries and lepers, doctors and reformers, and people with disabilities. One of her best-loved books, The Big-Little World of Doc Pritham, is about life in rural Maine. Her novels and plays have been translated and reprinted into Chinese, German, Arabic, Indonesian, Dutch, French, Danish, Thai, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, and Malayalam. Some of her works have been condensed by the Readers Digest and Guideposts, which assured them a broad readership. Wilson was almost as well traveled as her words, visiting Palestine, India, Egypt, Mexico, and England. She presented almost 1200 illustrated lectures about her books. Over her long life she received many honors, including the honorary degrees of Doctor of Letters from Bates College in 1947, and from the University of Maine in 1984. She received the Maryann Hartman Award from the University of Maine in 1988; the Deborah Morton Award from Westbrook College in Portland in 1989; the New England United Methodist Award for Excellence in Social Justice Ministry in 1975; the Woman of Distinction Award of Alpha Delta Kappa in 1971; the Award for Distinguished Achievement from the University of Maine at Augusta in 1977; and the Achievement Award from the American Association of University Women, Maine Division, as outstanding author, champion of individual freedom and tireless worker for social justice and positive societal change in 1988. Wilson died in Orono on March 26th, 2003, at the age of 98. She was predeceased by her husband of 66 years, Rev. Elwin L. Wilson, on March 31, 1992. She was also predeceased by her son, Harold on December 29, 1977. Because of her abiding interest in peace, both in her community and in the greater world, Orono High School and University of Maine students are now awarded Dorothy Clarke Wilson Peace Award.


5 linear feet (43 folders, 40 objects)

Language of Materials



This collection is organized as two series: I. Manuscripts, Scrapbooks and Articles; II. Objects from India

Related Materials

Wilson, Dorothy Clarke papers, University of Maine.

Dorothy Clarke Wilson papers, Bates College.

Guide to the Dorothy Clarke Wilson papers, 1926-1989
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Maine Women Writers Collection Repository

Abplanalp Library
University of New England
716 Stevens Avenue
Portland Maine 04103 United States