Mary Perle Anderson

Anderson postcard
Anderson postcard

Time Period


Notable Facts

Highly trained environmentalist and pioneer in nature study. Taught botany, nature studies and environmental science at many different levels in many different schools. Early proponent of school gardens through Vermont Department of Education. Writer on topics of plants and nature.

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Date of Death


Primary Residence

East Berkshire

Historical Significance

Mary Perle Anderson was born to Ira Stone Anderson and Elvina Perley in East Berkshire, Vermont. Mary Anderson had two elder siblings, a sister, Annette, and a brother, Wilbert. Anderson attended grade school in her hometown, East Berkshire. It is believed that she attended high school in St. Albans as her brother Wilbert did. She started teaching at the age of fourteen just outside East Berkshire in the town of Samsonville, Vermont. Mary Anderson received her Bachelor of Science degree from Mount Holyoke College, MA, and her Masters degree in 1908, at the age of 44, from Columbia University in NYC, NY. She also attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1899, Woods Hole in 1900, University of Chicago from 1903-1904. Her studies took her abroad to the Kew Botanical Gardens in London, England and the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France.

Anderson was supervisor of nature study at Presbyterian College in Independence, MO from 1890-1894. After that, she taught schools in Plymouth and Somerville, Vermont from 1894-1902. She again became supervisor of nature study, but this time at the University School for Girls in Chicago, IL. She taught botany at Mount Holyoke College from 1904-1906, and was teacher of nature study at the Horace Mann School of Teachers College (Columbia University) in NYC. Mary Perle Anderson was not only a scholar and professor, but also a writer. In a 1904 competition, sponsored by the New York Botanical Gardens and Wildflower Preservation Society of America, she won first prize for her essay "The Protection of Our Nature Plants," and again in 1909 for her essay "The Passing of the Wild Flowers."

In 1912, Mary Anderson started The Bluebird Camp in East Berkshire. It was a camp for city children to spend their summers experiencing and learning about nature. The camp ran from 1912-1915 at Anderson's childhood home. In 1917, she returned home and lived out the rest of her life there. She helped her brother, Wilbert Lee Anderson, write his book "The Country Town: A Study of Rural Evolution." She had a huge impact on his appreciation of rural life. She also joined the Vermont Department of Education in promoting school gardens. Mary Anderson died in East Berkshire in 1945. She is buried in the Congregational Cemetery in East Berkshire, VT. She truly was a pioneer in environmental studies.

Organizations or Movements

  • The Bluebird Camp
  • New York Botanical Gardens and Wildflower Preservation Society of America
  • Vermont State Department of Education.


  • Environmental studies and nature studies teacher
  • Classroom teacher
  • Writer
  • Environmentalist
  • Botanist
  • Nature Camp Director
  • Scholar.


  • Bachelor of Science, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts (1890)
  • Masters Degree, Columbia University, New York City, New York (1908)

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Essay "The Protection of Our Native Plants" Link

  • The Vermont Encyclopedia pg. 40 Link

  • The Bershire Bygones by Marjorie Roberts

  • Mary Perle Anderson 1889 Link

Additional Images

Anderson postcard
Anderson postcard