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Sister Jane Patricia Freeland Collection

Identifier: exws-sisterjanepatriciafreeland

Scope and Contents

The collection documents the academic work and education of Sister Jane P. Freeland, who was a nun, lover of music, and a medieval scholar recognized worldwide as the translator of medieval religious works never before available in English. The vast majority of the items are drafts of her translations and notebooks full of her jottings. She particularly loved medieval songs and hymns of Abelard.

The collections also contains personal material including correspondence with her home community of Saint John the Baptist (which she frequently referred to as "Mendham" in her letters), with the Bodleian Library, to Wellesley College, to her family and friends, to Cistercian Publications and other journal editors, to humane societies and newspapers about animal rights, and her superiors at Saint John The Baptist. She left St. John the Baptist in the 1980s, according to the Globe Newspaper Company, "because her superiors there felt it was more appropriate for her to contemplate what she already knew than to learn more." Included in the collection is her resignation letter from St. John the Baptist.

In approximately 1985, during her separation from St. John the Baptist, she corresponded with members of the Grace Episcopal Church (referred to as "GEC" and "Clewer" interchangeably in the finding aid), a convent in which she found more comfort. Her correspondence indicates that she tried to be transferred to GEC from St. John the Baptist.

The later part of the collection contains personal memorabilia such as newsletters, excerpts from literature, postcards, holiday cards, worship schedules, prayer lists, historical pamphlets, cartoons, sheet music of hymns, quotes, sermon notes, monastic rules, issues of the Hamphsire Life Magazine, obituary newspaper clippings, photographs, and information sheets.


  • Creation: approximately 1970s-2010s


Language of Materials

Materials are written in English, Latin, or French.

Biographical / Historical

Sister Jane P. Freeland was a medieval scholar recognized worldwide as the translator of medieval religious works never before available in English. Her legacy of published works includes "The Hymns of Abelard in English Verse," "The Sermons of Pope Leo the Great," and "The Commendations of Faith" by Baldwin of Ford, the archbishop of Canterbury in 1184.

Sister Jane was born at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Charles Wright and Aileen (Vickery) Freeland. Her parents had just returned from the Philippines, where her father was an Army chaplain, and the family moved with him to various posts in Texas. She and her older sister, Elizabeth, were home schooled through high school. Then Sister Jane attended Wellesley College, graduating in 1933 with a degree in music.

Sister Jane planned to teach music, but when she arrived as a lay teacher at St. John Baptist school in Mendham, New Jersey, a Latin teacher was needed. So she learned Latin and Greek from her father, taught those subjects, along with music and history.

In 1939 she became a novitiate in St. John Baptist, the order that taught at the school. She later served as the School's headmistress. She was noted as a gifted teacher by her colleagues and her students. She had a love of learning that she pursued graduate work at Oxford University and the University of the South in Tennessee, and a doctorate in medieval studies at Rutgers University.

She died in 2004 at 93 in Amherst, Iowa.

(Adopted from "Sister Jane Freeland, 93, medieval scholar", News Obituaries.


7 boxes


There materials remain in the same arrangement as at the time they were donated.

Note on Use of Acronyms

Because many of the place names are long, abbreviations or shorthand acronyms are used in this collection. The key to the acronyms is:

CJSB: Community of Saint John the Baptist (also used interchangeable with "Mendham") Fr: a "spiritual father" of a monastry, not her birth father. GEC: Grace Episcopal Church (also used interchangeably with "Clewer") HSUS: the human society JPF: Jane Patricia Freeland Mother: a "spiritual mother" of a convent, not her birth mother

Sister Jane Patricia Freeland Collection Finding Aid
Stephanie Chapman; Leah Latumaerissa
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Special Collections Repository

Western Michigan University Libraries, Special Collections
Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490