Elsie Mae Freeman was born in Missouri in 1900. She graduated high school in Chicago. After graduating, Elsie was recruited to work in a lab at the University of Chicago in 1919. Although opportunities for young African Americans were rare during the first half of the 20th century, Elsie said later in life, that she had once been interested in becoming a pharmacist. After working at the University of Chicago lab for a year, Elsie married and went on to raise a daughter, Julia E. Freeman.
During the Second World War, Elsie was a laboratory assistant in the Chemistry Division of the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory (“Met Lab“) during the Manhattan Project.
Freeman was in the Nonacademic Service Group led by Kathleen Florin. The Nonacademic Service Group was made up of laboratory assistants, technicians and secretaries. This group included Minnie Daniels, Aquilla Parsons, and Lillie May Porter among many other women.
For more information about women in the Manhattan Project, please see the following reference:
Information provided by Elsie Mae Freeman’s granddaughter, Pamela E. Johnson.