Biographical Sketch of Helen Culbertson Clark

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Helen Culbertson Clark. 1868-1929

By Anya Brooks, undergraduate, Rosemont College

Helen Culbertson Clark was born on November 8, 1868, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to James Clark and Elizabeth Culbertson Clark. Clark's father was a well-known agent at the Cumberland Valley Railroad Company. Clark had two brothers, George and James Clark. She was single with no children.

Clark joined the suffrage movement around the time of the 1915 Pennsylvania referendum on woman suffrage. She was elected secretary of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association in 1915 and became the treasurer in 1916. As part of her duties, she often went on trips to neighboring counties to meet with other suffragists about campaign ideas and to attend rallies. Clark was so dedicated to her mission for Pennsylvania woman suffrage that she and her roommate, Annie Laurie, a schoolteacher from Harrisburg, gave up their summer to help out at the state headquarters in 1915. The History of Woman Suffrage, volume 6 notes Clark as an officer of the state woman suffrage association, but does not note the specific years.

Clark's most notable activity in the suffrage movement was with the Justice Bell. Clark traveled with the bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell, to promote woman suffrage in Pennsylvania. Suffragists intended the Justice Bell to remind audiences of British oppression during the American Revolution and connect it to the oppression that that American women currently felt without the right to vote. Katherine Wentworth Ruschenberger, a fellow Pennsylvania suffragist, paid for the bell, which traveled to states such as Illinois and Washington, DC. As a prominent figure in the PWSA, Clark was entrusted with the honor of traveling with the bell.

During the First World War, Clark advocated an active role for women in the war effort but announced suffragists' intention to continue advocating for their own rights. As she noted in the April 9, 1917, Harrisburg Telegraph, "We will perform our part, whatever it may be decided our part shall be. We say this not because we are one whit less interested in our political emancipation than previously or because we have any intention of lessening the vigor our struggle."

After her time in the movement, Clark pursued her former art career. She became chairman of the Harrisburg Art Association. She remained in Harrisburg until her death on January 11, 1929, in her home.

Sources:

Information about Clark can be found in the Harrisburg Telegraph.

Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922). [LINK].

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