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Rebecca Timbres Clark Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG5-026

Scope and Contents

Rebecca Timbres Clark's long life spanned the twentieth century and reflects the humanitarian and social work undertaken by the American Friends Service Committee and other Quaker organizations, as well as the personal life of a family with many ties to the Philadelphia and Baltimore Quaker communities, including the Janney, Sinclair, Turner, and Holmes families. The collection contains extensive correspondence, journals (1913-1989), biographical data, articles, speeches, reviews, poetry, pictures, and memorabilia. The collection covers in detail her relief work in eastern Europe and Russia, undertaken by Clark and her first husband, Harry Garland Timbres, a Quaker physician, under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. The collection includes material relating to their medical and social work in India working in a school founded by Rabindranath Tagore whose poetry deeply influenced the couple. Rebecca wrote a book, We Didn't Ask Utopia, published in 1939, which describes her work and life with Harry Timbres. Rebecca's subsequent work in Hawaii, as well as later correspondence concerning her work with Friends World Committee and other Quaker organizations, is also covered by collection. In her later years, she worked on her autobiography which remains in multiple draft form. Correspondents include Charles Freer Andrews, Rabindranath Tagore, and Horace Alexander.


  • Creation: 1853-1999 [bulk 1920-1990]


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some of the items in this collection may be protected by copyright. The user is solely responsible for making a final determination of copyright status. If copyright protection applies, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns to reuse, publish, or reproduce relevant items beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to the law. See

Biographical / Historical

Rebecca Sinclair Janney was born May 6,1896, in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of O. Edward Janney and Anne B. Webb and a birthright member of Baltimore Monthly Meeting. She was the granddaughter of Joseph and Rebecca (Sinclair) Turner, weighty Baltimore Friends involved in social causes and the founding of Swarthmore College. Her parents were also active in Quaker concerns; her father retired from his medical practice in 1907 to devote himself to social causes.

Rebecca Janney attended Goucher College for one year, then graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1918 and finished a nurse's training course at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia. Pa., in 1920. In February 1921 she left for Poland to serve as a typhus nurse and child refugee worker under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), where she met Harry Garland Timbres, a fellow Quaker relief worker. Harry Timbres was born on April 3, 1899, in Missouri, but raised in Canada. He attended Leland Stanford University for a year and joined the Society of Friends and then transferred to Haverford College in Pennsylvania where his position as a conscientious objector was more welcomed. As a C.O. he was assigned to Poland in March 1921. Rebecca and Harry soon began their courtship, during which they enjoyed the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore ("Gurudev") who influenced Harry's own poetry.

They were married by civil service in Dansig and then by Quaker service on March 29, 1922, in Warsaw, Poland. They were immediately sent to Russia to aid in famine relief, returning to the U.S. in November of the same year. Harry Timbres earned a medical degree at Johns Hopkins in 1928, planning to return to Russia to practice medicine. To help pay for medical school, the couple lectured and performed Russian and Polish folk dances. They had three daughter: "Nancy" Anne Janney Timbres (1923-1927), "Nicky" Eleanor Carter Timbres (1924-1989), and "Nadya" Rebecca Sinclair Timbres (born 1928). While the couple awaited the issue of visas, they spent the five year interval in England and India and then in Baltimore where Harry was on the staff at Johns Hopkins. In India (1931-1934), they joined Rabindranath Tagore in Bengal and organized a medical cooperative, but had to return to America due to Harry's continuing problems with malaria. In 1936, Harry Timbres left for Russia to work towards the eradication of malaria. His family, including two small daughters, joined him soon after and lived in Soviet Russia until Harry's death of typhus, complicated by malaria, on May 12, 1937.

Rebecca Timbres returned to America and earned a M.A. in Social Work from Columbia University in 1941. She worked for the AFSC in Philadelphia and in 1943 became Dean of Nursing at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. She was married (second) to Edgar Sydenham Clark (1885-1961) on July 2,1943, at Providence Monthly Meeting (United), Media, Pa., and the couple moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1947, where Rebecca worked as a medical social worker. Edgar Clark died May 12, 1961, and Rebecca Timbres Clark moved first to California and then Media, Pa. On May 4, 1963, she was married (third) to Richard Robb Taylor (1901-1974), a member of Gunpowder Monthly Meeting, Maryland. They divorced in 1970, and Rebecca resumed her former married name of Rebecca Timbres Clark and moved to Moorestown, NJ, where she continued to serve on various Quaker boards and committees. In 1972-73, she served briefly as a member of the Board of Directors of Friends Hall at Fox Chase, a Friends Retirement Home in Fox Chase. She died February 7, 2000, at Medford Leas, a retirement community in New Jersey.


18 linear ft. (35 boxes)

Language of Materials



Rebecca Timbres Clark (1896-2000) was a Quaker nurse and social worker. She and her first husband, Harry Garland Timbres (1899-1937), performed relief work under the auspices of the AFSC in Eastern Europe in 1921-22 and worked with Rabindranath Tagore in Bengal, India, in 1931-34. In 1936-1937, the couple worked in the malaria unit in Soviet Russia. After Harry Timbres' death, Rebecca returned to the U.S. She married Edgar Sydenham Clark (1885-1961) on July 2, 1943, and the couple moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1947, where Rebecca worked as a medical social worker. The collection contains extensive correspondence, journals (1913-1989), biographical data, articles, speeches, reviews, poetry, pictures, and memorabilia. Correspondents include Charles Freer Andrews, Rabindranath Tagore, and Horace Alexander.


The collection is divided into nine series:

  1. Biographical and genealogical
  2. Journals
  3. Correspondence
  4. Legal and Financial
  5. Poetry
  6. Writings
  7. Speeches
  8. Miscellaneous
  9. Picture collection

Series 2 (Correspondence) is divided into three subgroups: Sorted by topic, by correspondent, and family correspondence

There is an overlap in Series 1 (Biographical) and 6 (Writings) since Rebecca Timbres Clark worked in her later years on an autobiography.

Series 6 (Writings) is divided into two groups. The first is five folders of writings arranged alphabetically which were given in the early 1970s, followed by additional and in some case duplicate writings.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Custodial History

The collection was established by Rebecca Timbres Clark with her gifts to Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College in 1973 and was originally named the Janney-Timbres Papers. A small amount of papers was added from a distant cousin, Donald C. Turner. After Rebecca Timbres Clark's death in 2000, her daughter, Rebecca Timbres Coleman, donated the additional personal papers and an oil portrait of Rebecca Sinclair Turner.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: Rebecca Timbres Clark, 1973-1976

Donald C. Turner, 1985

Rebecca Timbres Coleman, 2000

Accession number: 2000-027

Related Materials

See also:

  1. Turner Family Papers, RG 5/152
  2. Donald C. Turner Genealogical Research Papers, RG 5/201
  3. We Didn't Ask Utopia: A Quaker Family in Soviet Russia, by Harry and Rebecca Timbres, 1939.
  4. O. Edward Janney Papers

Separated Materials

The following material has been removed from the collection and retalogued as the Rebecca Timbres Clark Picture Collection, PA 113, 3 boxes plus two oversized photographs.

Box 1:

  1. Album of snapshots of Poland and Russia, not labeled.
  2. Loose photographs including:
  3. Many portraits of Rebecca Timbres Clark
  4. O. Edward Janney (with negatives)
  5. Early photographs of family, including Elizabeth Holmes, Price and Webb families
  6. Harry Timbres, Edgar Clark
  7. Rabindranath Tagore by Doris Ulman, with inscription for Rebecca, 1931 NOTE: RESTRICTED, SEE CURATOR

Box 2:

  1. Loose photographs, family and friends and (rolled)
  2. panoramic photo of National Federation of Business and Professional Women, St. Louis, 1954

Box 3:

  1. Loose photos, 1940s-80s, family and friends


  1. Timbres, Rebecca Janney. We Didn't Ask Utopia. Prentice Hall, N.Y.: 1939.

Processing Information

The collection was originally processed by FHL Staff in the early 1970s, with the gift of Rebecca Timbres Clark and some added material from Donald C. Turner. It was named the Janney-Timbres Papers. These three boxes of material consisted mainly of early correspondence, the journals of 1921-22, copies of Harry's poetry, articles by Rebecca which were arranged alphabetically, and some papers on Rebecca's speeches. After Rebecca Timbres Clark's death in 2000 at the age of 103, her daughter, Rebecca Timbres Coleman, donated additional personal papers, photographs, and memorabilia. The 2000 gift was integrated into the earlier collection and a new finding aid produced. The correspondence received in the earlier gift and the writing arranged alphabetically have been maintained in their original order rather than being integrated into other folders. The inventories of the original deposit and the 2000 addition are stored in the RG5/026 Administrative folder. Photographs have been removed to PA 113, with the exception of oversized photographs of O. Edward Janney and Rebecca Timbres Clark which are stored in Board of Managers Collection and Oversize, respectively. Personally inscribed books of poetry by Rabindranath Tagore have been added to the FHL book collection. Additional books already represented in the tri-college libraries were removed to more suitable repositories.

The portrait of Rebecca Sinclair Turner is hanging in the Reading Room of Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College (2001). See FHL Administrative File for Mrs. Clark's conjectures about the artist.

Rebecca Timbres Clark Papers, 1853-1999 [bulk 1920-1990]
Susanna Morikawa
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Find It at the Library

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