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Helen Clements Kirk papers

Identifier: A12-45

Scope and Contents note

The Helen Theodora Clements Kirk collection houses papers belonging to Helen Clements Kirk and her family, particularly her mother, Emma Newbold Clements, and her father, Samuel Clements. The collection, which ranges from 1881-1917, consists primarily of correspondence between Kirk and her mother, but there are other materials as well, including Kirk’s journals, Emma Clements’ poems and sermons, and Samuel Clements’ papers.

The collection is housed in thirteen boxes, which are loosely arranged. Boxes 1, 9, and 11 contain a miscellany of materials. Boxes 2-7 primarily consist of correspondence between Helen and her mother, Emma. Box 8 is primarily Helen Kirk’s appointment calendars. Box 10 is primarily material related to Kirk’s ancestors or relatives. Boxes 12 and 13 contain Kirk’s diaries.

Box 1 primarily consists of items belonging to Emma Clements, including one and a half copies of a manuscript novella titled “Vanity and Verity” authored by Clements; and other writings of Clements’ (sermons, essays). Additionally, it includes her journal from her 1881 trip with her husband to the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands. Clements later wrote a more polished version of her travels in two journals, titled “A Glimpse of Europe,” also included in Box 1. Box 1 further contains some of Helen Kirk’s Bryn Mawr memorabilia, including her academic record. Box 2 consists of correspondence between Helen Kirk and her mother between 1886 and 1891. Box 3 also consists of correspondence between Helen Kirk and her mother, but between 1891 and 1893. Box 4 contains correspondence between the two from 1894 to 1896. Box 5 contains correspondence between the two from 1897 to 1900. Box 6 contains their correspondence from 1901 to 1905. Box 7 contains their correspondence from 1906 to 1916, as well as some of Dorothy Clements Kirk’s correspondence to her parents during 1912 when she studied at Wheaton Female Seminary (later Wheaton College) in Massachusetts. Dorothy was Helen’s oldest daughter. In her letters, Dorothy writes about her health, her friends, and her academics. Box 7 also contains miscellaneous ephemera of Helen Kirk; Emma Clements’ diary 1883 (primarily a record of her religious life); and school composition journals belonging to Emma Clements. There are very few letters from Emma to Helen, but this absence is mitigated by the fact that Helen’s letters often begin with discussing her mother’s previous letter. The bulk of the letters span two decades, from 1888 to 1908, although there are some letters from before and after those years. Helen writes most consistently during her time at Bryn Mawr from 1888-1892. She writes about her social life, academics, professors, and events on campus. Her letters after college, from 1893-1908, concern her new family and Philadelphia social life. Other items belonging to Helen include monthly primary school reports from her time at Cheltenham Academy, the Ogontz School for Girls, and Bryn Mawr, and ephemera from Bryn Mawr. (Someone possibly Barbara Kirk Foster, Helen’s youngest daughter has put notations on envelopes of letters deemed important or interesting.) There are also diaries belonging to Helen from 1908-1917, except for 1914. The entries are short and often contain news of the day, her goings-on, and stories of her husband and children. The bulk of Box 8 is Helen Kirk’s appointment calendars from 1936-1946. Also included are Kirk’s membership application to the PA Society of the Colonial Dames of America 1925; several wills (of John Boulton, Francis Urie, and Mary N. Urie); and Emma Clements’ journal from her solo trip to Europe. Box 9 contains a miscellany of materials, including family ancestor Sarah Allibone’s recipe journal May 1828; Emma Clements’ 1851 Diary; a Clements family scrapbook; Helen Kirk’s marriage certificate and other wedding materials; and correspondence between Samuel Clements and Helen Kirk, 1857 and 1876. Box 10 includes a variety of material, a large amount of which was either created or related to family ancestors, including an early Newbold family history in England; essays by Sarah A. Newbold and William Romaine Newbold June, an account of the marriage of Margaret Cummins and Richard Clement Woods (written by Emma Clements); data on the Newbold-Allibone families, genealogical notes on Margaret Cummins, and two journals of Sarah Allibone Newbold. In one journal from 1839, she writes about her faith and conversations with her family. In the second, undated journal, she records the illness and death of her mother, Sarah Smith Allibone. Box 11 contains further genealogical materials; Helen Kirk’s letters from Atlantic City and the Hague 1879-1881; Emma Clement’s diaries during her time abroad; and Helen Kirk’s diary from 1901. Box 12 contains Helen Kirk’s diaries from 1908-1912. Box 13 contains Helen Kirk’s diaries from 1913-1917.

Besides writing, Emma’s other interest was the temperance movement. In the 1904 Herringshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century she is listed as becoming interested in temperance reform in 1884 and having been “the president of two local unions of the Woman’s Christian Temperance union, and one of its national superintendents.” A few papers pertaining to the Women's Temperance Union are included in the collection. The collection also includes items belonging to Helen’s father, Samuel Clements, there are a few letters, sermons, and papers. His documents primarily concern business about Cheltenham Academy, the school he ran from 1871-1888. These documents can be found in Boxes 1 and 2.

The collection is large, but much of the material is related to the family itself. Researchers interested in the Clements family; student life at Bryn Mawr College; women's colleges; Cheltenham Academy; the Ogontz School for Girls; and genealogy of the Allibone, Clements, and Newbold families would find this collection to be of use. It should be noted that the photographs from the Helen Clements Kirk collection have been moved to the Photo Album archives. These photographs are mostly of the family, but there are also many of Cheltanham Academy and some of Bryn Mawr.


  • Creation: 1881 - 1917


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Helen Clements Kirk Collection is the physical property of Bryn Mawr College Special Collections.

Biographical/Historical note

Helen Theodora Clements was born in Philadelphia on July 25th, 1872 (folder 11-2). She was the daughter of Emma Newbold Clements and the Methodist Reverend Samuel Clements, founder of Cheltenham Academy. The family lived at 4228 Chester Line, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. School transcripts in the collection show that Helen attended Cheltenham Academy from 1882-1883, and then the Ogontz School for Girls in 1883-1887 . She enrolled at Bryn Mawr College in 1888 and graduated in 1892 with a B.A. in History and Economics.

On October 6th, 1892 Helen married Edward Cameron Kirk, a Professor of Dental Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania. Edward was a widower with two children, Edith and Carrie. Helen and Edward also had three children together: Dorothy, Marcelle and Barbara. Barbara earned her B.A. from Bryn Mawr in 1931. Marcella started at Bryn Mawr, but finished her undergraduate dgree at the University of chicago. In June 1903, Helen recieved her MA in Modern HIstory from the University of Pennsylvania. Much of her life after marraige was devoted to her family. She acted intermittently as a nurse and midwife. Later in life, she relocated to 5310 Moorland Lane, Bethesda, Maryland. She died on March 6, 1954.

Her father, Samuel Clements, was born in 1825 and died on December 9th, 1888, at age 63. He was a Methodist Minister best known for founding Cheltenham Academy (sometimes called Cheltenham Military Academy in historical records). From 1855-1858 he was the rector of St. Michaels in Trenton, N. J. From 1858-1870 he was the rector of three parishes in New Jersey and Ohio. In 1871, he was asked by the rector of St. Paul's Church, Dr. Appleton, to found Cheltenham Academy, a boy's preparatory boarding and day school. He was principal there until his death.

Her mother, Emma Newbold Clements, was born in about 1833 and died in 1906 at the age of 73. She was a prolific writer and a variety of her writing can be found in the collection including letters, poems, diaries, sermons, and a novella. She was also very involved in the Women's Temperance Society beginning in 1864, at an unknown date she was a national superintendant.


3 cubic ft.

Language of Materials



Helen Clements Kirk was a student at Bryn Mawr from 1888-1892. She studied History and Economics. This collection consists of papers belonging to Helen and her family, particularly her mother, Emma Newbold Clements, and her father, Samuel Clements. Most of the collection consists of correspondence from Helen to her mother, which spans two decades, 1888-1908. In her letters from college, Helen writes about her social life, academics, professors, and events on campus. In letters written after college, from 1893 to 1908, she writes about Philadelphia social life and her new family. The fall of 1892, she married Edward Cameron Kirk and became a mother to his two children, Edith and Carrie. She and Edward had three girls of their own: Dorothy, Marcelle, and Barbara. Some of Dorothy’s letters from when she was twelve and eighteen are also included.

Besides correspondence, the collection also contains ephemera from Helen’s education, including school reports from Cheltenham Academy, the Ogontz School for Girls, and Bryn Mawr.

The collection includes papers from her father, Samuel Clements, a Methodist Minister who was best known for founding Cheltenham Academy in 1771. He was principal there until his death in 1888.

The collection also contains a wide variety of writings from her mother, Emma Newbold Clements, including diaries, a manuscript novel, poems, recollections of travels in Europe, and sermons. Emma became involved in the Women’s Temperance Society in 1864 and became a national superintendent at an unknown date. She died in 1906.

The collection also includes items from Helen’s extended family. There is a cookbook from 1834 that belonged to her ancestor Sarah Smith Allibone and diaries from her daughter, Sarah Allibone Newbold. There are also genealogies of the Newbold, Clements, and Allibone families.

There are a few photographs in the collection itself. More photographs, including CVDs, stereographs, cyanotypes, cabinet cards, and albumen prints, are in box 15/713 which is stored in the Photo Album archives. The photographs are mostly of the family, and there are also many shots of Cheltenham Academy and some of Bryn Mawr.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was a 1992 gift of Michael K. Foster, Helen Theodora Clements Kirk's grandson.

Related Archival Materials

Box 15/713 in the Bryn Mawr Photo Albums Archives contains photographs from this collection.

Related Materials

A digitized photograph of Clements can be found on Triptych

Helen Clements Kirk papers
Rebecca C. Warlow Allison Rodgers
June 7th, 1993
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

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