Cora Huidekoper Clarke was born in Meadville, Pa., on February 9th, 1851 to Anna Huidekoper (1814-1897) and James Freeman Clarke (1810-1897), a prominent Unitarian minister from Boston. Clarke lived with her family in Jamaica Plain, Mass., until after the death of her parents, at which time she removed to Boston.
Due to poor health, Clarke did not formally attend school until she was thirteen. Yet this did not impede her intellectual development as she went on, at the age of eighteen, to study horticulture in Newton, Mass., and went on to make notable contributions to the literature of entomology and botany. Despite the fact that Clarke was a woman operating in a male-dominated field, she was widely respected for her intelligence and capabilities. For example, Francis Parkman, an instructor of hers (in horticulture) at the Bussey Institution, said to her father, "Your daughter has qualities of the mind that most women do not possess."
Influenced by her many years of self-study, Clarke became a teacher in Miss Ticknor's Society for Encouraging Study at Home. Her interest in science and botany prompted her to found a science club and lead a botany group in the New England Women's Club. She enjoyed a strong scholarly reputation within the scientific community for her photographs of gall-flies and her research and writings on caddis-flies. She was elected a member of the Cambridge Entomological Club, was on the council of the Boston Society of Natural History, and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Clarke never married, devoting her life instead to the study of botany and entomology. She died on April 2, 1916 in Boston.