Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Cora Clarke Papers, 1862-1881

Finding aid created by
Manuscript Division Staff, March 1992

Summary Information
Title: Cora Clarke papers
Creator: Clarke, Cora, 1851-1916
Inclusive dates: 1862-1881
Extent: 34 items
This collection contains correspondence and newspaper clippings collected by Cora Clarke, a respected female botanist and entomologist.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2726.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Cora Clarke Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


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.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of 23 letters, five newspaper clippings, and six miscellaneous items. Nineteen of the letters are addressed to Cora Clarke, with four to her mother and one to her father. No single correspondent or time frame dominates the collection, nor are there themes which run through all the letters, except in the most general sense. Prominent people represented in the collection as correspondents include Grace Greenwood (a.k.a. Sarah Jane Clarke Lippincott), Jacob Abbott, James Freeman Clarke, Edward Sylvester Morse, Alpheus Spring Packard Jr., Robert Collyer, Samuel Eliot, Francis Parkman, and Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz.

The Clarke Papers appears to consist largely of letters retained for their autograph value, more than their substance. Clarke's botanical and entomological activities appear most clearly in letters from the Cambridge Entomological Club (1878 November 16) and Francis Parkman. However, only Charles Russell's letter discussing the anatomy of flowers (1870 December 19), provides anything approaching a lengthy or in-depth discussion. More typical are a letter dated 1875 May 25, mentioning the Boston Society of Natural History and the "Society to encourage studies at home," and a receipt for a summer botany course (1874 August 4) suggesting Clarke's commitment to continuing education. The value of the collection lies primarily in creating an impressionistic portrayal of a respected female scientist at a time when she was maturing into adulthood.

Subject Terms

    • Botany.
    • Cambridge Entomological Club.
    • Flowers.
    • Women botanists.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   : American Science and Medicine Collection  
    Cora Clarke papers,  1862-1881 August 19 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    A more detailed biographical sketch of Cora Clarke, along with citations to some of her works, can be found in Psyche (published by the Cambridge Entomological Society) 23, 3 (June 1916), 94.

    Clarke is also mentioned in Margaret W. Rossiter's Women Scientists in America: Struggle and Strategies to 1940 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982).

    Related Materials

    Other primary source materials on Cora Clarke include the Museum Collection at the Museum of Comparative Zoology Archives, one letter written by Clarke in the Elizabeth Britton Papers at the New York Botanical Gardens Archives, and a set of her letters in the Perry-Clarke Collection (James Freeman Clarke) at the Massachusetts Historical Society Library in Boston.