Partner Clara B. Spence

Queer Places:
The Spence School, 22 E 91st St, New York, NY 10128
26 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019
The Willows, 119 Eden St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609
Rahway Cemetery, 1670 St George Ave, Rahway, NJ 07065

Charlotte Sanford Baker was born on 31 August 1858 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. She died on 23 December 1932 in New York. She was the daughter of Henry Martyn Baker (1828–1882) and Susan Virginia Barnes (1832–1915). She was an educator and longtime partner of Clara B. Spence.

In January 1909, the White House Conference on Dependent Children adopted 14 resolutions all aimed at replacing the institutional method of child care with home care. The next month Clara personally adopted a one-year-old girl from the Children’s Aid Society. The judge had no objection to her application even though she was a single parent nearing the age of 50. Six years later in 1915, Clara adopted a little boy. Charlotte Baker adopted a girl in 1911 and a boy in 1914, completing what was one of the first single-sex adoption families.

In 1913 she built The Willows, where she spent the summer with her partner. After she died, Sir Harry Oakes bought the property. The land and building were bequeathed to Bowdoin College after the fire of 1947. In 1969 the Cough family bought the property. It is now called the Willows Oceanside Inn.

Together, Clara and Charlotte ran the Spence School, living with their children in an apartment on the fifth floor of the school’s building at 26 West 55th starting in 1900. From 1923 to 1929 Baker was the headmistress of the Spence School.


  1. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2015/03/06/clara-b-spence-ahead-of-her-time/