Partner Edith Pye
Greenbank Swimming Pool, Wilfrid Rd, Street BA16 0EU, UK
4 Overleigh, Street BA16 0TP, UK
Religious Society of Friends Quaker Cemetery Street, Mendip District, Somerset, England
Hilda Clark (12 January 1881 – 24 February 1955) was a British physician and humanitarian aid worker. Clark was an expert in pulmonary care and a leader in hospitals for refugees in France during World War I. After the war she was active in international organizations for peace as well as in providing for refugees of other wars, including the Spanish Civil War and World War II.
Dr Hilda Clark was a member of the famous Quaker shoe-making Clark family, whose sanatorium in Street, Somerset also offered the tuberculin treatment. Most of the patients treated were working for the Clark boot-making business and had probably contracted bovine tuberculosis through working with leather. The Clark sanatorium had some notable successes, among whom was Hilda Clark’s own sister, Alice, who wrote a classic of women’s history, The working life of women in the seventeenth century. Hilda Clark was an acknowledged authority on the treatment of TB, writing a textbook and medical articles on it, and being appointed TB officer by the public health authorities in Portsmouth. Her lifelong companion was a midwife, Edith Pye, trained at McCall’s Clapham School of Midwifery. Dr Hilda Clark met Edith Pye in 1907 when Clark started work for her medical degree: ‘To this day,’ wrote Pye, 50 years later in another love-at-first-sight memory, ‘I can see her as she came down the attic stair in the old house in Westminster, the gold glint in her brown hair and eyes lightened up by the flame of the candle she carried.’ The relationship was sustained through many separations, as both Clark and Pye engaged in war-relief work in Europe. They wrote to each other in the delightful ‘plain language’ of the Quakers: hence Clark to Pye in Geneva from London: ‘While I miss thee dreadfully here I know it is worse being away and alone ... I am glad thou has good friends there ...’
Edith Eckhard and Kathleen Courtney lived together in London, some of the time with the pacifist doctor Hilda Clark, and Clark’s partner, the midwife and Quaker pacifist Edith Pye.
Clark was born 12 January 1881 at Green Bank, Street, Somerset and was the youngest child of the Quaker shoe manufacturer William Stephens Clark and the social reformer Helen Priestman Bright. The Clark family of Street were Quakers of shoe-making fame as C. and J. Clark Ltd. Manufacturer of boots, shoes & sheepskin rugs. She was the sister of Alice Clark, the feminist and historian and the niece of Annie Clark, one the first pioneering women to formally train in medicine in Britain. Her mother and great-aunts helped to found a number of women's rights organizations in the 1860s. As a child, she was involved in athletics and gymnastics. She had a Quaker education at Brighthelmston, at Birkdale in Southport, Lancashire, about 1896–7, and The Mount, in York, from about 1897 to 1900, before studying medicine at Birmingham University and the Royal Free Hospital, London where she graduated M.B. and B.S. in 1908.
Clark specialised in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. She was instrumental in administering the TB vaccine, tuberculin, developed by Dr W. Camac-Wilkinson. She opened and ran two tuberculin dispensaries, the first at her home town of Street in Somerset, the second, by appointment as Medical Officer of the Portsmouth Municipal Tuberculin Dispensary in 1911. In 1910 she successfully treated her sister, Alice Clark, a suffragist who was suffering from tuberculosis. Clark gave a paper on "Tuberculosis Statistics: Some Difficulties in the Presentation of Facts bearing on the Tuberculosis Problem in a Suitable Form for Statistical Purposes", later published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1914. During WW1 she was engaged in providing medical relief work in France, Austria and the Soviet Union. She founded Friends' War Victim Relief with fellow Quaker Edmund Harvey and was medical organiser of the first Friends' War Victim Relief team in France, of which her life partner Edith Pye, whom she had met in 1907 at the beginning of her medical studies, was a member. There, at Châlons, she established a Maternité hospital for refugee women, which opened in December 1914. She was also an early supporter of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology, an organisation concerned with gay rights and acceptance.
Clark reported in 1919 on behalf of the Save the Children Fund about the dire condition of children's health in Austria during that country's famine years and proposed cheap dietary solutions to rectify the deficiencies. She organised a scheme to buy cows from the Netherlands and Switzerland and fodder from Croatia and Czechoslovakia in order to produce much needed milk for children. During a visit to Hungary with Dr Hector Munro and Mr Buxton in August 1919, they sent a telegram to the Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs in London, seeking urgent medical supplies for the hospitals of Budapest. During the 1920s Hilda was an active member of a number of humanitarian organisations including the League of Nations, the Women's Peace Crusade (of which she was secretary), the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the International Commission for the Assistance of Child Refugees as well as Quaker campaigns such as the Friends' Service Council. She also worked for the relief of refugees in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. After her work with refugees in various European countries she became a noted speaker about international affairs on behalf of the League of Nations and other international bodies. Clark was Chairman of the Anti-Opium Committee of the Women's International League which advocated state control of 'dangerous drugs'.
Her home in London was bombed in 1940 and she moved to Kent, where she was active in the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmens Families Association. She became disabled as a result of Parkinson's disease and returned to Street in 1952, where she died unmarried at her home on 24 February 1955 and was buried at the Street Quaker burial ground under the same headstone as Edith Pye.
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