Meet Helen Corson

by The London Grove Friends Peace Committee

date unknown
Meet Helen Corson

In June, among the many awards presented to the graduating seniors there is one award called the "Helen Corson Peace Award." Probably very few students have any idea of who Helen Corson was or why an award is given each year in her name by the London Grove Friends Peace Committee.

When Helen Corson died In 1979, at the age of 94, the "Daily Local" proclaimed her as "one of Chester County's most prominent activists: a life long civil rights activist, a war protester decades before the '60s brought such actions into vogue, a women's rights activist since the days of the suffragettes."

Helen was born in Minnesota. While still a young woman she moved with her family to a farm in Avondale and continued to live most of her life in Chester County.

It was after World War 1, when Helen learned of the Belgian children, who were in such dire need of food that many were dying of starvation, that she first began to take an active part in trying to do what she, as an individual, could do to help correct some of the terrible injustices she saw in the world. A favorite saying of hers was "Let our lives speak." and speak hers did, loud and clear! She stood by her conscience regardless of public opinion or sometimes painful consequences. She was a person who put into action what she professed to believe in.

Some of the causes that Helen worked for down through the years included the pacifist movement even before World War 1. Long before there was much nationwide concern for race relations and poverty, she worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. During the Depression she worked in emergency relief and child feeding programs among the poverty stricken miners of Kentucky and West Virginia.

When fall-out shelters became the thing to do during the latter days of the Truman administration, Helen carried a petition from house to house in West Marlborough Township getting enough signatures to convince the Unionville School Board of the folly of such a project.

In 1952, when employees of the county welfare bureau where she worked were suddenly required to sign a' newly instituted Loyalty Oath, Helen refused to sign it. She did this both as a Quaker (Quakers traditionally do not believe in signing oaths one's word is all that is necessary) and as a citizen outraged at what she considered the illegal result of the scare tactics of the McCarthy era. Thus she lost her job and her pension.

In her seventies, Helen joined a two year vigil at Fort Dietrich protesting the germ warfare (weapons to pollute the atmosphere with deadly bacteria) research going on there. During those many hours of picketing , she also memorized the whole Book of Psalms!

In her eighties, she was helping to organize groups like "People for Peace of Chester County" to protest the "Vietnam War- and these are only a few of the many accomplishments of her very long and energetic life.

Helen never married though she was heard to say that if she ever found a man who was better than no man at all she would probably marry him. In her 80s, however, she did have a beau and after Sunday Meeting the two of them would take the lunch that she had packed and go eat it together under the lovely old Penn Oak in the yard at London Grove.

Perhaps this tells you a little about the woman, Helen Corson, and gives you some idea of the type of person we hope will be given the award created in her memory--the graduating senior who best exemplifies an attitude of nonviolent resolution of conflicts, who through words and actions has furthered the causes of understanding and brotherhood.

This brief Helen Corson biography was included with materials related to the Helen Corson Peace Awards. There is a note saying that it was written by the Peace Committee, but it doesn't say when. It appears to have been written specifically to intoduce students to Helen Corson.