Archives West Finding Aid
Table of Contents
Helen Stafford Papers, 1943-1994
Overview of the Collection
- Stafford, Helen, 1899-2002
- Helen Stafford Papers
- 1943-1994 (inclusive)19431994
- 3.2 cubic feet, (6 boxes)
- Collection Number
- Helen Stafford was a long-time community and civil rights advocate in Tacoma. Materials include photos; pamphlets and directories for local and regional clubs and events; notes; numerous certificates and awards; newspaper clippings; and reports and publications by local agencies.
Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room, Special Collections & Archives
1102 Tacoma Avenue South
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
Biographical NoteReturn to Top
Helen Cecile Beck Stafford (1899-2002) was a long-time community and civil rights advocate in Tacoma. She was born on November 15, 1899 in Wamego, Kansas, the tenth of eleven children born to a former slave. In 1920 she graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in home economics and a minor in sociology. She taught in Kansas schools before moving to Tacoma in 1926 where she met and married her husband, Wendell P. Stafford. Openly denied a teaching position in Tacoma because she was black, she later became the first African-American case worker for what was then the Tacoma Department of Public Assistance.
During her years in Tacoma, Helen Stafford was a community leader and actively involved in many local civic and cultural organizations. In 1927, she organized the Matron’s Club, a social gathering of young black married women who were mothers. In the early 1930s, Stafford helped to organize the Tacoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and served as its president. She organized the first Pacific Northwest chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, as well as the Tacoma chapter of The Links. She was involved with the Tacoma Urban League, and served on the board of the YWCA and the Tacoma Colored Woman’s Club. She was also an active member of the Allen AME Church, where she sang in the choir and was the long-time superintendent of Sunday School.
After retiring in 1970, Stafford remained active in numerous local organizations, and in 1971 she was named the State Woman of Achievement by the Washington State Business and Professional Women’s Clubs Association, becoming the first African-American woman in the state to receive the honor. She received many awards, including the Finer Womanhood Award from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Tacoma Municipal League, the Tacoma NAACP Service Award, and the YWCA Woman of the Year Humanitarian Award. In 1986 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Puget Sound for humanitarian services, and in 1987 she returned to Kansas State University to receive the Alumni Medallion, a lifetime achievement award.
On November 15, 1999, when she turned 100 years old, the Tacoma City Council declared the day “Helen Stafford Day.” She died on August 27, 2002 in Tacoma.
Content DescriptionReturn to Top
Materials include photos; pamphlets and directories for local and regional clubs and events; notes; numerous certificates and awards; newspaper clippings; and reports and publications by local agencies.
Use of the CollectionReturn to Top
Helen Stafford Papers; MS-080; box [ ]; Northwest Room Special Collections, Tacoma Public Library, Tacoma, WA.
Administrative InformationReturn to Top
Names and SubjectsReturn to Top
- African American history and culture
- African American women--Civil rights
- African American women--Washington (State)
- African American--History
- African Americans
- African Americans--Archival resources
- African Americans--Washington (State)--History
- African Americans--Washington (State)--Tacoma
- African Americans--Women.
- Civil rights--Northwest, Pacific--History--20th century
- Women--Washington (State)
- Tacoma (Wash.)
- Tacoma (Wash.)--History