The Inevitable Woman: Helen Moore Quigley

February 10th, 2023

By Becky Chapin, Archivist

If you’re familiar with the Geneva History Museum , then you know it’s called the Prouty-Chew House, the large gallery is called the Hucker Gallery, and the photo archive is called the Doran Room. All these names refer to men – Phineas Prouty, Beverly Chew, George Hucker, and Robert Doran. What you may not know is that the Research Room, is named after a woman- Helen Moore Quigley.

women making wreaths for the Wassail Bowl

Betty Ferrini, Barbara Springstead, and Margaret Wyckoff prep wreaths for the 1981 Wassail Bowl and Sale.

In the context of our organization, Helen was the first president of the Geneva Historical Society Women’s Council, (who were famous for the Wassail Bowl). In 1969, Helen was named the president of the newly formed Council, a service organization to raise money for the museum and support the activities of the Geneva Historical Society. During her tenure, funds were raised by the Council to install the rolling carriages that are still in our archives today.

But Helen had already accomplished numerous things before then, including many firsts in Geneva.

Helen was the second child of Daniel and Margaret Moore (Daniel being the city’s second mayor). She attended Geneva schools and graduated from William Smith College in 1917. In 1922, she married Dr. Thomas Quigley who had been practicing in Geneva as an ENT and surgeon since 1919. Helen worked with the Red Cross during World War 1 (and beyond), gathering relief supplies, and as chairman for their seal campaign in 1919.

Dr. Quigley died in 1932 after a brief illness, leaving Helen and their five children.

Image of a female member of Geneva General Hospital's board of trustees

Helen Moore Quigley on the Geneva General Hospital Board of Trustees. Photography by PB Oakley

Helen dedicated herself to the Geneva General Hospital (GGH) early on. Her own mother served on the City Hospital Board of Woman Managers in the early 1900s. Helen started the first guild of the GGH Auxiliary, serving as president, before moving on to the Hospital’s Board of Trustees in 1935. She served as Vice President before being elected as the Board’s President- the first woman ever elected to that position- in 1956. She was on the Hospital Board as an honorary member after finishing her term, but regularly attended the meetings and continued her involvement by serving on a variety of committees. In her last years, she regularly volunteered as a receptionist for the front desk.

In 1953, Helen was the first woman to be appointed as foreman on an Ontario County jury; at that time an article ran in the paper called “The Inevitable Woman” all about how letting women serve on juries would inevitably lead to having a woman serve as foreman. Helen received an honorary degree from Hobart and William Colleges in 1967 and served 10 years as a member of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees- the first woman alumna trustee.

In 1975, she was presented with the Marion Whelan School of Practical Nursing Award, honored as the first woman recipient of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in 1977, and presented with the Helen Moore Quigley Reading Room at the Geneva History Museum in 1978. Helen was also involved with the Geneva Community Chest, Girls Scouts, Geneva Woman’s Club, and served as chairman of the city’s committee on Aid to the Handicapped for 12 years.

At the time of her death in 1980, Helen was given a memorial tribute on WGVA radio during the second Community Meets Citizen broadcast. The panel consisted of host Al Learned, former HWS President Allan Kuusisto (GGH trustee), former mayor Helen Maney (HWS alumnae trustee), Dr. Robert Doran (HWS Board, GGH staff member), W Neil Marvin (GGH Director of Development), and Helen’s attorney Frederick Toole (GGH board member).

So next time you visit our Research Room, take a moment to remember it was named after Helen Moore Quigley. Even if there is no plaque.

6 responses to “The Inevitable Woman: Helen Moore Quigley”

  1. Jack Williams, Grandson says:

    Thank you!

  2. Inga-Mai (Pim) Larsson-Kovach says:

    Thank you Becky. Very interesting woman who worked tirelessly and did a lot of good for Geneva.

  3. Sharon Best says:

    I remember Mrs. Quigley very well. She was quite amazing– a true role model for us youngsters just starting to take our places in Geneva.
    There should definitely be a plaque honoring her. Why isn’t there?

    1. Becky Chapin says:

      Update: I found the plaque while cleaning out a storage room. I will find a new place to hang it so her name lives on!

  4. Charlie Bauder says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article about Helen Moore Quigley. I think a plaque honoring her should be placed in the reading room. If Historic Geneva will get the plaque, I will pay for it.
    I first met Mrs. Quigley when I was selling Fuller Brushes in the early 1960s. I was friends with Dan Quigley, Helen’s son. Dan was also very interested in the Historical Society. He served on the board of Trustees and was Treasurer when I was director.
    Thanks again for all your research about Mrs. Quigley. She was an amazing woman.

    1. Becky Chapin says:

      Update: I found the plaque while cleaning out a storage room. I will find a new place to hang it so her name lives on!

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