Helen Roberts Thomas

Helen Mills Roberts Thomas was born in 1921 in Shanghai, China, the daughter of Episcopal missionaries. She took up permanent residence in the United States only after the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1937, graduating from Chatham Hall (Chatham, Virginia) and Wheelock College (Boston, Massachusetts. She studied art for a summer at the Art Student’s League (New York, New York), then taught grade school in Engle-wood, NJ, served in the wartime Red Cross in China, taught in Newton, MA, and worked for the Boston Herald-Traveler before marrying John Cunningham Thomas, a New York native, Swarthmore and Yale graduate and DuPont Company research chemist, in 1951 and moving to Wilmington, Delaware

After raising three children, Helen returned to career and public life. She taught at Delaware Technical and Community College in the Humanities Department. In 1970, she founded the Delaware chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She helped found and was an original member of the Delaware Governor’s Council for Women, and founded the Delaware chapter of the Older Women’s League (OWL). She is an ACLU honoree and a member of the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame, and her papers reside with the Delaware Historical Society. She retired from teaching in 1980, and enjoyed a late career as tai chi instructor at the Sun Taijiquan School in Wilmington, Delaware, retiring just before her 90th birthday.

Helen has returned to China many times since relations were normalized in the 1970’s. She was a silver medalist in the International Martial Arts Competition in Beijing, China, in 2005. And she has long been a member of the Episcopal Church of Sts. Andrew and Matthew in Wilmington, Delaware.