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Guide to the Helen Miller Gould Shepard Papers
 MS 1422

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Julianna Monjeau

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 29, 2022
Finding Aid is written in English.

Historical Note

Helen Miller Gould Shepard, the eldest daughter of famed New York financier Jay Gould (1836-1892) and Helen Day Miller (1838-1889), was born in Manhattan, New York on June 20, 1868. Helen spent much of her childhood between Manhattan and Lyndhurst, their summer estate in Tarrytown, New York. Helen inherited the Lyndhurst estate after her father's death in 1892. Helen married Finley Johnson Shepard (1867-1942), a "railroad man", on January 22, 1913 at the age of 45. The couple adopted three children, Finley Jay, Olivia, and Helen Anna.

Helen's adult life was marked by her dedication to philanthropy, patriotism, and religious endeavors. Helen began her most notable philanthropic activities in the last decade of the 19th century. Helen opened the Lyndhurst estate to the community and hosted ill and impoverished children and families, entertained and tended to injured soldiers during the Spanish-American war, and established a sewing school for young ladies in Lyndhurst. Helen also maintained Woody Crest, a fresh air charity and home for physically handicapped children in Tarrytown, New York.

On May 6, 1898, at the outset of the Spanish-American War, Helen donated $100,000 to the federal government of the United States of America. This sizable personal donation, in addition to her other donations on behalf of war relief, thrust Helen into the national spotlight. In December of the same year Senator Joseph Wheeler of Alabama introduced a bill to the House of Representatives to praise her donation, which was passed in February of 1899. Helen also spent a great deal of time and money supporting the Young Men's Christian Association. In March and April of 1912, Helen went on a highly publicized coast to coast speaking and fundraising tour on behalf of the Y.M.C.A.

Helen was heavily involved with New York University, having graduated from the NYU Law School for Women in April 1895. Following in her father's footsteps, Helen donated generously to the University, most notably donating money for the Gould Memorial Library in New York University's Bronx campus in 1899, which later housed the Hall of Fame of Great Americans established in 1901.

In addition to her charitable contributions, Helen was wholly dedicated to spreading the Christian faith. She was a member of both the American Tract Society and the American Bible Society. In 1918, Helen and Emma Baker Kennedy became the first female vice presidents of the American Bible Society. Helen printed a series of biblical tracts, booklets and leaflets from 1904 until her death. Most notably, her series of tracts entitled "Passages to Memorize: Suggested by Helen Gould Shepard" were published and translated into over twenty languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, and Russian.

Helen Miller Gould Shepard died of a stroke in her Lyndhurst home in Tarrytown, New York on December 21, 1938 at the age of 70.