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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Who Were Willard and Spackman?

Published May 19, 2014 9:34 AM by Debra Karplus
There are numerous publications for occupational therapists, some general, and others on specific topics such as pediatrics or management. Back when I was in OT school in the 1970s, the Willard and Spackman Occupational Therapy textbook was "the Bible" for all OTs. It seemed that there weren't many other published OT books!

Enjoying historical research, I became curious about the Willard and Spackman textbook; I googled each name, Helen S. Willard and Clare S. Spackman, discovering that both were on Facebook and LinkedIn. Logic told me that these social media folks were younger women with similar names. My search continued.

Finding Willard and Spackman

Using an online database used for genealogical research, I found in the Social Security Death Index, Clare Spackman, born December 8, 1909, died in Buck, Pennsylvania, August 5, 1992 age 83. This matched an online obituary stating that Clare Spencer Spackman, born in Ardmore Pennsylvania, was a pioneer in OT. I learned that Spackman had worked at Bellevue in NY in 1929 and 1930, and then began hospital work in Philadelphia in 1931; she was also a crafts teacher. (Note that arts and crafts were a big part of OT during its early years.)  Later, Spackman, an avid traveler and genealogist, taught at the University of Pennsylvania.

Helen S. Willard is more of a mystery, at least in finding her presence in today's online world. I found a Helen Willard who had been an OT in the US Army and the US Public Health Service. Ms. Willard had taught at the Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy where she became Dean in 1934.

The Many Editions of the Willard and Spackman Occupational Therapy Book

Searching further, I discovered that the two Pennsylvania occupational therapy scholars collaborated on the first edition of the book, published by JB Lippincott Company in 1947. The second edition, Principles of Occupational Therapy was published in 1956. Edition three came out in 1963. And the fourth edition was published 1971; this was probably the textbook used when I was in OT school. This fourth edition was also published in Spanish and Japanese.

Then I recalled that I owned one of the Willard and Spackman Occupational Therapy books. And yes, on the shelf here in my office it sat amidst a collection of other books with far fewer pages than my Tenth Edition 2003, still published by Lippincott, and filled with 1056 pages loaded with valuable theoretical and practical information, photographs, diagrams, charts and resource lists and references for practitioners and students to utilize. This edition has three editors and one hundred contributors. Then I did something that, admittedly, I seldom do; I read the preface of my 2003 book.  And in the preface was a classic photo (from the AOTA archives) of Ms. Willard and Ms. Spackman autographing the 5th edition of the Occupational Therapy book.

Editions five through eight were co-authored by Hopkins and Smith. Subsequent editions had different combinations of authors. A twelfth edition of the book was published in 2013.


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I have been searching for Helen S Willard or relatives of hers for 3 years. Someone suggested I try obituaries which is where I located your name dealing with the same mystery.

I live in Wilmington NC and quite by accident found some wonderful mementoes of Helen...medals referring to the  Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy as Director 1935 - 1964, President American Occ. Assn. 1958 - 1960, Distinguished Daughter of PA  1954.

Wanting to connect these prizes I contacted the Distinguished Daughters, the Philly School of Occ therapy, the Philly school alumni association, the board of directors of the school chairperson.  No one could help me, though everyone promised to search for records of her.  No one called or emailed me back.

She has been a huge mystery to me.  I wonder if you could help me a little longer with this search.  These keepsakes need to be cherished by her loved ones.


Nancy Bullock

General Manager

The Cotton Exchange  321 N Front Wilmington NC  28401

910-343-9896 (w)  910-262-7633 (c)

nancy bullock, REal Estate - Manager, Cotton Exchange March 17, 2015 2:31 PM
Wilmington NC

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