Jean Illsley Clarke, parenting educator and author, dies aged 96

Jean Illsley Clarke believed that strong self-esteem was a crucial ingredient for healthy families and that both children and their parents needed to be nurtured throughout their lives.

A Minneapolis-area teacher, parenting educator, and researcher, Clarke is the author and co-author of 18 books that guide parents through the joys and challenges of raising children and beyond.

“Her true legacy taught us the difference between child development and human development,” said colleague and friend Sue Strom. “She was decades ahead of her time and helped us avoid consumerism and shame. She wisely took the important concepts of child development and gave us words of affirmation to encourage healthy growth through all stages of life from cradle to death. “

Clarke died at home in Plymouth on June 30, 2021 as a result of a fall. She was 96 years old. Family and friends gather this week to celebrate her life and that of her husband.

Clarke was born on April 26, 1925 on a dairy farm in southern Minnesota to Harry and Lois Illsley. She graduated from Northfield High School in 1944 and received a bachelor’s degree in home economics from the University of Minnesota in 1948.

She moved to Spokane, Washington, where she taught for two years before returning to Minnesota and teaching home economics at the Minneapolis Public Schools.

Clarke was a pioneer in television, hosting a weekly household show on public television entitled “Tea at Three with Jeannie K.” Her show was canceled in 1961 when she was pregnant and began showing – a taboo at the time.

Clarke, then a young mother of one, met husband Richard “Dick” Clarke on a blind date in 1959. They married a year later, settled at Gleason Lake in Plymouth and had two more children.

Clarke left her job as a teacher to raise her children and do volunteer work. When her youngest finished elementary school, she decided to focus on a career centered on family and parenthood.

“She always wanted to change something in the world. She found the best way to fix things was to start with babies and kids,” said son Wade Clarke. “She decided the best thing she could do was help people understand how to be better parents.”

Clarke earned a master’s degree in human development from St. Mary’s University in 1978. Her first parenting book, Self-Esteem: A Family Affair, was published that year. In the book’s foreword, Clarke shared her personal experiences and struggles as a young mother, and that openness struck a chord.

“She wrote, ‘It was tough and lonely. I had the blues,'” daughter Jennifer Clarke said. “It just took off from there. She became a parent educator.”

Jean Clarke’s early writings, teachings, and research focused on developmental affirmations that parents could share with their growing children. These included “I love you just the way you are” and “I love you even though we’re different; i love growing with you.”

She also advocated parenting self-care and affirmations that extended into adulthood.

“She taught us how to accept and affirm each stage of life,” Strom said. “She gave us words to affirm what every single person needs at every stage of life.”

Clarke later wrote about the phenomenon of overindulgence in families and co-authored the 2003 book How Much Is Enough? Everything you need to know to avoid overindulgence and raise lovely, responsible and respectful children”.

In addition to writing, she has designed and led parenting workshops in Minnesota and around the world for more than four decades.

Clarke survived her children Wade Clarke from Minnetrista; Jennifer Clarke of Golden Valley; Marc Clarke of Loveland, Colorado; and five grandchildren.

A joint life celebration for Jean and Dick Clarke will be held Thursday from 10am at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, 3121 Groveland School Road in Wayzata.

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