After graduating from Grinnell College, Iowa, she taught Latin and U.S. history for a time in Hillsboro, IL. In 1940, she received her Master's Degree from the University of Northern Colorado. Her thesis was on the Mexican Oil Crisis. Fifty years later, she visited her thesis, still on the open shelves at the Michener Library.
While at Grinnell, one of her roommates introduced her to Rocky Mountain National Park, which began a deep spiritual connection that lasted until her death. Helen and her long time friend and companion, Mary Brinkmann (also a Glenbard teacher), bought a small cabin in Estes Park for summer visits.