Helen Margaret Gilkey was born on March 6, 1886, in Montesano, Washington. She moved with her family to Corvallis in 1903. She received her MA at Oregon Agricultural College in 1911 and her PhD at University of California at Berkeley in 1915. From 1915 until 1918, she worked as a scientific illustrator at Berkeley. Curator of the herbarium at OAC from 1918 until 1951, Gilkey was also a Professor of Botany. She had 44 publications to her credit, 10 on vascular plant taxonomy and 10 on Tuberales. Gilkey died in 1972.