Constance, 1897

Frances and Mary Allen shared an artistic vision for close to fifty years. Recognition of the success of their vision came in 1901 when eminent photographer and critic Frances Benjamin Johnston named the sisters two of  “The Foremost Women Photographers in America.” She declared: “Frances and Mary Allen, like most of their professional sisters, are women whose success in photography is the result of patient, painstaking effort. Without any special training but that of well-read women of good taste they have put character, dignity, and artistic feeling into their pictures, and they stand unrivaled in their individual line of work. In that quaint, old Massachusetts town of Deerfield the Allen sisters have found a veritable mine of picturesque material.”1

Frances and Mary Allen’s home and inspiration was in the Connecticut River Valley town of Deerfield.2 Their father, Josiah Allen, owned a successful farm in the Wapping section of Deerfield where he grew corn, potatoes, rye, wheat, grass, and tobacco.3 After Josiah’s 1853 marriage to Mary Stebbins, they had four children: Frances Stebbins, born August 10, 1854; Edmund Eliel, born November 23, 1855; Mary Electa, born May 14, 1858; and Caleb, born December 29, 1861.4 Josiah and Mary Stebbins Allen were devoted to their children. The family was supportive of one another, well established in the community, and closely connected to a wide circle of kin and friends.

Photographs courtesy of Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, MA.