Christmas Stocking, 1900.
Calls in Cranford, ca. 1900.

Frances and Mary’s photographs were most frequently reproduced in popular magazines. In December 1900, a photograph of their gleeful nephew Frank Allen, Christmas Stocking, was used for the cover of Good Housekeeping. It was the first time that the magazine had used a photograph for its cover. Since few women photographers did commercial work, this high profile cover considerably enhanced the Allen sisters’ reputation.

In 1901 and 1902, Frances Benjamin Johnston authored a “series of picture-pages showing what American women have done with the camera” in seven articles for The Ladies’ Home Journal titled “The Foremost Women Photographers in America.” The eight featured women were Gertrude Käsebier, Mathilde Weil, Frances and Mary Allen, Emma Farnsworth, Eva Watson-Schütze, Zaida Ben-Yûsuf, and Elizabeth Brownell. The articles included cameo portraits of the photographers, a brief essay describing their contributions to the field, and four or five reproductions of their work. If the general public was unaware of the remarkable contributions women were making to the field of photography, at least the 800,000 subscribers to The Ladies’ Home Journal were not.

Johnston’s third The Ladies’ Home Journal “The Foremost Women Photographers in America” article, published in July 1901, was devoted to the Allen sisters.66 In it, she praised their particular style, and declared their success unrivaled. The images that accompanied the piece, A Crack with the Blacksmith, How-dy-do!, A Difficult Step, A Holbein Woman, and Calls in Cranford, combine genre and art photographs. Frances and Mary Allen were pleased that their work had received national recognition, and “amused at the surprise of the neighbors in seeing us so honored.”67 Indeed, the Allen sisters were so unassuming that many Deerfield residents were probably incredulous over the accolades they had received.

 

Photographs courtesy of Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, MA.