Allen Homestead, Wapping. ca. 1890.
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, 1890-1895.

The Allen house rarely had only immediate family under its roof. Josiah’s sister Judith continued living in the house after he married, and other relatives came for extended stays. His wife’s sisters Lenora, Louisa, and Lucy were such frequent callers that they became part of the extended Allen family. As a member of the Wapping School Committee, Josiah was involved in hiring teachers.5 When Frances and Mary were young, the Allens boarded young, unmarried teachers from the school and, occasionally, Deerfield Academy pupils. Boarders participated in family life and shared the Allens’ table, introducing new ideas that influenced Frances and Mary. After Deerfield Academy pupil Rosie Miller of Hatfield, Massachusetts, boarded with the Allens in 1869, both she and her sister Ellen formed lifelong relationships with Frances and Mary.

Josiah and Mary Allen provided their children with opportunities to advance academically, socially, and artistically. The pleasures of rural life included picnics on Sugarloaf Mountain, sleigh rides, outings to the spiritualist camp at Lake Pleasant, visits to Franklin County cattle shows, and attendance at tableaux exhibitions, dances, and sugaring parties. Their schooling was enriched with lessons in singing and dancing. Piano lessons were added in 1869, when Josiah Allen paid the princely sum of $315.00 for a Haines piano.6 Sundays were spent at Unitarian services at the Deerfield Meeting House. 

Frances and Mary had their share of childhood illnesses such as measles, scarlet fever, and mumps, as well as seemingly never-ending colds and sore throats. Although recurring ear infections or scarring may have contributed to their eventual loss of hearing, there is little evidence that their hearing was impaired until they were in their thirties.

Photographs courtesy of Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, MA.