Ethel Franklin Betts

The sister of Anna Whelan Betts, Ethel followed the same patterns as her exemplary sibling, first studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and later enrolling in the Howard Pyle illustration classes at Drexel Institute and then later in Wilmington, Delaware at the Howard Pyle School of Art which she attended in 1900. Ethel, her sister Anna, and art student Dorothy Warren, shared a studio and living quarters in Wilmington, for two years during their tutelage period with Pyle.

Ethel was neither prolific nor pushy enough to gain many commissions and therefore, her illustrations have become quite prized when they are found. She did however, have enough contacts with magazines through Pyle and her sister to gain illustration work from St. Nicholas, Reader, McClure’s Magazine, and Collier’s magazines. Those successes invariably bred more work, particularly with book publishers and between 1904 and 1909, she illustrated a number of books such as The Complete Mother Goose, Favorite Nursery Rhymes, Fairy Tales from Grimm, The Raggedy Man, and While the Heart Beats Young.

She too, like her sister, won a bronze medal for her illustration work at the Panama/Pacific Exposition in 1915. Her award was for the story ‘The Six Swans’.

Ethel Franklin Betts’ work was quite graphic in layout and she garnered many fans for the delicate yet strong impact of her images, especially in children’s book illustrations. In many ways, there are similar aspects to the work of these two talented sisters. She married in 1909, but illustrated little thereafter, although she was invited frequently to exhibit her portfolio of illustrations and did so with great gusto, craving some recognition during a dormant part of her life. She would offer her tattered portfolio of originals, well into the 1930’s for scholastic exhibitions and even for unique shows of Howard Pyle’s students and their work.