Anna Whelan Betts was born in Philadelphia and spent most of her life in the Delaware Valley. She began her career as an artist studying with Robert Vonnoh at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and continues at Drexel under Howard Pyle. From 1897 to 1899, Anna Betts was a member of Pyle’s school of illustration. She also attended Pyle’s summer school at Chadds Ford in 1899 with Bertha Corson Day, Ellen Bernard Thompson, and Sarah S. Stilwell. Betts and her fellow students did illustrations during 1899 for Paul Leicester Ford’s Janice Meredith, which was to be published in Collier’s, From this beginning, Betts went on to illustrate magazines including Harper’s Monthly, Century, Ladies’ Home journal, and St. Nicholas, as well as books.
In 1901, she illustrated Eleanor Hoyt’s “Nancy’s Country Christmas”, and in 1902 “A Song of a Single Note”. In Philadelphia Betts was active in the Watercolor Club. In 1915 she was awarded a bronze medal at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Around 1925, Anna Betts was advised to stop illustrating or suffer from early blindness. That same year she visited New Hope, Pennsylvania, and through the artist, Will Lathrop, met the founders of Solebury School. In 1926 when Solebury acquired a permanent residence, Betts offered to undertake the domestic affairs of the small school. It was a new venture for the illustrator, and she learned quickly how to hire help, order food, and care for young boys. In addition, she served as the school’s hostess and art teacher for twenty years. After her retirement in the late 1940s, Betts shared a house in New Hope with her sister, Ethel Betts Bains. As she grewolder, she only spent a small part of the year in New Hope, and the rest near Philadelphia.
Betts’s style is marked by its two-dimensionality of both figures and landscapes. Her pen-and-ink, as well as her color illustrations, depended upon their decorative quality as well as the narrative.