Most readers of the MESDA Journal did not know Betsy Allen or will not recognize her name. She was a private person and given to strong opinions, but also wonderfully literate and an unapologetic Anglophile. Betsy was passionate about antiques and history. She provided expertise and well-honed editorial skills that shaped every article published in the MESDA Journal for over a decade. Betsy Allen passed away in April 2021.
Our deep sense of loss has been buoyed by a significant anonymous gift in her memory to establish the Betsy W. Allen Memorial Fund that ensures publication of the MESDA Journal in perpetuity by underwriting all of the journal’s direct costs and expenses. This endowment is a most appropriate and meaningful way to remember and celebrate Betsy’s life and legacy. She loved antiques, but even more she cherished the evocative stories about people and places that are revealed through the study of decorative arts.
I met Betsy Allen in 2006 when she was closing down her antiques shop on Summit Street here in Winston-Salem. We shared an immediate connection through journalism and an appreciation for good books. Within a year Betsy and I were working together when she agreed to become our editorial assistant at MESDA and Old Salem. She immediately became an integral and beloved member of the team, editing articles for the journal, producing an award-winning magazine for museum members, and assisting on book projects.
Betsy’s knowledge of antiques and history came from being raised in a family of historic preservationists and through a life of erudite collecting. Her skills as a writer and editor were learned and honed through experience. In 1965, she received a degree in English from Wake Forest University, where she was the fiction editor of the college magazine and a features writer for the student newspaper. Betsy remained in Winston-Salem after college, becoming a news reporter and features writer for the Winston-Salem Journal. Her adventures in journalism continued as she became editor of a magazine published for employees of Piedmont Airlines. She also served as a spokesperson for the company until its merger with US Airways in the late 1980s. Betsy made great use of her privileges to fly with the airline, thinking nothing of jetting to Europe for lunch or a quick visit to museums and antiques shops.
Each fall we would bid farewell to Betsy and her husband Archie as they traveled to England to study literature and history at Oxford University. She would inevitably ship home boxes and boxes of rare and intriguing books purchased from the finest booksellers in Oxford and London. The weeks after their return were filled with afternoon escapes to the theater to see movies Betsy had missed while abroad. Partiality given to the British films, of course.
Although you may not have known Betsy Allen, you knew her anonymously through these pages—as she would have wanted. She was an extraordinary woman, and the Betsy W. Allen Memorial Fund reflects and sustains her passions for history and decorative arts scholarship through the articles published in the MESDA Journal. We are deeply grateful to the donor for their extraordinary gift in Betsy’s memory. Thank you.