Gertrude Louisa Besse King (1881-1923) was from a family of means and reputation. Her father owned a large chain of clothing stores in the Northeast known as “The Besse System.” She was the first wife of Stanley N. King and they had three children together: Richard, Gertrude, and Margaret.
Gertrude King graduated from Vassar College and went on to earn her MA from Radcliffe. She did research for President Wilson’s Industrial Conference, 1919-1920, and was chair of the Industrial Relations Committee of the League of Women Voters in Boston, 1921-1923. Her essays and book reviews were published in a volume entitled Alliances for the Mind (1924).*
Gertrude is listed as having died in 1923, the same time as her 6-year-old daughter Margaret, which comports with the information in the Allen diary. No information has been found about the cause of their deaths, but a double grave marker on a humble natural boulder marks their burying place together at Oak Grove Cemetery in Springfield, Massachusetts. There is no record in the diary of his having done a portrait of either the mother or daughter, the probability is strong that he was commissioned to make them from the death masques. His diary entries were sparse after 1920 and ended in June 1924.
Her husband Stanley King had a successful career as a shoe manufacturer and may have been an acquaintance of the clothing retailer Abraham Shuman whose memorial portrait was created by Allen in 1920. King graduated from Amherst College and Harvard Law School and served in the government under Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover where he may have been a colleague of John Wingate Weeks, also portrayed by Allen. Mr. King later became the President of Amherst College where he was greatly admired and respected, serving the college as President and Emeritus.**
Medium or Type: Death mask
Literature: FWA Diary Entries,”Proposed Commissions for 1922″ Two death masks 100