1900 — 1998
Helen Foster was born in Kingston, on September 24, 1900, in her parent’s home on Indian Pond Road, the same house in which her grandfather had been born. She grew up in Kingston, attending the Faunce, Patuxet, Maple Avenue, and Kingston High Schools. Graduating in 1918 as valedictorian, Helen entered the Massachusetts Normal Art School (now Massachusetts College of Art).
Upon her graduation from college in 1922, Foster became one of the first women to enter the male-dominated field of commercial art design and is today recognized as the first female commercial artist in Boston. Although finding work was difficult, Foster persevered, eventually establishing her own design studio on Park Street. She commuted to Boston daily until 1946, when she moved her studio to her family home here in Kingston.
In 1950 Foster was commissioned to design the official Town Seal. The design, which depicts the Kingston-built brig Independence, was drawn only after Foster had spent many hours researching the ship and talking with sea captains, as no known sketches existed of the Independence.
In addition to her artwork, Foster left another legacy to the Town of Kingston: diaries that chronicled her daily life, beginning at age fourteen. Her diaries contain a wealth of information about life in Kingston spanning the twentieth century. In the 1980s, Foster wrote A Walk around the Square – 1910-1911, as remembered in 1982, written as a walking tour of the Indian Pond neighborhood. She also wrote a series of articles, called Then and Now, for a local newspaper, highlighting her observations on how the town had changed during her lifetime.
Helen Foster retired in 1980, at the age of 80, but she continued her active role in the community. She was a member of the Jones River Village Historical Society and a charter member of the Kingston Council on Aging, she designed and contributed to the Town Quilt, and in 1994 she collaborated with another Kingston artist, Marshall Joyce, on the design of the new town flag. Her legacy also includes her research into the history of the Kingston Baptist Church, of which she was a lifelong member, as well as a series of lectures on early twentieth century life in Kingston.
Helen Foster was known for her gentle, modest, and generous nature, and for a delightful wit, as well as for her prodigious talents and energy.
Biography written for the Kingston Arts Festival “Kingston’s Past Masters” exhibit