Ensign wrote an art-news column for the “Inquirer and Mirror”, and painted Americana canvases of such subjects as the American Revolution and Nantucket history. She studied sculpture in New York and on island worked with Niki Carpenko. At the beginning of the ‘80’s, Ensign shared a gallery with Jo Sibley called the Ensign-Sibley Gallery. She kept a studio on Eel Point Road. She flourished as an artist from 1970-1990.
Elizabeth "Betty" Yates Ensign, an artist, writer, reporter and editor, formerly of Nantucket, died Tuesday, Aug. 18. 2009 in Winston-Salem. N.C. She was 80. Mrs. Ensign was the daughter'of Eugene A. and Margaret P. Yates, summer residents of Nantucket for years. Born in Monmouth Hills, N.J., she was raised in Manhattan, graduated from Chatham Hall School in Virginia, and from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxvillc, N.Y., studying art, history, English, philosophy, folklore and myth. She married her first husband Dr. Edward M. Shepard at St. Paul's Church on Nantucket in June 1944. The couple had five children. As a child she studied sculpture, and gravitated toward painting and mixed media over the years. She had numerous exhibits in New York. Connecticut, North Carolina, Maine and on Nantucket, and directed art galleries both in Hastings-on-Hudson and on Nantucket. In the 1960s she edited three historical adventures, including "The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex" (with Iola Haverstick), a narrative account by the first mate of a Nantucket whaler that was rammed twice by an enraged sperm whale in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 20, 1820, and the survival of just eight of the original crew Parts of the original account inspired Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick." She was a reporter for many New England newspapers, including the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, the Westport (Conn.) Town Crier, and the Lincoln County (Damariscotta, Maine) News. She was an avid outdoorswoman, loving horseriding, "beagleing," surf-fishing, and just going on walks with her dogs. She married Powell Ensign in 1975, and they lived together in Newburyport, Mass. and on Nantucket until his death in 1981. She was a summer resident of Surfside for over 40 years, and a full-time resident of Dionis from 1978 through 1983.