Tempe Elizabeth Allison

1891, Nebraska – 1966, Hayward, California

(Temperance Elizabeth Allison)

Art educator and theater participant in California, Tempe Allison was born in Nebraska, but lived

most of her childhood in Cimarron, Oklahoma with parents, John and Elisabeth Hill Allison and five younger siblings. Her formal name was Temperance Allison, but in biographical references and her publications, her first name is listed as Tempe.

In 1914, she earned an A.B. degree from Kingfisher College, a Congregational Church school founded in 1895 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma by Reverend Joseph Homer Parker, a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont. Grateful for the quality of that education, he dedicated himself to bringing equivalent liberal arts education to the Midwest. To establish the Kingfisher campus, he donated $2,500 of his own money to purchase 120 acres. The school was open for 27 years and became highly respected for its rigorous curriculum and focus on individual students. Graduating classes never exceeded more than 12 pupils. Apparently women were treated equally with men: of the 117 total graduates, 55 were females. “Despite a low number of alumni, three were Rhodes Scholars and three more qualified for the prestigious honor.” (Wikipedia) In 1922, Kingfisher College closed because of low enrollment, competition from other schools with lower tuition, and declining donations related to World War I. School records were transferred to the University of Oklahoma.

Tempe went to California where, from 1921 to 1922, she was a graduate student in English Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her special interest was set and costume design, and her 1922 M.A. thesis was titled Shakespeare on the San Francisco Stage 1850-1906. She spent her professional years as a long-time teacher of design at San Bernardino Junior College, and also served as Chair of the English Department, Dean of Women, and sponsor of Delta Psi Omega, the campus honorary society. In 1928, she wrote a pamphlet, The Theater in Early California, and she co-authored two books: Theater and School, 1932, and Theater School: A Dramatic Manual, 1947.

Of Tempe Allison’s days in San Bernardino, Elizabeth Robinson, daughter of Camille Bourne, wrote in 2018:

“I only recently found out my mom [Camille Bourne] was one of Tempe Allison’s avid students at San Bernardino Junior College. After my mom passed away, I found newspaper clippings, press releases, and old college programs from San Bernardino, some of them with Tempe’s name. In a teaching capacity, Tempe Allison must have been second to none as my mom turned out to be a consummate actress. Unpacking her boxes of never-before-seen newspaper clippings, photos, and long-held-onto programs, I can clearly see that her time with Tempe was the best, the purest form of my mom’s true spirit and most cherished time on earth.”

Never married, Tempe Allison lived in Colton near San Bernardino, traveled to England and Canada in 1934 and 1950, and died in Hayward, California on May 18, 1966.

Tempe Allison is not represented in the Museum of Nebraska Art collection.


Amazon.com, May 2015
Ancestry.com, Feb. 2014
Hughes, Edan Milton, Artists in California, 1786-1940, Volume I, Print
“Kingfisher College,” Wikipedia, Web, May 2015
Robinson, Elizabeth, Emails to Lonnie Dunbier, Feb. 4 & 5, 2018. She is the daughter of Camille Bourne, a student of Tempe Allison.
San Bernardino County Sun, newspaper: 12/02/1932
“The Sooner Magazine,University of Oklahoma, July 1930, p. 358, Web, May 2015
“Tom Tom Yearbook,” San Bernardino Valley College, E-Yearbook, p. 59, Web, Feb. 2014

Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

Museum of Nebraska Art Project:
Their Place, Their Time: Women Artists in Nebraska, 1825-1945