Nan and Wilna lived together for 59 years, that is from 1920 to 1979.
Wilna Hervey, born in San Francisco, was the only child of the marriage of William Russell Hervey and Anna Van Horn Traphagen. Known to friends and family as "Willie," Wilna Hervey grew up in affluent circumstances at Beach Ninth Street, Far Rockaway.
During her youth in late 1910s, Wilna studied at the Art Students League in New York City, Winold Reiss' studio at 4 Christopher Street, New York City, and in Woodstock, New York during the summer of 1918. Her acting career began with a few silent movie roles at the Vitagraph Studios in Brooklyn as early as 1916; for her artistic pursuits Hervey adopted the professional name "Wilna Wilde."
In 1919, she was cast in the role of "The Powerful Katrinka" in The Toonerville Trolley silent film series based on Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Folks comic strip, which was produced by Siegmund Lubin's Betzwood Motion Picture Studios in Pennsylvania. Much of the slapstick comedy in the series revolves around Hervey's imposing physical stature, she stood 6 feet 3 inches tall (190 cm) in contrast with her diminutive male co-stars.
While Wilna was in Pennsylvania working on the production, she met the painter Nan Mason, the daughter of her co-star Dan Mason, who played the Skipper. Nan and Hervey became life partners, remaining together until Hervey's death in 1979.
When the Toonerville Trolley films ceased production in 1921, Wilna Hervey and Dan Mason reprised a version of their characters for the Plum Center Comedies, an unofficial knockoff comedy series produced by the Paul Gerson Pictures Corporation in California. This time Wilna played the "Amazonian baggage smasher" Tillie Overton, who was clearly inspired by the Powerful Katrinka.
Around 1919-1920, Wilna's father bought her a studio in Bearsville, New York. She and Nan Mason split their time between painting and farming in Woodstock, New York, and pursuing acting opportunities in California, from 1922 to 1929. They became popular members of the Woodstock artists community, and both found some artistic success there during the 1960s. During the harsh New York winters they also spent time in Carmel, California, and Manatee County, Florida.
After years of declining health in the 1970s, Wilna died at the Manatee Memorial Hospital near her Bradenton, Florida home on March 6, 1979. She is buried alongside Nan Mason at Artists Cemetery in Woodstock, New York. Wilna Hervey's personal papers, which include an unpublished manuscript of her memoirs, are held at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Nan Mason was born in New York City. Nan Mason first partner, Arthur Ryan, died of pneumonia before their wedding. In the 1920s she became the long-time partner of actress Wilna Hervey. They met on the set in Pennsylvania, Mason was the daughter of Hervey's co-star Dan Mason.
At first the lived with Mason's father, in an home in Audubon, Pennsylvania, and later moved together in a studio home in Bearsville, New York, their principal home until Hervey's death in 1979.
They were part of the artists community in Woodstock, New York, and during the summers they moved to Carmel, California, and Manatee County, Florida. Every year they hosted an annual costume party during which they auctioned art works to raise money for charity.
During the Depression of the 1930s, Nan and Wilna opened their own shop, "Gaylite Candles", which gathered several stores in Manhattan, including Hammacher Schlemmer; the candles itself were hand-made by Nan.
As a painter, Nan Mason was part of the Woodstock Artist Colony and also that of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California and Anna Marie Island, Florida. Mason specialized in enamel painting, adopting "semi abstract urban motifs and bolder colors", with a cubist movement influence.
From Woodstock, NY to Carmel, California, Wilna and Nan danced, sculpted, painted and played their way through many of America's bohemian artist';s colonies.. Nan Mason was on the Board of Trustees of the Woodstock Guild of Craftsmen.
They helped raising their nephew, future Lt. Col. Bruce Campbell Cator, who lived with them in Bearsville for a period. He died on July 7, 1960. In 1962, Wilna and Nan inherited the main share of Eugene Speicher's estate. Speicher was a noted Woodstock artist.
They are buried side by side at Artists Cemetery, Woodstock, New York.
In 2015, the James Cox Gallery at Woodstock displayed the exhibition Wilna Hervey & Nan Mason: Two Woodstock Originals. In 2015 Joseph P. Eckhardt publised Living Large: Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason , a biography retelling the love story of Wilna and Nan.