Born in Chester, Colorado, Mary Butler was a landscape painter who traveled throughout Europe and the Western United States as well as in Maine and New Hampshire. She first attended the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, then the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts (PAFA), where she studied under the artists William Chase, Robert Henri, Edward Redfield and Cecilia Beaux. Butler continued her education in Paris with the likes of Gustave Courtois, and Gustave Girardot. She later went on to hold the position of the President of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts for many years.
She was identified with Philadelphia all her life, though frequently traveled in order to her chosen landscapes. Favored places included the mountains in the western United States, the White Mountains in Maine, and the Pyrenees and Catskills in New York, as well as areas abroad in Ireland and Scotland. Rugged scenes specifically inspired her. During her artistic career she received the Gold Medal of the Plastic Club in 1918, the Mary Smith Prize from PAFA in 1925, and the Eloise Egan Prize from the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors in New York, among others. Butler exhibited widely in her lifetime, and today her works can be found in public and private collections across the country.