Mary Emma Dean (or Deane) was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, on November 5, 1853, the daughter of Benjamin W. Dean and Angeline Cobb. She was raised in Grafton, and attended the Leland & Gray Seminary in Townshend, Vermont, and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. On May 26, 1881, she married Chapin Howard (1853-December 22, 1903), the son of Ormando S. Howard and Lucy Spink. They had one son, Chapin, Jr., born in 1882. The elder Chapin Howard worked as a dry goods merchant and furniture dealer in Meriden, Connecticut, where the Howard family lived until moving to Grafton, Vermont, in 1902. Mary Dean Howard died on January 2, 1906. Mary's sisters, Lucy and Harriet ("Hattie"), moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before 1884. They married Rollin E. Woodworth and Arthur H. Tufts, respectively.