Born in Ontario, Canada, Beals was one of the first women in the United States to have a career as a photojournalist. She moved to Williamsburg, Massachusetts, at the age of seventeen to become a schoolteacher. Having won a camera in 1888, Beals began to supplement her income by taking photographs. Upon her marriage in 1897, she and her husband collaborated as itinerant photographers in New England. When her photographs of a Vermont fair were published in local newspapers in 1900, Beals earned the distinction of being the world’s first female news photographer. In 1902 she was hired as one of the first female staff photographers for New York’s Buffalo Courier. Two years later Beals became the first woman to gain press credentials to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, and her photographs appeared in several important national periodicals. The following year, she and her husband moved to Greenwich Village, where they opened a photography studio. Beals had an abundance of work and became well-known as an urban photographer. In addition to capturing New York’s architectural icons, she focused on society’s upper and lower classes, visiting Central Park, Chinatown, and the Lower East Side. After divorcing her husband, Beals opened the Village Art Gallery in Greenwich Village in 1917. She began photographing upper class homes and gardens during the 1920s and publishing her work in national gardening magazines. In 1928 Beals published a book of poems accompanied by her photographs entitled Songs of a Wanderer. That year she moved to California for a short time to photograph in Hollywood, but she eventually returned to Greenwich Village. As a result of the Great Depression, Beals began to struggle financially, and she eventually died in poverty at Bellevue Hospital in New York City at the age of 71.