Primarily known as a painter of the northern Alberta landscape and the built environment of the homesteads, McNaught’s work documenting the construction of the Alaska Highway in the 1940s, with her friend Evy McBryan, has been well recognized. During WWII, the two artists were granted permission for the project from the Prime Minister of Canada, Mackenzie King. She worked in many media beyond painting and drawing: the bronze plaque on the Lars Haukness grave in the Old Banff Cemetery is one of her pieces. McNaught’s love of animals is very evident as she drew, painted and sculpted horses and wildlife throughout her career.
Betty from Beaverlodge, as she was known, was born in the small village of Glenmorris by the Grande River in Ontario in 1902. The youngest of six children she was always interested in art. In 1912 the family left Ontario and travelled west to Edson by train, then on to the Peace River country in an ox cart on the newly opened Edson Trail. They settled in a homestead near Beaverlodge where she attended Appleton School. She went on to high school at Lake Saskatoon and then studied to become a teacher at the Normal School in Calgary. Upon graduation, she returned to the Appleton School where she taught for two years. She would later buy the old school and have it moved to her farm where she used it as a studio.
After studies at the Ontario College of Art (graduating in 1929), teaching at Mount Royal College (Calgary) and then the Ontario Ladies College (Whitby, Ontario), in 1936 she returned to her family homestead south of Beaverlodge, Alberta. She continued to teach: University of Alberta Department of Extension courses as well as workshops. She was a founder of the Grande Prairie Art Club, the Beaverlodge Art Club, and was an active member of the Peace Watercolour Society.
The artist spent much of her spare time travelling around the Peace Country sketching and painting and established herself as a prominent and much admired artist of that region. She generously illustrated the local history book "Beaverlodge to the Rockies". Working mainly in watercolour, oils, and pen and ink, McNaught’s Peace Country landscapes and pioneer scenes are found in many private collections in Alberta and around the world. Her work was exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa) and in many solo and group exhibitions.
McNaught was awarded the Alberta Achievement Award of Excellence in Art (1977) and the Sir Frederick Haultain Prize in recognition of a lifetime of service and exceptional accomplishment (1982). In 1985 the Alberta Society of Artists granted her lifetime member status.