Mansfield, Blanche McManus

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MANSFIELD, Blanche McManus

Born circa 1870, East Feliciana, Louisiana; death date unknown

Also wrote under: Blanche McManus

Married Milburg Francisco Mansfield, 1898

Blanche McManus Mansfield was educated in New Orleans and studied art in Paris. An illustrator of books and periodicals as well as a writer, Mansfield was published in The Boys' and Girls' Journal and St. Nicholas Magazine; a dozen color illustrations were commissioned for Rudyard Kipling's Ballad of East and West (1899). Mansfield married an author in 1898, moved to New York City, and later lived abroad. Her last address was listed as 9 Rue Falguiere, Paris (1945).

Mansfield specialized in travel books for children and for adults, particularly women. She wrote and illustrated eight of the fifty titles in the "Little Cousin" series published between 1905 and 1911. One of the first examples of informational literature for children, the series was designed to introduce American middle-class children to geography and history by identifying with children in other parts of the world. Well-written and illustrated with drawings and photographs, Mansfield's "Little Cousin" books emphasized food, dress, and customs as well as manners. They were also a child's travelogues that described selected tourist attractions of each country.

Mansfield's adult travel books include Romantic Ireland written with M. F. Mansfield (1904) and The American Woman Abroad (1911). Romantic Ireland is more ambitious than a travel book: It discusses 19th-and 20th-century Irish literature and the accomplishments of the Gaelic League, considers social problems like emigration and the want of industry, and suggests a policy of reconciliation with England.

The American Woman Abroad offers advice on a range of topics involving life abroad: cost, servants, foreign marketing and shopping, women traveling alone, and social conventions. It is of interest to the social historian studying Americans abroad or middle-class European social life before World War I. The advice is practical and realistic. The book concludes with Mansfeild's description of three housekeeping experiences: in a cottage in Kent, in a country house in Normandy, and in a villa on the Mediterranean.

Mansfield's work as an illustrator influenced her work as a writer; her prose, like her excellent draftsmanship, is clear, economical, and attentive to detail. Although her travel books are not limited to landscape, Mansfield's painter's eye is responsible for their pictorial quality. Her insights into other cultures reflect a thorough familiarity with the people among whom she lived and wrote.

Other Works:

The Voyages of the Mayflower (1897). Bachelor Ballads (1898). Our Little English Cousin (1905). Our Little French Cousin (1905). Our Little Dutch Cousin (1906). Our Little Scotch Cousin (1906). Our Little Arabian Cousin (1907). Our Little Hindu Cousin (1907). Our Little Egyptian Cousin (1908). Our Little Belgian Cousin (1911).

Bibliography:

Reference works:

Biographical Dictionary of Southern Authors (1978). Childhood in Poetry (1967). Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers from Colonial Times Through 1926 (1960).

—MAUREEN MURPHY