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The Blue Book of Iowa Women A History of Contemporary Women

Compiled by Winona Evans Reeves, 1914.

  
 

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Mrs. Belle A. Mansfield

Belle A. Mansfield, nee Babb, was born May 23, 1846, in Des Moines county, Iowa, and died at the home of her brother, Judge W. I. Babb in Aurora, Ill., August 1, 1911.  Her father, Miles Babb, came to Iowa in 1837, and was killed by caving in of the tunnel of the Bay State Mining Co., of which he was superintendent, in 1852; and her mother, Mary Babb, removed to Mt. Pleasant, in 1860.  Here Mrs. Mansfield attended the public schools until 1862, when she entered the Iowa Wesleyan University, graduating from it in 1866.  She spent the next year in teaching in Simpson College at Indianola, Iowa.

In 1867 she commenced the study of law and was admitted to the bar in June, 1869.  She had the honor of being the first woman in the United States that was ever admitted to practice law.  That she was the first to be so admitted was definitely settled by an investigation of the question by a committee appointed by the Congress of Women Lawyers held in Chicago during the World's Fair in 1893.  She was married to Prof. John M. Mansfield, Ph. D., then Professor of Chemistry in the Iowa Wesleyan University, in June, 1868, and in 1872 she and her husband went to Europe where they remained over a year studying in London, Paris and Berlin.  Upon their return she was elected Professor of English and Preceptress in the Iowa Wesleyan University in the fall of 1873, which positions she held until 1881, when she resigned to join her husband who was then Professor of Chemistry in De Pauw University of Greencastle, Indiana.  From 1881 to the day of her death in 1911, she served De Pauw University in various important positions.  She was first elected Dean of Woman and in charge of Ladies' Hall, which places, in connection with others, she held for nearly twenty years.  In 1886 she was also made Registrar of the Faculty and in 1890, on the resignation of Dr. John C. Ridpath, she was elected Professor of History, which place she held until 1894, when she was elected Dean of the School of Music and also Dean of the Art School.  Both of these schools, up to that time had been a burden to the University financially.  Such was her energy, executive and business ability that they soon became not only self-supporting, but also a source of revenue.  She was an eminently effective college woman.  She was a close and accurate student, a very extensive reader, and had the highest quality of social traits, so that without apparent effort she impressed her rare personality upon the entire college community.  The many thousand students with whom she come in contact during her nearly forty years college work hold her name in grateful remembrance.  She was always an active church worker, serving for years as superintendent of Sunday school, president of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, and an active worker in the cause of temperance.  She was also popular as a club woman, cheerful, responding to every demand made upon her.

Bishop Edwin H. Hughes of the M. E. church, who was at one time president of the De Pauw University, thus summoned up her character in a letter written the day after her death:

 "She was the strongest and truest woman I have ever known, and my five years' association with her at De Pauw University gave me an adequate opportunity for seeing what a brave, patient, effective worker she was.  Above all else she wrought out for herself in service a splendid character.  She will be much at home with God."

 

 

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