Logan County History: Celebrating Women’s History Month

Madge Acton Mansfield
By: Mary E. Mortimer
Madge Acton was born in 1879 in London, Ohio to Peyton and Florence Collins Acton. Mr. Acton was editor of the London Times newspaper and then in 1883, he became editor of the Sioux Falls Leader in South Dakota. Florence, and children Madge, and Howard remained in London. Mrs. Acton had been privately educated in the initial study of music at the New England Conservancy of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She had gained a reputation as both a teacher and writer.
Peyton Acton passed away in 1885 in South Dakota. In 1886, Florence Acton and her two children moved to Bellefontaine. Florence became a teacher of voice in the public schools for three years. She then taught private voice and music lessons at her home. She also wrote articles for various educational magazines.
Madge began the study of music at an early age with her mother. She later studied music with a German uncle, then in New York City with a cousin, who was a renowned pianist and a voice coach. Later, she studied piano with Albino Gorno in Cincinnati. Madge also began writing prose and verse at a young age.
The Acton family owned a cottage at Indian Lake where they spent their summers. On a summer day in 1917, while Madge was walking her dog along a path at Indian Lake, she met Harry Mansfield. He was the State Game Protector and had a picture postcard business at the lake. Mansfield always put an “M” and the date on his postcards. Over the next four years their romance blossomed, and they were married in November 1921. Sadly, Harry Mansfield passed away in 1932.
After Harry’s death, Madge continued to write poetry and published her first book of poems titled “Miniatures” in 1934. The book featured miniature poems Madge wrote about Logan County women and their photos taken by Hadley Photography Studio of Bellefontaine.
Her favorite subjects were animals, willow trees, shadows, the sun, and the moon. Many of her poems were written for children such as “Pumpkin Pie”, “Gingerbread Man”, “Apple Tart”, and “Polly Two Shoes” and her good fairy aunt “Hinka Dink Kee”. She also taught voice and music at their home.
Madge was honored by several organizations including, the Ohioana Library Association and the Official Ohio Poetry Day Organization. Her poems were described as “music set to words on things we all know about.” Madge stated, “Verse and music are twins” and, “I write poetry because I must have soul beauty in my life”. She also denied having any “writing talent”.
In 1951, her second book of poems titled “Flickerings” was published by Bruce Humphries, Inc. of Boston, MA. Humphries wrote the following foreword “This rich and varied collection of charming poems displays warmth of human tenderness, original spontaneity, and profound joy in daily living. There is manifested a great love of animals, which appears in the many dog poems; and the nature poems show an unusual sensitivity to the beauty of the outdoors. Nor is there a lack of humor in some in the collection.”
Madge published four more poetry books “I Heard a Bird Singing” in 1956, “Isn’t Life Wonderful” in 1960, “World and I” in 1962, and “Dogs and Other Persons” in 1964. Her poems were published in leading newspapers and magazines, and she was a frequent contributor to the Bellefontaine Examiner.
Madge’s brother, Howard Acton, was a writer for the Cincinnati Times-Star, Cincinnati Enquirer, the Washington Post, and National Geographic Magazine, and did public relations and freelance writing.
Madge Acton Mansfield passed away in December 1964.
Visit the Logan County History Center to learn more interesting aspects of Logan County history.
The History Center is open for tours Wednesday – Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
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