Maureen Hayes Mansfield – Wife of Senator Mike Mansfield

From contemporary press reports: 

Maureen Mansfield, 95, a former teacher who assisted in the election campaigns of her husband, longtime Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield, died September 20, 2000 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She had pneumonia and dementia and was being treated at the Washington Home and Hospice.

Mrs. Mansfield was teaching high school in Butte, Montana, when she met her future husband, then working as a mucker in the copper mines. She persuaded Mansfield, who had dropped out of school at age 14, to further his education.

Mike Mansfield, a Montana Democrat who retired from the Senate in 1977 and then was ambassador to Japan, frequently credited his wife as the most influential person in his life. “She put some sense into me, told me to go to school and make something of myself, and I did,” he once said.

The Mansfields returned to live in Washington in 1989, after he completed 12 years as envoy in Tokyo. He currently is a consultant to the investment company Goldman Sachs & Co.

Mrs. Mansfield was born in Anaconda, Montana, the daughter of Frank Hays, who served in the Montana State House of Representatives in 1914 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Butte and governor of Montana.

She went into teaching after graduating from St. Mary’s College, the women’s college then affiliated with Notre Dame University. She did graduate work in English at the University of California at Berkeley.

Introduced to Mansfield by her younger sister, she helped him apply to Montana State University, now the University of Montana. He was accepted in 1931 as a provisional student, even though he had not completed the eighth grade.

The condition was that he complete high school equivalency courses before completing college. She helped him do that and left her teaching job the next year to marry him and move to Missoula, Mont.

She cashed in her life insurance and worked as a social worker to help her husband through the university, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1933.

They both continued at the university to receive their master’s degrees, hers in English and his in history.

Mansfield taught at the university, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1940 and then was elected two years later. Mrs. Mansfield returned to Montana to campaign for her husband, sometimes on her own while he remained in Washington. He served for five terms and went on to the U.S. Senate.

He served as majority leader for 16 years, longer than anyone else, before stepping down in 1977. The Mansfields lived in Tokyo until he resigned as ambassador in 1989.

Mansfield told admirers that his wife was the unsung person who should get most of the credit for his success. At his insistence, the university library in Missoula was named for both of them and a statue of the couple erected nearby.

In addition to her husband, survivors include a daughter, Dr. Anne Mansfield of London, and a granddaughter.


On Wednesday, September 20, 2000, of Washington, DC. Beloved wife of Senator Mike Mansfield; mother of Anne Mansfield; grandmother of Caroline Marris. Friends may call at the MURPHY FUNERAL HOME OF ARLINGTON, 4510 Wilson Blvd., from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, September 25. Mass of Christian Burial will be offered 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, September 26, at Fort Myer Post Chapel. Interment Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Clarke College, General Fund, 1550 Clarke Dr., Dubuque, IA 52001-3198.

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