Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Barbara Oberfeld Mandel
MSA SC 3520-2294
First Lady of Maryland, 1969-1974

Barbara Oberfeld Mandel, called "Bootsie" by those who knew her well, was raised in Baltimore as one of seven children.  Outgoing and energetic, she joined a sorority and enjoyed the social scene.  Her social skills came in handy when it came time to campaign on her husband's behalf, for she formed friendships easily where Marvin was often ill-at-ease. She enjoyed Maryland politics, studying the issues and keeping track of bills.  "A great part of my life is politics.  I've always campaigned with Marvin, helping him to set up precincts and so forth.  I've enjoyed all the years my husband has been in the legislature.  I think women should be more active in politics.  They should check each candidate's record and go down to the legislature and read about the men who represent them.  It's all there...I want to be well-informed on what is going on so I can discuss things intelligently with my husband."2  A friend described Bootsie:  "...she likes fun, kidding around, earthy--but stable, so stable.  And very loyal to Marvin." When her husband was elected governor in 1969,  "Bootsie's friends believed she had earned her way to the top and that Marvin's chances without her would have been, at best, reduced..." She enjoyed the active pace of her life in Annapolis as well as having the title of First Lady of Maryland.5  It was reported that she even considered running for the state Senate or House herself.6

Mrs. Mandel took an active interest in Government House and its history, having been a guest in the house on many occasions before she became one of its main occupants.  As First Lady of Maryland she made a hobby out of collecting news clippings and pictures depicting the history of the house.  She took steps to restore several of its old paintings with the help of Maryland's Fine Arts Commission.  "I love to show off the house," she told a reporter.  "I think people should know what we have here.  During the legislature's sessions (from January through March), we have tours nearly every day, often one group every half-hour...I like greeting them myself, whenever it's possible; it's a good way to sense the feelings of the public.  Many people stop touring the mansion long enough to tell me that they agree or disagree with some recent action or speech of the governor's, and ask me to tell him what they think.  I always try to remember--and usually do."7

In addition to studying the history of Government House and caring for it, Mrs. Mandel's hobbies included golfing and bowling.  She was on a bowling team for ten years before moving to Annapolis, and won at least one trophy. She also enjoyed an occasional outing on the Maryland Lady, the governor's yacht.9

The Mandels had two children, a son and a daughter.  Son Gary was married and living in Baltimore when Mandel became governor.  Daughter Ellen resided in Government House with her parents until her marriage in April, 1971.  Hers was the first wedding ceremony to take place in the house, although not the first wedding reception (a nephew of Governor Harry W. Nice had held his wedding reception in Government House as had Jean Lane Goddard, daughter of Governor William Preston Lane, Jr.).

Although Marvin was elected to a second term as governor in 1973, Barbara was unable to retain her position as Maryland's first lady.  Marvin announced his intention to initiate a divorce and moved to an Annapolis hotel.  While the divorce settlement was being negotiated, however, Barbara continued living in Government House.  She moved out only after the divorce was granted in August, 1974, and Marvin married his second wife, Jeanne Blackistone Dorsey.

Notes on sources

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