Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Jeanne Blackistone Dorsey Mandel (1937-2001)
MSA SC 3520-2295
First Lady of Maryland, 1974-1979

Extended Biography:

Jeanne Blackistone Dorsey Mandel came from a line of distinguished Marylanders who helped found historic St. Mary's County, Maryland.  Two of Mrs. Mandel's ancestors were royal governors of Maryland:  Nehemiah Blackiston was royal governor from 1690 to 1692, and Nathanial Blackiston from 1698 to 1702.  The latter was compelled to return to England in 1702 because of ill health.  Another ancestor, John Blackiston, was a judge on the court that condemned Charles I of England to death.  Two centuries later, in the middle and late 1800s, William Blackiston served two separate terms as Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.  Five generations of the Blackistone family lived on an island off Maryland’s southern shore until moving to the mainland of St. Mary's County in 1831.

Mrs. Mandel became the first woman ever to be elected to public office in St. Mary’s County when she was elected one of Leonardtown's Town Commissioners in 1968.  She served two consecutive two-year terms in that office while holding the position of Leonardtown's first female police commissioner.  She also served for two years as vice-chair of the Southern Maryland Municipal League and as a member of the Board of Parks and Recreation of St. Mary’s County.  She was a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and for the March of Dimes, serving as chair of the annual fund drives in St. Mary’s County.  Later she worked in real estate.

Mrs. Mandel’s passion, however, was politics.  It was politics that drew her to her second husband, Governor Marvin Mandel, whom she married in 1974.  "Politics is my life and occupies much of my thinking," she said. "I was born into it, I grew up in it, I worked at it, and it’s a continuing fascination to me."  Mrs. Mandel enjoyed accompanying the governor on the campaign trail during his bid for reelection to the governorship in the fall of 1974.  She also enjoyed collecting antiques, gardening, flower arranging, cooking, needlepoint, swimming and water skiing.

Mrs. Mandel's years as first lady of Maryland from 1974 to 1979 were active ones.  "I love to be involved," she said at the time, "whether it's in helping to decorate the Mansion for the holidays, or in helping with the preparation of meals.  I try not to interfere, but I can’t help puttering around."   In the 1970s, she organized an effort to help save St. Clement's Island in the Potomac River, where the Ark and the Dove landed in 1634.  Later, she headed the St. Clement's One-Hundred, a group devoted to preserving the site.

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