Maud Rittenhouse Mayne

Maiden Name: 
Dr Earl H Mayne
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Cairo, IL
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Brooklyn, NY
703 Walnut St, Cairo, IL
Brooklyn, NY
Active In: 
Cairo, IL
St Louis, MO
Brooklyn, NY
Decorative Arts
St Louis School of Fine Art, Washington University
Winter Club, Brooklyn, NY, president 1909
St Louis School of Fine Arts
Other Occupations: 
Art teacher
Author, A Candid Critic and Other Stories for Girls, 1897
Author, Maud, 1939. (Note that It Happened in Cairo by Anne West, 1940, is a continuation of Maud's story.)
Maud Rittenhouse Mayne (1864-1946)

Maude Rittenhouse, of Cairo, graduated from Washington University’s St. Louis School of Fine Art in 1887. The journal in which she recorded in violet ink the details of her life from 1881 to 1895 included her years of study. Titled Maud and published in 1939, it became better known than her artwork.

In the early summer of 1885, following her first year of art study, Rittenhouse, who was then 20 years old, advertised in what she called "the most brazen manner possible" for the art classes she was to teach at her home in Cairo. Her announcement read: "Freehand drawing from model and object, painting from still-life, drawing from the flat, and decorative painting." She charged 50 cents a lesson. Six children enrolled for the first week; new applications arrived daily.1

In the last two decades of the 19th century Cairo was a major shipping port with a population that grew to 12,000 in 1900. Wood Rittenhouse, Maud's father, was a grain merchant, benefitting from the town's location on a spit of land between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Wood Rittenhouse indulged his only daughter, sending her to art school in St. Louis and in her final year giving her permission to take life classes, with models in the nude.

The family lived in a fifteen-room brick home on Seventh and Walnut Streets.2 In 1890, he painted a room on the third floor for Maud to use as a studio and study--"walls a light stone color, ceiling a sort of pink, casings, stairs, etc, a dark Indian red"--where she also held exhibits. On October 5, 1891, she wrote in her journal: "Dear, dear, dear! Such rush, hurry and excitement," Maud wrote. "Gave my art exhibit Friday and Saturday. So much work getting the things and hanging and arranging them. Pretty though. Stacks of people called."3 Again in March, 1893, she noted, "I have given a successful art-exhibit in the studio."4

By then she was involved with Earl Mayne, whom she married three years later. He was a civil engineer working on the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad bridge across the Ohio River at Cairo when they met. He saved his money to enroll in medical school in New York City and graduated in 1893. After they married, Maud and Earl moved to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bath Beach, where she raised her three daughters and continued to paint and write. She was active in both club life and the Suffrage Movement. In 1916, she used her art skills to create posters for a fund-raiser held by the 16th District Woman Suffrage Association, for which she was district leader.5

When Maud was 75 years-old, her son-in-law Richard Strout, Washington bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor, compiled her letters and journals (there were five of them), editing them into the book Maud. It became an instant best seller.

Here she describes her experiences at school and putting on an exhibit of her work...

Thursday, March 12, 1885:

I think I’ve kept away from you like a little man, dear Journal, but just now my cup of joy overfloweth and I am unable to resist writing. Yestermorn I was summoned to "his majesty's" presence [Professor Halsey C. Ives, school director], and nearly fainted in terror. "His majesty" in awful tones addressed me, "You are going home?"

I--For a week only. H.M.--When? I--Next Sunday. H.M.--What are you doing now? I--Head of Ajax in crayon. H.M.--When can you finish it? I--Today or to-morrow. H.M.--When it is done, bring it to me.--No, bring it now.

And I crept off with cold shivers coursing down my back. The girls were all around my easel and opened their eyes when I picked up my board and sailed into the office with it. Nervously I stood Ajax up on the edge of Popocatapetl’s desk while I wondered if he’d notice the addresses in the corner of the paper, or the faded violet peeping over the top. I remarked tremulously,"It is in rather a messy condition." He looked it over and then me over and with a curious expression he asked, "Why did you do it in the red crayon?"

All my sense fled. Why had I done it in red anyway? What was my name? Where did I live? Finally I faltered,"Because Miss Fairchild [art instructor] told me to. Following directions."

Feb 19, 86

Prof. Ives came to me to-day to say "You will please write to your father for permission to enter the nude class, and ask him to write me." I have writ. I stood not upon the order of my writing but wrote at once. So that is settled and next week I enter "beyond the gates". How I have longed for the time! I can hardly realize that I am actually promoted to the highest class in school. A year ago to-day I was an "infant" in the "nursery". How my heart would have jumped had any one said to me then, "In one year you’ll be in the highest class in school." Then the nude-class was a mystical, semi-barbarous affair, and I felt nervous at the idea of drawing from the nude figure. How easily that silly mock-modesty is overgrown! Have been working rapidly to-day, and receiving congratulations all around.7

Submitted by Channy Lyons


1 Richard Lee Strout, ed., Maud (New York: MacMillan Company, 1939), 351.

2 Deborah Morgan, The Belle of Cairo, Illinois, Alexander County Profiles, a compilation of essays on Alexander County history (Cairo, IL: Woman's Club and Library Association,1968).

3 Strout, Maud, 531.

4 Strout, Maud, 561.

5 "Mrs. J. M. Edsall Hostess for a Suffrage Card Party" (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 4,1916) /Brooklyn%20NY%20Daily%20Eagle%201916%20a%20Grayscale%20-%200952.pdf

6 Strout, Maud, 340.

7 Strout, Maud, 373.