Born in Kentucky, educated in Kansas, Cynthia Mann began teaching when she was just 18. At age 26 her husband, Samuel Mann, whom she would later divorce, brought her to Boise in the hopes that the change of climate might improve her health. Something did, for she became a dynamo in local affairs related to education, suffrage, politics, and prohibition.
Mann taught at several schools in Boise and in nearby communities. She was often mentioned in early papers as a teacher at Cloverdale, Cole, Central School, and Park School. She was one of the organizers of the Idaho State Teachers Association, and in 1906 ran for Superintendent of Public Schools on the Prohibitionist ticket.
“Lady Mann” was the affectionate nickname given to her by students, who were intensely loyal to her. She taught hundreds of children, and the children of those children, through the years. She is best remembered as the teacher of the “ungraded” school at the Children’s Home Finding and Aid Society of Idaho. That organization began in 1908 as a residence and adoption center for homeless children. It exists today as the Children’s Home Society of Idaho, carrying on its mission of placing children in good homes, though it is no longer a residence institution.
The handsome stone building, designed by Tourtellotte and Company, for the Children’s Home Finding and Aid Society of Idaho is located at 740 E. Warm Springs Avenue. It is so located because of Cynthia Mann. Never a wealthy woman, Mann was savvy about real estate and owned a fair amount of it. She donated almost the entire block where the Society is located today, then went on to make many more donations large and small over the years.
Cynthia Mann was sometimes called a “club woman.” She tirelessly supported education and political reform as one of the early members of the Columbian Club and a founding member of the Boise chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was active in the YWCA, the Business Women’s Club, and the Council of Women Voters.
Man spoke often on the history of suffrage in Idaho and went to Washington, DC more than once to lobby for national women’s suffrage. It was on a trip to DC to visit her brother in 1911 when she almost met her end.
Mrs. Mann was reading the inscription on a “Peace Monument,” erected in memory of soldiers and sailors when a woman driving a horse and buggy knocked her down and ran over her. Bleeding from severe facial injuries and dazed, she was taken to a local Casualty hospital that had a shady reputation.
As she told the story, “I was badly cut about the face, in two places on my lip, sustained a bad gash in my forehead, and my feet were bruised. My head was bothering me more than any other portion of my anatomy, and it was just 24 hours after I begged for it that I got any ice to put on it, and this in the face of the terrible summer heat.”
To her good fortune, Addison T. Smith, secretary to Senator Weldon B. Heyburn of Idaho, read about her accident in the newspaper. “Mr. Smith came for me at once and insisted on taking me to his home and I feel that I owe my life to him and Mrs. Smith.”
The Idaho Statesman, in reporting about the incident, called Cynthia Mann “perhaps the greatest philanthropist in the state of Idaho.”
To, as they say, add insult to injury, Mann was robbed by a nurse while in the hospital. She got her $20 back only after Smith and a Congressman French put pressure on the institution.
Cynthia Mann continued her activism and her teaching until February of 1920. She qualified for a small pension, but at age 66 refused to quit teaching. Her health was starting to fail, so she got her affairs in order, which in her case meant creating a will that gave her remaining funds to her beloved clubs, for hospital work in South America, and $800 for the rehabilitation of a small village, Tilliloy, in northern France. She left most of the money for the construction of the Ward Massacre site monument to the Pioneer Chapter of the D.A.R.
On February 6, 1920, Cynthia Mann died of pneumonia following a bout of influenza.
Lady Mann planned her own funeral to the last detail. The following is a portion of what was read at the service, at her request.
“I had a dream which was not all a dream. I dreamed I was the children’s friend, that I loved them enough to give them pain, if by so doing, they might grow up good and true and beautiful in the sight of God. I loved them enough to go without what was unnecessary that they might have what would put good things into their lives: sweet thoughts and beautiful memories.”
Also at her request, Cynthia Mann’s body was carried by a group of her early pupils to be put to rest in Morris Hill Cemetery. Her marker reads, “It was Happiness to Serve.”