Edith O'Shaughnessy

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Edith O'Shaughnessy in 1915

Edith O'Shaughnessy (January 31, 1876 - February 18, 1939) was a journalist, biographer, film screenwriter and, as the wife of United States Chargé de Affairs in Mexico, Nelson O'Shaughnessy, during the early years of the Mexican Revolution she was both a witness and a participant in Mexican political affairs during the presidency of Francisco I. Madero and Victoriano Huerta.


She was born Edith Louise Coues on January 31, 1876 in Columbia, South Carolina. Her parents were from an upper-class Roman Catholic family.

She was privately tutored before being sent to a convent school in Maryland.[1]

After a convent education she was sent to Europe both for the experience, and in the hope of finding a suitable husband. She married Oxford-educated diplomat and lawyer Nelson O’Shaughnessy in 1901. From 1901 to 1915, Edith O’Shaughnessy was a diplomatic wife, serving her country (and tea) as a proper diplomatic hostess in Copenhagen, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Bucharest, Mexico, and Rio de Janeiro. Her fame as a writer rests on her experiences in Mexico City during the Madero and Huerta Presidencies.[2]

During Nelson O'Shaughnessy's diplomatic service in Mexico (1911–1914). Edith wrote A Diplomat's Wife in Mexico[3] (1916) and Diplomatic Days (1917).[4] Both consist of a series of letters written to the author's mother. Diplomatic Days covers the fall of the long regime headed by Porfirio Diaz and the revolution which brought the "democratic" government of Francisco Madero to power. A Diplomat's Wife in Mexico covers events in 1913 and 1914, when Madero was overthrown in a violent coup (the "Ten Tragic Days") by Victoriano Huerta on February 13, 1913 and murdered by the new regime.

In A Diplomat's Wife, O’Shaughnessy has no illusions about Huerta’s alcoholism and bloody-mindedness, sometimes displaying a condescending attitude based mostly on the racial background of the indigenous Huerta. However, she defends him as "a necessarily iron-fisted leader, doing his best to control an unruly populace." [5]

A third book, Intimate Pages of Mexican History,[6] a "Social Life in Mexico City Since the Brief and Tragic Glory of Maximilian and Carlota" was published in 1920.

Because of their too close personal relationship with Huerta, the O'Shaughnessys fled Mexico City with the fall of the dictator in July 1914. Nelson O'Shaughnessy was later posted to several embassies in Europe, providing Edith with material for travel books on northern France. She also wrote a biography of Marie Adelaide, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, and a novel, Viennese Medley, based on her screenplay The Greater Glory which tells the story of former aristocrats at loose ends in Vienna after the end of the First World War and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[7]

O'Shaughnessy also contributed articles to many periodicals, including Harper's Magazine and Review of Reviews.[8]

She died on February 18, 1939 in New York City.


  1. ^ Wadsworth, Sarah, "O'Shaugnessy, Edith" Women's Travel Writing, University of Minnesota http://etrc.lib.umn.edu/travbio.htm#oshaugh retrieved 11 October 2009
  2. ^ Grabman, Richard, "The Maddening Edith O'Shaughnessy", Mex Files: http://mexfiles.net/2009/01/23/the-maddening-edith-oshaughnessy/ retrieved 11 October 2009
  3. ^ O'Shaugnessy, Edith Louise. "A Diplomat's Wife in Mexico: letters from the American Embassy at Mexico City, covering the dramatic period between October 8th, 1913, and the breaking off of diplomatic relations on April 23rd, 1914", New York and London : Harper and Brothers, 1916
  4. ^ O'Shaugnessy, Edith Louise. "Diplomatic Days" New York : Harper & Brothers; 1917
  5. ^ Grabman, "Diplomatic Days," passum.)
  6. ^ reprinted by General Books, LLC, 2009
  7. ^ Grabman
  8. ^ Wadsworth

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