Block Island author and trailblazer Edith Blane dies at 95

Katie Mulvaney
Providence Journal

BLOCK ISLAND – Edith Littlefield Blane, 95, the trailblazing first woman to be elected first warden on Block Island, died peacefully at home Monday.

“She still looked so beautiful,” Robin Lewis Vila, who was at Ա’s side, said this week.

Born April 13, 1929, in South Norwalk, Connecticut, Blane was the daughter of the late Byron Smith Littlefield and Jeanette Maruca Littlefield. In October 1918, Jeanette had agreed to leave South Norwalk and make her home in the Littlefield family’s 1839 farmhouse on Block Island. Byron Littlefield’s family arrived on Block Island in the 1700s. 

Edith Blane on June 5 after just having her hair done by Kinga Kaminska, a dear friend. Edith's son Christopher Blane says this was the last photo taken of his mother.

In depth: Edith Littlefield Blane's contribution to Block Island's history, lore and community

A gifted raconteur and writer, Blane chronicled her life on Block Island in the book "Bound by Blue: A Life on Block Island," a collection of stories taken from a memoir writing group at the Block Island Library.

Ա’s tales were captured in a documentary, directed by Katherine Reaves and produced by Susan Bush and Laura Parsons, “Bound by Blue: A Life on Block Island.” The film paid tribute to , recalling through Blane the devastation of the Hurricane of 1938, the wonders of birding, and the simplicity, hardship and joy of living off the land. 

"The whole world was right here, and this was home," Edith Littlefield Blane said in 2021 of her many years in New Shoreham. The documentary “Bound by Blue: A Life on Block Island” tells of Ա’s uncommon childhood.

Blane credited her mother with instilling the importance of civic duty, honesty, art, classical music, literature and the virtues of homemaking.

Ա’s tales and the documentary drifted into nature, with memories of Elizabeth Dickens, who taught ornithology and conservation to legions of islanders. Dickens would visit the Block Island School once a month for bird study, in which each student was expected to present her with a list of sightings.

“Some of them she would look at and say, `I see there are some dream birds on here,'” Blane said. Dickens taught the students to recognize birds by their plumage, habitat, flight and song.

Edith Littlefield Blane with director Katherine Reaves at the 2021 SENE film festival after the showing of the documentary "Bound by Blue: A Life on Block Island" at the Artists' Exchange in Cranston.

Blane grew up quahogging with her father to help support the family. Ա’s book detailed her departure from Block Island in 1965 after the death of her husband, Edward J. Blane. She returned a year later with her two young sons, Peter and Chris, and ran for town clerk, a position she held for 16 years.

First woman elected the island's first warden

Blane went on to become the first woman to be elected the island's first warden. She served in that post from 1984 to 1988 as a Republican before launching a successful real-estate business. 

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She is survived by her son Christopher Blane, daughter-in-law Cheryl Blane, granddaughter Melanie Wilk and great-grandson Luke Wilk, nieces and nephews and legions of admirers on Block Island. She was predeceased by her two sisters, Eileen and Betty, her husband, Edward Blane, and her son Peter Blane.

Her funeral service will be held Saturday, June 22, at 11 a.m. at the Harbor Baptist Church, 21 Water St. on Block Island. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the , the , or give the gift of a book to a child, Blane's .