Mary Elizabeth ("Minnie") Glanville was the only daughter of Elizabeth Glanville and her husband Burt J. Glanville*, curator of the Albany Museum, who instilled in her an interest in natural history. After supporting her father in his scientific pursuits for some years Mary became his assistant at the Albany Museum in 1880, when his health had declined to such an extent that he could no longer manage on his own. One of her first tasks was to arrange the museum's collection of Cape butterflies and help to compile a descriptive catalogue of its 168 species. From the end of 1881 she played a major role in moving the museum to new premises in the town hall. After her father's death in June 1882 the museum committee, headed by Dr W.G. Atherstone*, recognised her "varied and extensive knowledge which eminently qualified her for the duties her father had ... performed", and in September that year appointed her curator of the museum. The appointment of a woman to such a post was remarkable at the time. As she had no fixed income, the committee awarded her a salary of 50 pounds sterling per year, "a totally inadequate sum for such services they well know, but as much as the [government] grant will admit of" (Report..., 1882, p. 4). Two years later it was increased to 100 pounds.
Miss Glanville compiled a catalogue of the museum's natural history collections in 1883, and became a member of the museum committee. Mainly as a result of her dedication the museum soon attracted an increasing number of donated specimens and rapidly grew in importance as an educational institution. For example, the number of specimens received rose from 500 in 1883 to almost 5000 in 1886, while the number of visitors rose from just over 2000 to almost 10 000 over the same period. She died in her post after only six years and Dr. Selmar Schonland* was later appointed to succeed her.
Miss Glanville's most significant scientific pursuit related to the insect pests of the Eastern Cape. For years she studied the life-histories of injurious crop insects and provided some advice and specimens on the topic to the Eastern Province Naturalists Society. She also sent notes and specimens to the British entomologist Miss E.A. Ormerod*, who acknowledged her assistance in her book, Notes and descriptions of a few injurious farm and fruit insects of South Africa (1889). Miss Ormerod furthermore wrote a brief obituary of her for The Entomologist, which was reprinted in the Grahamstown Journal.
Miss Glanville's interest in natural history extended also to other topics. She participated regularly in meetings of the Grahamstown Natural History Society (1884-c1887) and in February 1886 addressed its members on "Our foes and friends among the birds" in the form of a popular lecture. She collected some of the original specimens of the land snail Fauxulus glanvilleanus, which was named after her, as was the snail Trachycystis glanvilliana.