Mary Hamilton Purcell, International Women’s Rights Advocate

Mary Hamilton Purcell

Mary Hamilton Purcell, international women’s rights advocate and mother of former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell was an advocate for women and girls for decades internationally.

Mary Hamilton Purcell was a speech educator in the Philadelphia SMSA and dedicated  decades fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment and women’s rights through the American Association of University Women (AAUW) where she served as  President  in the early 1980s. In 1995, she was co-chair of  UNICEF’s Working Group on Girls, at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women, which attracted 31,000 women from 200 countries to Huairou, China.

After she returned, Mary Hamilton Purcell wrote in the AAUW Outlook magazine, in part:

“Although they spoke in many languages, the women had one goal in mind — to advance the status of women by the year 2000. Rain, deflated tents, stiflingly hot rooms, and excessive numbers of security guards did not deter them. Their spirits never flagged, and they left Huairou more determined than ever to change the world.”

Her son, former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell, said it was exciting, inspiring and humbling to see his mother’s advocacy.

“She cared about everyone and everything, and worked at connecting people and keeping them connected,” he said.

“The cause was never about her and always about the future. And invariably about making the world better for women and girls.”

China was one of many overseas trips Mary Purcell took to advocate for women.

“She was sometimes in doubt but never afraid. With the support and encouragement of my father, she traveled the globe for women and girls,” her son said.

“As a boy my friends were always intrigued to find the note on our refrigerator which said something like: ‘Gone to Zamboanga. TV dinners in the freezer. Love Mom.’”

In May 2006, the NGO Committee on UNICEF’s Working Group on Girls recognized Mary Purcell “for her inspiration, vision and perseverance, and for mobilizing us to put girls on the Global Agenda.”

The following year, the Commission on the Status of Women recognized her for her efforts in placing girls on the United Nations agenda.

“She cared about everyone and everything,” Bill Purcell said

Mrs. Purcell was one of the first residents of Abe’s Garden Alzheimer’s and memory care center in Nashville and was 92 years old she passed away July 28th at Abe’s Garden’s Alzheimer’s and Memory Care Center of Excellence.

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